Friday, June 17, 2005

Diet and Potassium

Q: I know that bananas, raisins, prunes, and potatoes are all good sources of potassium. But those foods are a concern for those of us who suffer from Type 1 diabetes and must maintain strict control over our blood sugar levels. Can you tell me some low glycemic sources of potassium that I might add to my diet? A: You are right to be concerned. A food's glycemic index rates the speed at which your body metabolizes carbohydrates and the food's ability to increase blood sugar. Avoiding foods that create too much of an insulin reaction in your body is the key to controlling diabetes. Unfortunately, as you have found, many foods that are rich in potassium also rate high on the glycemic index. There are other foods that are known to be rich in potassium, but please check with your doctor to make sure they are right to include in your diet, and to get details about how much or how often they should be added. Sun-dried tomatoes are an excellent source of potassium. So are sweet potatoes, which are on the lower end of the glycemic index. Beet greens, celery, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, Swiss chard, squash, and spinach are other good sources and can be added as your diet permits. White beans or soy beans, seeds, and nuts, (which are also a good source of protein), are high in potassium, too. Taking a potassium supplement may be your best bet if you can't get enough potassium through diet alone. If you are following a low-carbohydrate diet and are not eating at least five to six servings of vegetables every day, make sure you take at least 400 to 500 milligrams of potassium daily.

What is ...the glycemic index? The glycemic index rates the speed at which various carbohydrates are metabolized and ranks their ability to raise blood sugar. Glucose is used as the reference point for the index, with a rating of 100 on the scale. Table sugar has a rating of 65; a bagel 72; sweet potatoes earn a 54; an apple ranks a 36, while watermelon comes in at 72. Basically, the higher the rating on the glycemic index, the bigger impact the food will have on your blood sugar level.



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