A tasty way to add potassium

Po­tassi­um can be found in many fruits and ve­get­ables.

Stay­ing strong as we age ob­vi­ously re­quires keep­ing phys­ic­ally act­ive, es­pe­cially fo­cus­ing on strength­en­ing our muscles. And as al­ways, stay­ing strong also means eat­ing well to sus­tain and build muscle tis­sue. In this case, that means get­ting enough po­tassi­um.

   Sci­ence has long known that po­tassi­um is needed for muscle con­trol. In re­cent stud­ies done at Tufts Uni­versity’s Jean May­er USDA Hu­man Nu­tri­tion Re­search Cen­ter, re­search­ers found that in­clud­ing po­tassi­um-rich fruits and ve­get­ables in our di­ets has be­ne­fi­cial ef­fects on muscle. More spe­cific­ally, older adults need po­tassi­um-rich fruits and ve­get­ables that pro­duce an al­kaline rather than an acid­ic residue.

   Many of the foods we eat — pro­tein foods and cer­eal grains, for ex­ample — pro­duce acid­ic residues in our bod­ies. With aging, many Amer­ic­ans slowly build up these small acid residues, res­ult­ing in mild acidos­is. This con­di­tion seems to “trig­ger a muscle-wast­ing re­sponse,” ac­cord­ing to the re­search­ers. But the pro­cess they say, might be coun­ter­ac­ted by eat­ing al­kaline-pro­du­cing plant foods high in po­tassi­um. Their re­search showed that sub­jects “whose di­ets were rich in po­tassi­um av­er­aged 3.6 more pounds of lean tis­sue mass (or muscle) than those with only half the po­tassi­um in­take. That al­most off­sets the 4.4 pounds of lean tis­sue typ­ic­ally lost in a dec­ade in healthy men and wo­men age 65 and above.”

   Ba­na­nas are the most fa­mil­i­ar po­tassi­um-rich food. Some oth­er po­tassi­um-rich sources in­clude sweet pota­toes, to­ma­toes, beet greens, pota­toes, white beans, prunes, soy­beans, winter squash, spin­ach, peaches, apricots, can­ta­loupe, hon­ey­dew mel­on, len­tils, plantains, kid­ney beans and lima beans.

   The U.S. De­part­ment of Ag­ri­cul­ture re­com­mends that older adults get at least 4,700 mil­li­grams of po­tassi­um daily. One me­di­um sweet potato baked in the skin without salt has 542 mg of po­tassi­um. An 8- to 9-inch ba­nana has 487 mg. A cup of lima beans, boiled with salt, has 955 mg. A me­di­um baked potato with the skin has 926 mg of po­tassi­um. So there are lots of de­li­cious ways to get what we need.

   Try my re­cipe for Creole Lima Beans with Saus­age to add a healthy and tasty punch of po­tassi­um to your diet.

Creole Lima Beans with Saus­age 

   Feel free to try oth­er types of link saus­age in this re­cipe, in­clud­ing chick­en, Itali­an or beef, or leave out the meat for a de­li­cious, ve­get­ari­an side dish. 

1 (16-ounce) pack­age andouille saus­age, cut in­to 1-inch pieces

1 ta­ble­spoon olive oil

1 me­di­um onion, chopped

1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed to­ma­toes, with juice, crushed

4 gar­lic cloves, minced

1 rib cel­ery, chopped

1 tea­spoon salt

1 tea­spoon black pep­per

1 tea­spoon paprika

1/4 tea­spoon cay­enne pep­per

1/2 tea­spoon brown sug­ar or honey

1 (16-ounce) pack­age frozen baby lima beans

1/2 cup wa­ter or chick­en broth

1. Us­ing a large skil­let over me­di­um heat, add in olive oil. Saute onion for 2 to 3 minutes to soften. Add in the to­ma­toes and any juices. Use a potato mash­er or fork to break the to­ma­toes in­to large pieces. Add in the saus­age, gar­lic, cel­ery, salt, black pep­per, paprika, cay­enne pep­per and brown sug­ar or honey. Cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 4 to 5 minutes. 

2. Add lima beans and wa­ter or broth to skil­let. Stir and bring to a boil. Re­duce heat to low, cov­er and sim­mer for 8 to 10 minutes, un­til beans are tender. Serves 6. 

   (Ad­di­tion­al in­form­a­tion provided by Janet Hack­ert, Nu­tri­tion and Health Edu­ca­tion Spe­cial­ist in Har­ris­on County, Uni­versity of Mis­souri Ex­ten­sion.) ••

   An­gela Shelf Medear­is is an award-win­ning chil­dren’s au­thor, culin­ary his­tor­i­an and au­thor of sev­en cook­books. Her new cook­book is “The Kit­chen Diva’s Dia­bet­ic Cook­book.” Her Web site is www.di­vapro.com

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