Ask anyone to name a source of potassium and inevitably, they’ll say “bananas”. But ask why we need potassium, and few can answer the question. Potassium is a mineral that’s not only found in bananas, but also citrus fruit, green leafy vegetables, yogurt, beans, whole grains and sweet potatoes. Researchers suggest getting more potassium in our diets as it’s been found to lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake.
Dr. Alicia McDonough, a professor of cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC) evaluated the diets of several populations and found that higher potassium intakes were associated with lower blood pressure, no matter what the sodium intake was. Her review included a combination of interventional and molecular studies evaluating the effects of dietary potassium and sodium on high blood pressure in various populations. Kidneys get rid of more salt and water when dietary potassium intake is high. Dr. McDonough likens high potassium intake to taking a diuretic, or water pill.
Unfortunately, a typical American diet tends to be higher in processed foods, which tend to be high in salt content and low in potassium. One of the most cost effective strategies to reduce blood pressure is to cut back on salt. Improved consumer education regarding salt, changes in processed food and reduced consumption of high sodium foods should be implemented.
Finland and the UK were first to start salt reduction programs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Europeans consume an average of 7-18 grams per day, which is far above the suggested limit of 6 grams per day. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggested that adults consume 4.7 grams of potassium daily to reduce blood pressure, reduce the impact of high sodium intake and slash the risk of bone loss and kidney disease. Dr. McDonough notes that consuming just ¾ cups of dried beans daily can help individuals reach half of their potassium goal. Here are more ways to obtain more potassium:
- Eat an orange or banana daily
- Include green leafy vegetables daily such as broccoli, spinach or kale
- Snack on unsalted nuts
- Add an avocado to your salad or sandwich
- Choose dark orange fruits and vegetables such as melon and sweet potatoes
- Enjoy kiwi, mango or papaya
Alicia A. McDonough, Luciana C. Veiras, Claire A. Guevara, Donna L. Ralph, Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K vs. lower dietary Na evidence from population and mechanistic studies. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism. Apr 4, 2017, E348-E356
Don’t ask me why, but lately I’ve seen a rash of patients with elevated liver enzymes. When enzyme levels are elevated, it’s an indication that an organ in the body may be under stress or inflamed. In the case of your liver, it may also be related to being overweight or obese. Below are some reasons your liver enzymes may be high.
- Medications– Tyelenol/acetominophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Aleve, ibuprofen, etc) and some prescription medications (such as statins used to lower cholesterol or antibiotics) can increase LFTs if used in excess over time. NEVER take tyelenol after drinking alcohol and limit use of other medications when possible.
- Alcohol– Limit alcohol of any kind if your liver enzymes are elevated. Drink in moderation (1 drink/day for women, 2/day for men) if at all or quit if your doctor advises you to.
- Obesity or being overweight- can lead to NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or fat accumulation in the liver). Lose weight if you are overweight to prevent fatty liver disease. Left untreated, fatty liver disease may lead to cirrhosis- permanent scarring of the liver.
- Hepatitis can increase LFTs. This includes Hepatitis A, B or C.
- Hemochromatosis– a condition where the liver stores excessive amounts of iron, can cause LFTs to be high.
- Celiac disease- a digestive condition where a person cannot tolerate gluten from wheat, oats, barley and rye may raise LFTs.
- Pancreatitis or cholecystitis– inflammation of the pancreas or gallbladder inflammation may both increase LTFs.
- Use of herbal supplements such as kava kava, comfrey, pennyroyal, skullcap, or certain other herbal supplements may raise LFTs. Supplements are not regulate by the FDA.
- Diabetes may increase LFTs as excess sugar in your blood may be related to insulin resistance and obesity.
- IV (intravenous nutrition) increases LFTs because bile is being backed up when it is not being used to digest fat in the gastrointestinal system.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But sadly, it’s the meal most often skipped!
One of THE most important things to remember is hydration. While it’s easy to grab coffee or tea, don’t forget to hydrate in the morning. Drink 2 cups of water as soon as you get up to prevent headaches and overeating later. Keep a water bottle in your car, at your desk and at home if this helps you drink more water. To keep you fuller, longer, include start with high protein & high fiber foods at meals.
Below are some foods to keep on hand that you can grab and run when you’re crunched for time.
Protein sources High Fiber foods
Hard boiled eggs Whole wheat bread or English muffins
Peanut or almond butter Oatmeal
Cottage cheese Shredded wheat or bran cereal
String cheese Whole wheat tortillas
Soy nuts Whole grain crackers- Triscuits, All bran
Almonds or other nuts Mini whole wheat bagels
Beef or turkey jerky Whole wheat pita bread
Black or other beans
Tuna or egg salad
Fresh fruit Carrots
Apples Celery sticks
Bananas Cherry tomatoes
Citrus fruit Mushrooms
Grape Pepper strips
Kiwi Snow pea pods or sugar snap peas
- Peanut or almond butter sandwich on whole wheat with a piece of fruit
- String cheese and whole grain crackers with a piece of fruit
- Hard boiled egg, whole grain crackers, handful of veggies
- Oatmeal with chopped nuts and dried fruit
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Trail mix- shredded wheat, nuts, raisins
- Bowl of low sugar cereal (< 5 grams) and fresh fruit
When it comes to produce, you can never go wrong with more veggies. Rich in potassium, beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C and phytochemicals, vegetable intake is linked with lower rates of heart disease and certain cancers and may also help with “waist control” given their low caloric value.
