From The Nutritionist

Tara Acharya, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Author:
Tara Acharya, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Potassium - You Probably Need More, But Why?


As the new nutrition label starts appearing on packaged food, we’re going to see potassium on the facts panel. Lately, I have been thinking about how important potassium is for us but that most of us know relatively little about what it does for us and what we can do to get more of it.


What is Potassium?

Potassium is an essential dietary mineral and electrolyte present in all our cells and it is particularly important for heart health and blood pressure, for normal digestive and muscular function as well as for bone health.


How does it work?

Potassium is the main electrolyte present in our cells. Its concentration is tightly regulated inside and outside our cells, and this is critical for normal body functions. The steady maintenance of these concentrations of potassium and sodium is extremely important for proper muscle contraction, heart function and nerve impulse transmission. There are molecules in our cell membranes that work constantly to move sodium and potassium into and out of cells. It is remarkable that this process can require an estimated 20-40% of the calories used by the body when at rest1.


So why should you get more of it?

Most Americans do not get enough potassium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans cite potassium as a nutrient of public health concern. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also require potassium to be listed on food labels beginning in July 2018.

Americans come up short in their potassium intake due to a lower consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low fat or fat free milk2. The FDA recommends that we consume at least 4.7 grams of potassium every day for good health. However, Americans are only eating approximately 2.6g per day on average3. Potassium is important in the diet because it can partially offset the adverse effect of sodium on blood pressure4.


Where can you find it?

So now that you know why potassium is good for you, how can you get more of it? Studies have shown that the best way to get all the benefits of potassium is to eat more fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, avocadoes and potatoes are also rich in potassium. For more information on potassium in foods, check out this list with the potassium in a standard serving of many foods from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Processed fruits and veggies can contribute potassium to the diet, just look for products providing 10% or more of the Daily Value on the label. Try Low Sodium V8® 100% Vegetable juice for a convenient way to fit more potassium (and vegetables) in your diet. Feel like rolling your sleeves up? You can also try these delicious recipes…

Here are a few links where you can learn more about potassium.


Medline Plus: Potassium in the Diet

DIETARY REFERENCE INTAKES FOR Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate

How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure


Eat well and enjoy potassium-rich foods today!

Tara


Tara's Bio

Tara is Director of Global Nutrition at the Campbell Soup Company. In her role, she works closely with business partners and R&D colleagues to help drive science-based opportunities that activate the company’s health and wellbeing strategy and enable significant and sustainable growth opportunities aligned with consumer expectations and customer needs. Tara has a PhD in biochemistry and MPH in international health, both from Yale University.


References

  1. LINUS PAULING INSTITUTE Micronutrient Information Center - Potassium. Accessed January 2017 at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/potassium
  2. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2015-2020 8th edition. Chapter 2. Accessed at: https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/
  3. Potassium Intake of the U.S. Population. What We Eat in America NHANES 2009-2010. Food Surveys Research Group. Dietary Data Brief No. 10. September 2012. Accessed: https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/DBrief/10_potassium_intake_0910.pdf
  4. How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. Accessed January 2017 at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/How-Potassium-Can-Help-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp#.WG_qilMrJEY


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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.