Salty snacks — chips, fries, nachos — are a favorite among kids and teens, often to the dismay of their parents. Nine out of ten kids consume too much salt, raising their risk of high blood pressure, according to a CDC report.
But salt may not be the culprit in the development of high blood pressure after all. These are the surprising results of a new study. Instead, a lack of potassium may be more important.
The study followed the eating habits and blood pressure of a racially diverse group of nearly 2,200 9- and 10-year-old girls who were part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Growth and Health Study. Their food intake was self-reported, and their blood pressure was measured annually for 10 years, by which time the girls had reached early adulthood.
Americans should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day, a number that fewer than two percent of the population reaches.
Instead, the researchers found that girls who ate more potassium-rich foods during the teen years had lower blood pressure than those who consumed fewer high-potassium foods. They concluded that adolescents would get more long-term health benefits from eating high-potassium foods rather than reducing their salt intake.
Lynn L. Moore, lead author of the study and associate professor of medicine at Boston University, said that instead of focusing on salt intake among kids and adolescents, more emphasis needs to be placed on increasing their potassium intake.
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, Americans should consume 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day, a number that fewer than two percent of the population reaches.
Potassium is not required to be listed on the Nutrition Facts label. One reason for this is that the foods richest in potassium often don’t have a label. Teen-friendly foods that are good sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, potatoes, bananas, tomatoes and tomato products, citrus fruits, raisins, milk, and yogurt. A few lucky parents might also get their teens to eat spinach and other leafy greens, as well as legumes.
The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics.