We can’t get enough of salt. It’s prevalent in the obvious foods like potato chips, fast food, and cheesy pizza, and even gourmet chefs use hearty pinches in every dish that they make. So it really isn’t that surprising that, as a nation, we’re consuming too much sodium. According to a recent four-nation study by the World Health Organization, which polled 16,000 people in the United States, U.K., France, and Mexico, only .5 percent of participants had enough potassium and didn’t overdo the recommended daily sodium intake.
WHO guidelines recommend consuming 2,000 milligrams of sodium and 3,510 milligrams of potassium daily. To put that in perspective, a Chipotle carnitas burrito tips the scale at 2,390 milligrams of sodium. According to the survey, the worst offender is the U.K., which had .1 percent of compliance with potassium and sodium guidelines. The U.S. participants had .3 percent compliance. These results sound pretty scary, but another team of scientists is calling WHO out on its impossible guidelines. After all, that’s less than a teaspoon of salt per day.
"The problem is that sodium and potassium are found in many of the same foods," Dr. Adam Drewnowski, a professor of epidemiology who directs the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, told Science Daily. "Milk has sodium in it, so if you want to reduce your sodium intake you can drink less milk. But milk also has potassium, so if you want to increase your potassium intake, you have to drink more milk. So you cannot have a recommendation that tells you to reduce the amount of sodium you eat by two thirds and to double the amount of potassium you take in."
Sounds like a real catch-22. However, increasing your potassium intake while reducing your salt intake even moderately couldn’t do any harm (and will also significantly lower your chances of heart disease).