A new study from the journal Health Affairs finds that healthy eating can be an expensive proposition. For example, adding potassium to the diet can tack on $380 per year to the average consumer’s food costs, the study found. It is the wealthiest consumers that are able to most closely meet the guidelines. Consumers who spend the least amount have the highest intake of saturated fats and added sugar.

Many people know that high sodium intake may lead to hypertension. Approximately 10% of people with high blood pressure are sensitive to dietary salt (or sodium). A reduction in sodium helps lower blood pressure in all people with hypertension.

Newer evidence suggests that dietary potassium may play a role in decreasing blood pressure. Potassium is involved in nerve function, muscle control and blood pressure. A diet low in potassium and high in sodium may be a factor in high blood pressure. Increasing potassium in the diet may protect against hypertension in people who are sensitive to high levels of sodium.

For people who have hypertension, following an overall eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) may be useful for lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet is higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium and lower in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium than the typical American diet.

However, taking potassium supplements is generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure. Instead, a variety of potassium-rich foods should be eaten daily.

Athletes also may need more potassium to replace that lost from muscle during exercise and the smaller amount lost in sweat. Low potassium can cause muscle cramping and cardiovascular irregularities. Eating foods high in potassium can prevent these symptoms. One cup of orange juice, a banana or a potato is sufficient to replace the potassium lost during one to two hours of hard exercise. Sport drinks are poor sources of potassium.

In 2010, the U.S. updated its guidelines for nutrition and called for Americans to incorporate more potassium, dietary fiber, Vitamin D and calcium into their diets. To add more dietary fiber and vitamin D into their diet, persons would have to spend an extra 35 cents a day for each of the two nutrients.

The new food pyramid unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and First Lady Michelle Obama last month called “MyPlate” asks Americans to eat more fresh foods containing potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium.

But there are inexpensive ways to eat healthy. Potatoes are one of the cheapest and best ways to get potassium. There are increasingly more farmer’s markets offering fresh fruits and vegetables in low income neighborhoods where before it would have cost residents to travel for healthy food choices.

Cherries, grapes, onions, and apples are 4 of the best sources of potassium found in foods. If you are keeping an eye on your Recommended Daily Allowance then you will find the potassium content of foods listed here, and my full list, very beneficial.

Also, as you well know, fruit and vegetables can be seasonal or found all year round, therefore, be aware of what time of year foods are harvested and keep a note of them in your diary. That way when you shop you will know which items are high potassium foods.

Written by Sy Kraft