Here are a few tips when buying and using frozen vegetables:
- Look for the “no frills” type, packaged without excess sodium, butter or cheese sauce. These will be lowest in calories, fat and sodium and tend to be less expensive.
- Buy a family sized bag versus a “serving for one”. You’ll likely pay the same price, but get more food for your dollar. Not to mention, it will encourage you to eat bigger servings of vegetables.
- Choose a variety of veggies. Who wants to eat only frozen peas? Get mixed vegetables for color and nutritional value as well as spinach, broccoli and other vegetables.
- Try frozen peppers and onions. These are great for casseroles, chili, eggs, soup and stew. Just think- no more onion tears!
- Add chopped frozen spinach to dips, quiche, soup or spaghetti sauce. It wilts down to nothing, but adds loads of beta-carotene and potassium.
- Steam frozen veggies in a microwave for 2 ½ minutes. The less time and water used, the more nutrients that are retained.
- Add frozen veggies to leftover rice or noodle dishes. They add color, flavor and nutrition to any dish.
- Pack frozen vegetables in your lunch as a side dish. They’re not just for dinner you know!
- Skip the steamable bag to save money. Frozen veggies can be steamed and served in a glass bowl from your microwave just as quickly.
- Don’t forget frozen squash or other varieties of vegetables. These can be added to soups or stews to boost fiber, beta-carotene and potassium to your recipes.
If you had one too many Irish whiskeys, green beers or glasses of Merlot last night, this post is for you! Did you know that dark liquor or heavier beer (read Guinness) can give you a worse hangover than lighter alcohol? Or that drinking when dehydrated or on an empty stomach increases alcohol absorption? You’re not alone. If you’re feeling the pain today, here are a few simple cures for you:
Ginger tea or peppermint. Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural nausea cure. It’s not just for morning sickness! Try ginger tea, ginger ale or non-alcoholic ginger beer to calm your stomach. Peppermint oil relaxes stomach muscles and can have a soothing effect. Peppermint oil is often used with IBS, but should be avoided in those with reflux, as it lowers esophageal sphincter pressure. The sugar in peppermint candy will raise blood sugar, too for energy.
Toast or crackers. Normally when blood sugar is low, your liver kicks in to release sugar from glycogen (stored glucose). But if it’s been metabolizing alcohol all night, it can’t handle the extra work. Toast, crackers, bread or any other carbohydrates will bring your blood sugar up and return your energy.
Water, water, water. It’s a known fact that alcohol is a diuretic- meaning it will make you pee most of the night, resulting in dehydration and headache. If you can, drink at least 2 glasses before going to bed the night before. If not, start drinking as soon as you wake up. You CAN over-hydrate yourself- resulting in hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and brain edema. 3 liters/day is plenty for most people. Seltzer or other fizzy water is a good option for an upset stomach.
Coffee. If you’re a regular consumer of coffee, you’ll need it to prevent a headache. But overdoing it can make you jittery or cause stomach upset. Enjoy your usual 1-2 cups, but continue to hydrate throughout the day.
Pain meds. Stick with aspirin, Naproxen or ibuprofen for your hangover headache. Tylenol mixed with alcohol can lead to liver damage. Always take non-steroidal drugs with food if possible as they can eat up your stomach lining over time.
Truth be told, I don’t think I sat in a normal dining area once this week for lunch. Having multiple meetings and consults during the week forced me to eat in my car A LOT. Below are a few things I prepped ahead of time before scrambling out the door:
- Turkey and cheese roll up. Take 2 slices of lean deli turkey and place it on a small, fajita sized whole wheat tortilla. Spread a thin layer of horseradish sauce over the turkey. Sprinkle shredded, 2% milk cheddar cheese on this layer. Roll up and pack in a bag. Pack 10-15 baby carrots and ½ cup green grapes in a bag to go with it. And don’t forget a bottle of water!
- Peanut butter on whole wheat. Spread 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter on whole wheat bread and top the peanut butter with another slice of bread. Enjoy an apple and some celery sticks on the side.
- String cheese and Triscuits. Just like it says- pack 2 low fat Mozzarella string cheese sticks and 12 Triscuits in a bag. Pack 1 cup of baby carrots and cleaned/dried blueberries to pop in your mouth at the red light.
- Hummus & veggies in a pita. Pack ½ of a whole wheat pita with 2 Tbsp. of your favorite hummus. Add a chopped cucumber and spinach leaves between to the pocket. Pack 10-15 grape tomatoes to go with it and a bottle of water.
- Nutty trail mix. Mix ¾ cup Cheerios, ¼ cup almonds, ¼ cup walnuts, ¼ cup sunflower seeds and ¼ cup raisins or dried cranberries in a bag or reusable plastic container. Grab a 4-6 oz. Greek yogurt and a spoon and run for your car!