Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

THIS NUTRIENT PREVENTS MANY ILLS Series: NUTRITION FACT CHECK: POTASSIUM

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

THIS NUTRIENT PREVENTS MANY ILLS Series: NUTRITION FACT CHECK: POTASSIUM

Article excerpt

The buzzword: Potassium

The expert: Elena Kuklina, M.D., Ph.D., a nutritional epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention.

Q: What is potassium?

A: It's one of the essential nutrients, such as sodium magnesium, calcium, which are required for normal cellular function.

Q: What does it do?

A: It does a lot. It reduces blood pressure. It prevents kidney stones and bone loss.

Q: I often hear potassium mentioned along with sodium. How are they related?

A: Mostly it does the opposite thing. If sodium has the effect of contracting, potassium relaxes. If sodium holds water in the body, potassium helps to get rid of excess water. ... If you have high sodium [in your diet], it will help if you eat more potassium.

Q: Do we get enough of it?

A: The current recommendations for potassium are 4,700 mg per day, but on average, Americans get only 3,000 mg.

Q: Can we take a supplement?

A: Supplements don't work as well as getting potassium from fresh food, partially because of the different composition of potassium in supplement form.

Q: What are good sources for potassium?

A: If you eat five fruits and vegetables per day, you will meet [the recommended amount]. But sometimes people don't have this amount of fruits and vegetables in their diet. Potassium-rich fruits and vegetables include leafy greens, such as spinach and collards, grapes, blackberries, carrots, potatoes and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.

The Takeaway: Eating five fruits and vegetables every day will ensure you get enough potassium, which is especially important if your diet is high in salt.

SPICY STEWED POTATOES AND SPINACH WITH BUTTERMILK

PG tested

Potatoes and spinach are both high in potassium, and while potatoes sometimes get a bad rap, they're a lot healthier when cooked in water instead of oil. These potatoes are a bit spicy, but that heat is integral to their flavor, so I'd advise against leaving out the chiles.

-- China Millman

1 pound russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2- inch chunks

2 dried red chiles, such as Thai, cayenne or chile de arbol, stemmed

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro

4 large garlic cloves, peeled

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon whipping cream

8 ounces baby spinach

Place potatoes in a medium bowl; cover with cold water to prevent browning. Place chiles in a small heat-proof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside until they are reconstituted, about 15 minutes. Reserving the chile-soaking water, coarsely chop the chiles (do not seed).

Pile cilantro, garlic, salt and the chopped chiles in a mortar. Pound the ingredients to a pulpy mass with the pestle, using a spatula to contain the mixture in the center for a concentrated pounding. …

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