Lowering blood pressure with potassium - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Lowering blood pressure with potassium

One in every three Americans has high blood pressure, at or above 140/90 mm Hg.  If you have high blood pressure or just want to prevent it, you may want to eat more cholesterol-free, high potassium foods. Cholesterol-free because that unclogs and opens arteries.  High potassium because potassium opposes the effects of salt and lowers blood pressure in people with and without high blood pressure.

We all know that sodium in salt raises blood pressure; it keeps fluid in the body and constricts/narrows arteries. It increases the amount of blood in your body while at the same time narrowing the space that the blood has to flow through. Potassium does the opposite; it is a diuretic and a vasodilator. It sends fluid out of the body in urine and widens arteries to increase the space that blood has to flow through. You may not know that potassium actually lowers blood pressure more than salt raises it. The INTERSALT study found that eating about 1 teaspoon of salt raised systolic blood pressure (top number) by an average of 3 mmHg, but eating the equivalent amount of potassium lowered BP by an average of 6 mm Hg, twice as much. You can see the importance of getting enough potassium.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 4,700 mg of potassium a day as an Adequate Intake for adults, but less than 5 percent of Americans get this much potassium every day. If they did, eating food that provided 4,700 mg of potassium a day would lower systolic/diastolic blood pressure an average of 8/4 mm Hg. If your blood pressure was 140/90, it would be lowered to 132/86. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends a lower daily intake of potassium at 3,500 mg. This is called the Daily Value (DV) and it is used to calculate % intake on food labels and dietary supplements. Americans don’t even meet this lower standard; on average Americans get about 2,745 mg of potassium a day.

Caution: People with poor kidney function or heart failure may have to limit potassium intake. If you are on dialysis or have severe health problems please discuss your potassium intake with your health care provider before making any dietary changes.————————————————————–If you have hypertension and your kidneys are still functioning well, you should make dietary changes now to prevent kidney failure in the future.

The recommendation for sodium is 1,500 mg a day with an upper limit or 2,300 mg. On average Americans get 3,569 mg/day, mostly from processed or prepared foods. If you eliminate processed foods from your diet, you will automatically eliminate much of the excess sodium. This is a good start, but you also have to step up your potassium by choosing foods with a high potassium to sodium ratio. Aim for at least a 3:1 potassium to sodium ratio.

The first food we think of when potassium is mentioned is bananas, and rightly so. Bananas have an awesome potassium to sodium ratio of 422:1, but most fruits and vegetables have good potassium to sodium ratios. If you choose to eat a cholesterol-free, whole food, plant based diet, every meal could be a blood pressure lowering event.

This Heart Healthy 3 Bean Chili with Sweet Potato, Mushrooms and Beet Greens has a potassium to sodium ratio of 2,436: 509 mg (5:1), and provides 52% of the daily recommendation for potassium.

Heart Healthy 3 Bean Chili with Sweet Potato, Mushrooms and Beet Greens


Cholesterol-free, oil-free, high-fiber, high nitrates, nutrient-dense delicious chili

  • 1 serving Heart-Healthy 3-Bean Chili
  • 1/2 cup cooked beet greens (2 cups raw)
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup Cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Nutrients/Serving
  • Calories:  380
  • Protein:   21 g
  • Carbs: 76 g
  • Cholesterol: 0
  • Fat: 1g
  • Fiber: 20 g
  • Magnesium: 159 mg
  • Potassium: 2,436 mg
  • Sodium: 509 mg
A cup of sweet potatoes has a blood pressure lowering 6:1 potassium to sodium ratio - 448:73 mg

A cup of sweet potatoes has a blood pressure lowering 6:1 potassium to sodium ratio – 448:73 mg

Heart-Healthy 3 Bean Chili
Ingredients serves 10

  • 1 cup of black turtle beans, dry
  • 1 cup of kidney beans, dry
  • 1 cup of white beans, dry
  • 1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
  • 7 cloves garlic, chopped into small pieces or minced
  • 3 cups crushed tomatoes (or 18-oz jar of recipe ready crushed tomatoes)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen yellow corn kernels (Non-GMO)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder (heat to taste, I like mild chili)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, fresh or dried
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 cups of water


  1. Pick through the beans for sticks and stones, wash and soak them in 3 separate containers overnight. Throw away the bean soaking water when you are ready to cook them.
  2. Put the beans and all the ingredients into a large pot with the water and bring to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat to simmer, cover the pot and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the beans are cooked and soft.

That’s it, enjoy!!!  You can serve with a slice of avocado or cholesterol-free cornbread.

Portion control tip: Divide the chili into 10 equal servings immediately after cooking and put extra servings into the freezer before you sit down to eat. The frozen servings will make quick lunches or dinners with healthy additions.

About the author

Dr. Jennifer Rooke

Dr. Jennifer Rooke is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. She recently joined the faculty at Morehouse to start a lifestyle medicine clinic. Lifestyle Medicine is the use of interventions such as evidenced-based nutrition, physical activity and stress management to treat disease. Dr. Rooke has practiced medicine for over 27 years and is board certified in both Occupational Medicine and Public Health/Preventive Medicine. Dr. Rooke is a fellow of both the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Rooke serves as adjunct faculty in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University. Contact the author or visit her website www.advancedlifestylemedicine.com Contact the author.

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