Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Most Valuable Mineral: Potassium

Our Most Valuable Mineral (MVM) for this week is POTASSIUM! Potassium is one of the essential minerals needed to promote human biochemical processes. The term “mineral” isn’t particularly apt - Potassium is actually a chemical element - but it’s still one of the more commonly used forms.

Potassium does a lot of wonderful things for you. It’s my favorite element because it plays an important role in muscle use, development, and recovery. Potassium stores carbohydrates for use as fuel by our muscles, and our muscles use potassium to expand and contract. It’s also an electrolyte, which helps counter dehydration by increasing the absorption of fluids into the bloodstream. It aids in muscle recovery and can even help heal injuries faster while serving as a natural pain desensitizer!

We are all supposed to get at least 3.5 grams of potassium a day. Some meats are a good source of potassium. Turkey, pork, chicken, and lean meats are the best; among poultry, light meat is a better source than dark meat.

If you’re looking for vegetarian or lower-calorie sources, you may be surprised to learn that one medium banana - often hailed as the potassium superstar - will only get you about HALF a gram of this MVM (.42 grams, to be exact). If you don’t want to eat seven bananas a day, here are some other good sources of potassium:

  • Avocado: .87 grams in a normal avocado. Note that you’re probably not going to eat an entire avocado.
  • Dried Apricots: 20 of these guys will get you about half of your recommended daily allowance, with 1.9 grams of potassium.
  • Honeydew: I was surprised to see this on the list! I often forget that honeydew even exists, but one cup of it will give you .4 grams of potassium.
  • Lentils: One cup of cooked lentils provides .73 grams of potassium.
  • Yogurt: A six-ounce yogurt cup can net you .3 grams of potassium. But not all yogurts have potassium, so be sure to check the label.
  • Orange Juice: Six ounces yields .37 grams of potassium, while a medium orange will only get you .24 grams. OJ is particularly easy to pick up on your way out of the gym.
  • Spinach: One cup of cooked spinach brings in a whopping .84 grams of potassium. One cup of cooked spinach works out to a lot more raw spinach, though, so make sure you buy the family-size bag. I like adding raw spinach to my smoothies (see also: Green Monsters), but it’s great as a base for salads, in lasagna, or simply steamed as a side dish with any main protein source.
  • Sweet potato: One medium sweet potato (with skin) contains .54 grams of potassium. White potatoes are higher in potassium (a whopping .9 grams!), but sweet potatoes won’t spike your blood sugar in the same way a white potato will.
  • Acorn Squash: 1/2 cup of this wonderful and versatile autumn/winter vegetable will provide .44 grams of potassium. I love baking acorn squash and then filling it with chili, rice, or soup - or just eating it as a side dish! You can’t avoid these squash at the farmers’ markets this time of year.

Which are your favorite potassium sources? How do you like to eat it?


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Things I love after sleeping late on a Sunday:

A warm cup of coffee and a copy of this month’s Cooking Light magazine

Sorting my recipes and adding new tags on Evernote.

The promise of apples and root vegetables at the neighborhood farmer’s market after a run through the park.

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