Potassium Sodium Guidelines

High potassium foods are a great way to reduce blood pressure, combat osteoporosis, and prevent kidney stones. They all have a high ratio of potassium to sodium. However, most Americans eat foods loaded with sodium and with little potassium. Such foods have a horrible potassium sodium ratio. Recommendations by medical institutions to get more potassium and less sodium have had little effect. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has produced potassium sodium guidelines on how much potassium and sodium to get daily. A recent medical publication (1) tried to satisfy the IOM's guidelines for sodium and potassium using the typical American diet, but could not meet the guidelines using the typical American diet.

IOM Potassium Sodium Guidelines

NAM Logo
National Academy of Medicine Logo (formerly Institute of Medicine)

The IOM advises getting 4700 mg of potassium daily. They recommend less than 2300 mg of sodium for healthy individuals. They recommend less than 1500 mg for those over 50 years of age or those with cardiovascular risk factors. Using linear programming, the researchers (1) were unable to satisfy both of these criteria simultaneously using the typical American diet.

The researchers tried to maximize sodium reduction to reach the goal amount. They found that the potassium goal could not be reached when they did so. They also tried to maximize potassium intake to reach the goal amount, and found the sodium goal could not be reached. This was even when they made an assumption of a 10% reduction of sodium in processed food.

Such a result is expected if there is no change in diet. But more than a 10% reduction of sodium in processed food is possible. And other changes in diet make it completely possible to reach both goals of the Institute of Medicine.

Following Potassium Sodium Guidelines Improves Health

And such changes can make remarkable improvements in health. Even fairly small changes in diet can have dramatic health effects. Finland reduced their average citizen's sodium intake by slightly more than 10%. When Finland reduced the average salt intake from 12.7 g per day to 11.1, they saw a dramatic reduction in deaths from stroke and cardiovascular disease (2). Both fell by over 50%. And the average diastolic blood pressure in Finland fell from 92.8 to 84.2 in men and from 91.8 to 79.6 in women.

In Finland they achieved part of this change by a change in the salt used in processed food. In the 1980s, food manufacturers changed the salt used from sodium chloride to a combination salt of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, magnesium sulfate, and lysine. Other dietary changes included less use of salt at the table, and less use in cooking.

How To Meet Guidelines

But an even greater change in blood pressure can be achieved by shifting away from typical American food. Americans today eat a lot of junk food loaded with sodium and no nutritional value. By including more foods that have a high potassium to sodium ratio, the potassium sodium guidelines can be met with relatively minimal change in the diet.

My wife and I exceed the IOM recommended potassium sodium guidelines every day. Many others other have been able to improve their potassium sodium ratio. Dr. Moore had hundreds of readers of his book (the one on the right side of the page) write to him about how they had improved their ratio and had lowered their blood pressure.

The Biggest Hurdle

The biggest hurdle to overcome is the change in the taste of food. American processed food has become more and more salty and sweet. American taste buds are accustomed to excessive salt and sugar.

When you improve the ratio of your diet, your tongue will take about two to four weeks to get used to the taste of less salt. This is probably the greatest hurdle to overcome. However, once the taste buds have adjusted, the true flavor of food becomes more intense. No longer do all foods seem to have the same kind of taste.

Books And Tables

To find out how easy it is to change your own diet you can read either of the two books recommended on the right hand side of the page. They both show ways to obtain a high potassium sodium ratio in your diet. If you want to do it on your own, you can look at the tables that we have throughout this website to find foods that will provide a favorable ratio. The “Links to Food Potassium Tables” tab has a listing of, and links to, all the tables.
1. Food pattern modeling shows that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for sodium and potassium cannot be met simultaneously. Maillot M, Monsivais P, Drewnowski A. Nutr Res. 2013 Mar;33(3):188-94. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.01.004. Epub 2013 Feb 12.

2. Do changes in cardiovascular risk factors explain changes in mortality from stroke in Finland? Vartiainen E, Sarti C, Tuomilehto J, Kuulasmaa K. BMJ. 1995 Apr 8;310(6984):901-4.

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