Yes, you should have no bananas: A better way to get potassium—and slash your stroke risk by 27 percent

It’s not the sexiest or most cutting-edge supplement out there. But potassium is vitally important to your health. In fact, according to a new study, older women who eat foods containing higher amounts of potassium may be at lower risk of stroke—and death—than those who consume less.

Researchers studied over 90,000 postmenopausal women (ages 50 to 79) for an average of 11 years (talk about thorough). They looked at how much potassium the women consumed, as well as if they had strokes or died during the study period.

Women who ate the most potassium had a whopping 27 percent lower ischemic stroke risk and 21 percent reduced risk for all stroke types, than women who ate the least potassium.[1]

Results of this study are based on potassium from food, not supplements. So let’s talk food for a minute.

The most well-known food source of potassium is, of course, bananas. But bananas wouldn’t be my top pick for getting the potassium you need. Sure, they’re convenient. (I always call bananas the New Yorkers’ idea of fruit—folks always have one in their purse or tote bag as they zip to and from the subway and/or to pick up their dry cleaning.) But bananas contain more sugar than any other fruit. And the riper they get, they more sugar they’ve got.

If you want a good food source of potassium without all the extra sugar, try macadamia nuts. They’re a great source of plenty of other vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, too. Plus, they contain monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which will keep you feeling full and satisfied way longer than a banana would.

If you’re allergic to nuts, Swiss chard, cremini mushrooms, and spinach are also good sources of potassium.

I generally only recommend potassium supplements (99 mg per day) to patients with high blood pressure. So if your blood pressure is normal, you can simply stick with the food sources I listed above. They should provide plenty of potassium to keep you healthy—and stroke-free.

1. “Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in Women With Hypertension and Nonhypertension in the Women’s Health Initiative.” Stroke 2014; 45(10): 2,874-2,880