Dietitians Dish: Don't forget the basics

By Stephanie Whitley

There are hundreds of different types, brands and combinations of supplements on the market today, but don't forget the basics.

One mineral that is very important for your health is potassium. It's best not to take a supplement to get the recommended 4,700 mg/day; instead, consume foods high in potassium.

Some of the foods highest in potassium per servings are Swiss chard, lima beans, spinach, white potato, sweet potato, banana, apricot, artichoke, orange and raisins.

The health benefits you will receive from adequate potassium intake are strong and many. Potassium plays a role in decreasing your blood pressure by promoting vasodilation and relaxing of your blood vessels and arteries. Potassium also promotes excretion of sodium in your urine and can improve insulin sensitivity and decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.

One study in Today's Dietitian found for every 1,000 milligram increase of potassium consumed daily decreased risk of ischemic stroke by 11 percent.

Another great benefit of potassium is its role in helping you retain your muscle mass and preserve your bone density by decreasing the rate of calcium excretion from your bones, thereby helping prevent or slow down osteoporosis. Consuming the recommended intake of potassium can also help prevent kidney stone formation because of decreased calcium excretion.

Another mineral to consider is magnesium. In your body, magnesium is mainly found in your bones, muscles, kidneys, liver and intracellular fluids. Magnesium plays a major role in heart rate, immunity and blood sugar control. Good food sources of magnesium are whole grains, nuts, legumes and leafy green vegetables.

Magnesium specifically helps regulate insulin sensitivity and secretion and can help protect against sudden cardiac-related death. In general, for adult men and women, getting 300 to 400 milligrams of magnesium daily is recommended. Low magnesium intake is related to increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

Bottom line, make sure you are eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Fill at least half of your plate with them at each meal.

This will help you get enough potassium, magnesium, many other nutrients and adequate fiber to keep you full while maintaining a healthy weight.

Stephanie Whitley is a registered and licensed dietitian DeTar Healthcare Systems. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com