Top 12 High Sodium And Potassium Foods

Top 12 High Sodium And Potassium Foods
Top 12 High Sodium And Potassium Foods

Top 12 High Sodium And Potassium Foods


How aware are our elite educational institutions of the dangers of a high sodium diet?

In my personal experience, not very.

A few years ago, my mother and I attended a two-day Food Matters conference at Harvard University. A slate of professors, students, and guest speakers expressed alarm at the lack of nutrition training available to students. It was true not only at Harvard but at campuses across America.

The conference’s straightforward rallying cry?

Nutrition is too essential to human health for educational institutions not to prioritize offering more nutrition classes. The speakers also emphasized providing students with more nutritious meals while decreasing the school cafeterias’ unhealthy options.

Although we heard plenty of talks comparing healthy and unhealthy foods, I don’t recall a single speaker with a vegan or plant-based perspective.

So precisely, how could they define their “unhealthy” and “healthy” dietary options?”

Like this:

  • Unhealthy: high sodium diet
  • Healthy: high potassium diet

Let’s compare the foods in each.

America’s high sodium favorites by age group

Researchers from the University of Washington’s Center for Public Health Nutrition published a meta-analysis of age-based data on sodium intake collected from more than 22,000 participants.

The foods accounting for the most dietary sodium for each age group?

  • Ages 6 to 19: Pizza
  • Ages 20 to 50: Chicken and chicken mixed dishes 
  • Age 51+: Yeast bread

How do those age-based figures compare high-sodium consumption in the general population? NHANES ( the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) also lists their findings on where Americans are getting most of their sodium.

Here’s their Top Twelve ( in descending order for all ages) : 

  1. Yeast bread and rolls 
  2. Cheese
  3. Frankfurters, sausages, luncheon meats
  4. Condiments and sauces
  5. Pork, ham, bacon
  6. Biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, tortillas
  7. Crackers, popcorn, pretzels, chips
  8. Cake, cookies, quick bread, pastry, pie
  9. Soup, broth, bouillon
  10. Tomatoes, tomato/vegetable juice
  11. Salad dressings, mayonnaise
  12. Milk

  (Table 11)

Reading that list gave me a very revealing look at just how pervasive sodium has become in the Standard American Diet(SAD). Maybe we should change the acronym SAD’s meaning to Sodium Artery Destroyer?

Yet we keep serving it to our children?

Now, for something completely different?

The Top Twelve high potassium foods

this list comes from Harvard’s own T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Nutrition Source: 

  1. Dried fruits (raisins, apricots)
  2. Beans, lentils
  3. Potatoes
  4. Winter squash (acorn, butternut)
  5. Spinach, broccoli
  6. Beet greens
  7. Avocado
  8. Bananas
  9. Cantaloupe
  10. Oranges, orange juice
  11. Coconut water
  12. Tomatoes

The differences between the two lists couldn’t be starker. The high sodium foods look like my old diet, and the high potassium foods look like my new one. 

Sadly, the unfortunate truth is that college campuses across America have served the high sodium diet for far too long. Even more alarmingly, they’re standard fare in:

  • Elementary, middle, and high schools
  • Hospitals
  • Workplaces across the U.S.

The saddest of the SAD’s consequences

Our average salt-saturated diet unravels the long-term relationship that allows sodium and potassium to function correctly in our bloodstreams.

Harvard Health acknowledges this relationship by including The interplay of potassium and sodium inset on both their sodium and potassium web pages.

I’ve already discussed this beautiful interplay in a prior post. But to quote from the inset:

“Our bodies need far more potassium than sodium each day, but the typical U.S. diet is just the opposite…” 

Harvard Health Makes a Plea

The Interplay inset ends with a call for people to make “one key dietary change.” What’s their magic solution for restoring our sodium/potassium balance? 

  • “Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits…”
  • “… eat less bread, cheese, processed meat, and other processed foods…” 

Even though Harvard seems reluctant to use the words, that sounds like a whole-food, plant-based diet to me! 

However, Harvard is far from the only college or university still reluctant to promote a specific vegetarian or vegan diet. 

Let them call it what they will.

But if they genuinely care about future generations’ health, they’ll begin promoting a high potassium diet and consigning the “saddest” of all diets to history! 

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