Potassium Positively Impacts Teens' Blood Pressure

Research from Boston University finds that consuming more potassium-rich foods leads to lower blood pressure in teen girls.

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We've all heard the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," but what about other fruits? It turns out that eating more bananas can be equally beneficial. Potassium may help lower blood pressure in teen girls, more so than a decrease in their sodium intake would, according to a new study from Boston University.

Sodium, or salt, has always been associated with blood pressure and doctors often encourage people to limit how much they consume. The recommended guideline is 2,3000 milligrams per day for all people over the age of two. Despite this CDC suggestion, it appears that teen girls (along with most people) are consuming nearly double the recommended amount on a daily basis.

The aforementioned study took place over the course of 10 years and annually measured the blood pressure of nearly 2,200 girls, who were ages 9-10 when they began participating. Research found they consumed up to 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day—almost twice the recommended amount.

While their sodium intake may have been high, the girls who consumed more potassium daily had lower blood pressure than those who did not. Potassium influenced their blood pressure more than a low-sodium diet did. Explaining the significance of this finding, the study's lead author Dr. Lynn R. Moore says,

It may be that potassium is more of a determinant of blood pressure than sodium is. The kids who consumed the most potassium had much lower blood pressures by the end of adolescence. What we need to focus on is increasing potassium intake rather than focusing on restricting sodium intake.

Potassium-filled foods (like bananas, avocados, broccoli, and sweet potatoes) regulate a person's heartbeat. This new research doesn't necessarily mean that potassium cancels out all the salty foods teens eat, but adding more potassium-rich foods can benefit their overall health. These foods tend to have a lot of fiber and protein in them as well.

Encourage teens to grab a banana as an afterschool snack—it contains 420 mg of potassium. Meanwhile, a half-cup of raisins has more than 500 mg. If they're not fans of either of those options, they can scour Pinterest for fun potassium-filled recipes like smoothies!

For more healthy-eating advice, check out the "Make Over My Meal!" story from the April issue of Choices. We break down the healthy eating hack to help transform favorite meals from "blah" to "awesome!"