Words on Wellness

Guest Column
By: 
Kelsey Salow
Human Sciences Specialist, ISU Extension & Outreach

Why you might need more potassium 

If you read Nutrition Facts labels, you may have noticed they now list the potassium content of foods. So why is potassium a mineral we need to pay attention to? 

For starters, potassium controls your heartbeat, builds muscle, and helps your body make proteins. Potassium can protect you from heart disease, stroke, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. If you get enough of it, you can lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of dying from all causes by 20 percent! 

Potassium is in many common foods, such as bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, milk, yogurt, beans, and leafy greens. However, fewer than 2 percent of adults meet their daily-recommended potassium requirement. Adults should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day. 

For example, this is one potassium-rich meal that would fulfill 40 percent of that requirement: 

• Half a cup of Swiss chard, 480 mg 

• One baked potato, 610 mg 

• 3 ounces of turkey breast, 249 mg 

• 1 cup of low-fat milk, 366 mg 

• 1 cup of fruit cocktail, 225 mg 

Total, 1,930 mg 

Please do not rush out to buy potassium pills. High-dose potassium supplements can disrupt heart rhythm. They are also dangerous for those who have undetected kidney disease. Enjoy your potassium by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables! 

To find out more about potassium-rich foods, visit MedlinePlus at medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002413.htm.

Ugly fruits and vegetables – Are they safe? 

Grocery shoppers tend to avoid fruits and vegetables that have odd shapes or unappealing spots. As a result, many tons of edible food goes uneaten and wasted. 

Although it’s true that bacteria can cause blemishes on produce, that doesn’t necessarily mean that blemished produce is unsafe to eat. “Ugly” fruits and vegetables are usually tasty and healthful. They provide the same—in some cases, more—nutrients as their more attractive cousins. 

Several studies have shown some imperfect fruit and vegetables have higher amounts of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant chemicals that give produce its color and flavor. Phytochemicals may also protect us from cancer and heart disease. 

So go ahead and eat ugly produce! It usually costs less because of its appearance. The nutrients it gives you, though, are priceless to your health.

Workouts with a buddy 

It can be hard to stick to an exercise routine. The demands of work and family can ruin your good intentions. Research shows that exercising with another person may help you succeed. 

One study found that married couples who exercised together did it more consistently than married people who exercised alone. A family member or friend who shares an activity with you provides support and motivation. 

Activities that go better with a buddy include partner yoga, dance classes, martial art classes, hiking, tennis, and many others. 

Sometimes two people may not find the same activity enjoyable. For couples or buddies with different preferences, just committing to the same exercise time together may be beneficial. They might try the following: 

• Go to the same gym together. 

• Try activities that are new to both of them. 

• Sign up for a competition or fun fitness event. 

•Plan a group session with a personal trainer. 

Having the support of a partner for both diet and exercise helps us stick to lifestyle changes.

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