The Role of Potassium and Sodium in Your Diet
- Potassium and sodium are electrolytes that help your body maintain fluid and blood volume so it can function normally. However, consuming too little potassium and too much sodium can raise your blood pressure.1
- Though the words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, they do not mean the same thing. Salt (also known but its chemical name, sodium chloride) is a crystal-like compound that is common in nature. Sodium is a mineral, and one of the chemical elements found in salt.2
- Potassium is found in vegetables, fruit, seafood, and dairy products. Most of the sodium Americans eat comes from packaged, processed, store-bought, and restaurant foods.3 Only a small account comes from salt added during cooking or at the table.
Potassium, Sodium, and High Blood Pressure
- Increasing your potassium intake can decrease your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure.4
- Consuming too much sodium can raise your blood pressure.1 This means that, on average, the more sodium you consume, the higher your blood pressure will be, especially if you already have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
- Consuming too little potassium in your diet and too much sodium can raise your blood pressure.5,6
Potassium, Sodium, and the Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
- Increasing potassium intake can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering blood pressure.7,8
- Consuming too little potassium and too much sodium can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.4,6,8
- Lowering blood pressure reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke.10
Potassium in the Food Supply and Potassium Consumption
- Most Americans do not consume enough potassium and consume too much sodium.1
- The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans pdf icon[PDF – 10 MB]external icon recommend that Americans include vegetables, fruits, dairy, and proteins as part of a healthy diet.
- Good sources of potassium are found in each of these groups and are listed in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans online resourceexternal icon.
- You can find potassium content and percent of daily values on the Nutrition Facts labels for packaged foods.11
- In late 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued final guidance, Use of an Alternate Name for Potassium Chloride in Food Labelingexternal icon, to allow food manufacturers to use the name “potassium salt” on food labels instead of “potassium chloride” to help people better understand that it is a salt substitute. Some manufacturers may use potassium chloride as a substitute for some salt in their products. Consumers may start seeing potassium salt on ingredient lists of food labels.12
- Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-reportexternal icon Accessed March 12, 2021.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Facts: Sodium in Your Diet: Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Reduce Your Intake factsheet. Sodium in Your Diet: Use the Nutrition Facts Label and Reduce Your Intakeexternal icon, Accessed March 12, 2021.
- Harnack LI, Cogswell ME, Shikany JM, Gardner CD, Gillespie C, Loria CM, et al. Sources of sodium in U.S. adults from 3 geographic regionsexternal icon. Circulation. 2017;135:1775–83.
- Cogswell ME, Loria CM, Terry AL, Zhao L, Wang CY, Chen TC, et al. Estimated 24-hour urinary sodium and potassium excretion in U.S. adultsexternal icon. JAMA. 2018;319(12):1–12.
- Kieneker L, Gansevoort RT, Mukamal KJ, de Boer RA, Navis G, Bakker SJL, et al. Urinary potassium excretion and risk of developing hypertension. The prevention of renal and vascular end-stage disease studyexternal icon. Hypertension. 2014;64(4):769–76.
- Jackson SL, Cogswell ME, Zhao L, Terry AL, Wang CY, Wright J, et al. Associations between urinary sodium and potassium excretion and blood pressure among adults in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2014external icon. Circulation. 2018;137:237–46.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for sodium and potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17226/25353external icon.
- Cook NR, Obarzanek E, Cutler JA, Buring JE, Rexrode KM, Kumanyika SK, et al. Joint effects of sodium and potassium intake on subsequent cardiovascular disease: the Trials of Hypertension Prevention follow-up studyexternal icon. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(1):32–40.
- Aaron KJ, Sanders PW. Role of dietary salt and potassium intake in cardiovascular health and disease: a review of the evidenceexternal icon. Mayo Clin Proc.2013;88(9):987.
- American Heart Association. Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Changes-You-Can-Make-to-Manage-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002054_Article.jsp#.WqqkuujwaUkexternal icon. Accessed May 23, 2018.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The New Nutrition Facts Label website. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/new-nutrition-facts-labelexternal icon, Accessed February 26, 2021.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Constituent Update: FDA Issues Final Guidance Regarding Use of an Alternate Name for Potassium Chloride in Food Labeling. Accessed March 02, 2021. https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-issues-final-guidance-regarding-use-alternate-name-potassium-chloride-food-labelingexternal icon
Page last reviewed: April 12, 2021