By now you have made great changes in the potassium and sodium in your diet. By changing to the high potassium foods in vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy and nuts, you have improved the ratio of potassium to sodium. Depending on how much you already include grains and spices in your diet, you may get a lot or only a little out of changing these foods to the high potassium varieties.
Because grains are produced so inexpensively, they have come to be a major part of every American's diet in one form or another. In the past, intact grains formed a large part of the diet. Today the products derived from processing the grains have replaced intact grains in many people's diet.
The easiest way to maintain a high potassium foods diet in America is to eliminate grain products. However, since for many people these products are a major part of the diet, this is not a realistic approach. The kids especially will protest not having them, because of the usual high sugar and salt content that gives them their taste. So plan that this part of the transition may take a while if you or your kids eat a lot of bakery goods.
Grains can be a great source of potassium. As an intact grain, they are one of the high potassium foods, discussed here. However, processing can make a huge difference in whether they are a high potassium food or a high sodium food.
There are many ways to get the high potassium grains into the diet. But because so many of the low potassium, high sodium grain products appear the same as the high potassium, low sodium products, it is easy to be misled.
The easiest first step to transition to a high potassium grains diet is to begin using the intact grains in place of the processed grain whenever possible. For example, use high potassium ready-to-eat cereals or cooked intact grains, such as rolled oats and oat bran, in place of the many ready-to-eat or cooked cereals that are not high potassium. The high potassium cereals tables can be found here and here. Discussions can be found here and here.
The second step is to replace the usual grain products with the low sodium products. Almost all will still be low in potassium, such as the pastas like macaroni, sphagetti, or noodles. But by using the products listed here, you will be staying within the 3 to 1 ratio that is healthy.
For the foods processed from grains, grinding the grain into flour does not change the potassium content. The problem arises from the self rising flour used to produce many products. If no self rising flour is used, the product may have a favorable potassium to sodium ratio. If self rising flour is used, it will be loaded with sodium. Self rising flour is made from 1 cup flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt.
The table here can help you narrow the food items for you to consider. It is a large table that includes a lot of foods. Some of the food values can be misleading though. The lower potassium content of many cooked foods is probably from how the food was cooked. The researchers at the USDA National Database did not say how they cooked the products, but most likely they cooked them in boiling water and then discarded the water.
It is well known that much of the potassium leaches out of the food into the water, so the researchers were throwing out the potassium by cooking in boiling water. If just enough water is used to cook the food and the water is not thrown out, no potassium will be lost. This is how I cook oats and quinoa intact grains for a morning breakfast cereal, or to use as a side dish for lunch or dinner. We will discuss cooking techniques to retain potassium in future posts.