The National Institutes of Health estimate that one in three people have high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure happens when blood flows through your arteries at a much higher than normal pressure.
If high blood pressure is left untreated, it can lead to serious medical conditions such as kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke. Diet changes can be a way to prevent and treat high blood pressure. Eating beans is a great start to improving the diet.
Your sodium-potassium ratio directly influences your blood pressure. A 2009 study published in the "Archives of Internal Medicine" concluded that rather than studying sodium and potassium separately in treatment of cardiovascular disease, perhaps the ratio of sodium and potassium may be more important.
Current research agrees. A 2016 study published in "Nutrients" found that people with higher sodium/potassium ratios - high sodium intake and low potassium intake - were at a greater risk for high blood pressure. Basically this means that you should be reducing the amount of sodium in the diet while eating more foods that contain potassium.
Cooked dry beans, peas and lentils can be good protection against high blood pressure due to their large potassium contributions to your diet. Legumes with the highest amounts of potassium include white, Lima, pinto, kidney, and navy beans, as well as split peas, lentils and soybeans. Black-eyed peas, Great Northern, black, and garbanzo beans offer significant potassium, while green and yellow snap beans have much lower potassium content.
One half-cup of cooked from dry lima beans, with no added salt, will give you about 475mg of potassium, which is 10% of the recommended amount, and the same amount of cooked pinto beans will provide 8% or 373mg of potassium.
Recommended Potassium and Sodium Intakes
Currently, Harvard Medical School estimates the average intake of sodium is 3,400mg and 2,500mg of potassium per day for a ratio of 1.36 to 1. For potassium to have a beneficial blunting effect on sodium-induced high blood pressure, you need to increase the amount of potassium from food sources, while decreasing the amount of sodium in the diet.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests an adequate intake of 4,700 milligrams of potassium for all adults, 2,300 milligrams of sodium for healthy adults and 1,500 milligrams of sodium for hypertensive adults. Track your intakes from beans and other food sources via the nutrition data on food labels.
Potassium-rich beans are a healthy addition to any diet, but it hinges on salt reduction. Canned beans are often processed with added salt and deliver far more sodium than dry, minimally processed beans.
Compare the 660 milligrams of sodium in 1 cup of canned kidney beans to the 2 milligrams in kidney beans cooked at home from dry sources. Draining and rinsing canned beans can help remove some of the sodium. When fresh dry beans are not available, choose frozen beans without added salt and canned beans with reduced sodium.
Your food choices can affect your longevity and quality of life. Achieving the correct sodium-potassium ratio can help you avoid some of the painful and potentially fatal complications associated with hypertension. Foods such as beans are a healthy way to get more potassium in the diet.
It is best to achieve a higher intake of potassium through foods, like beans. Always speak with a doctor before trying to boost your potassium intake through supplements, as excess potassium can interfere with certain medications or conditions.