I have heard that potassium is important for heart health. Why is it needed and what foods contain it?

Potassium has many jobs in our body. It helps our heart beat, our muscles move and our nerves fire. Having enough potassium in our diet may keep our blood pressure at a healthy level. In fact, by cutting back on sodium in our diet and increasing potassium-rich foods, we may protect ourselves from stroke. However, do not take a potassium supplement unless your health care provider recommends it.

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To get enough potassium, aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and have plenty of low-fat dairy as recommended by MyPlate. Some of the best sources of potassium are sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans (pinto, lima, kidney), split peas, yogurt, potatoes, bananas, oranges, orange juice, strawberries, raisins, dates, spinach and milk.

I have heard that fruits and vegetables have different health benefits depending on the color. Is that true?

Yes. Researchers have linked fruits and vegetables to certain health benefits. As you plan your colorful plate, keep this information from www.extension.org in mind:

› Red (tomatoes, red peppers, cranberries, cherries and other naturally red foods): help maintain a healthy heart, memory function and urinary tract health

› Blue/purple (blueberries, plums, blackberries, purple grapes, purple cabbage and others): help maintain healthy aging, memory and urinary track health

› Yellow/orange (carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, pumpkin and others): help maintain a healthy heart, immune system and night vision

› Green (spinach, broccoli, kiwi, green grapes, green peppers and others): help prevent eye issues such as macular degeneration and cataracts

› White (bananas, garlic, apples, onions, cauliflower and others): help maintain heart health and reduce the risk of some cancers

Check out “What Color is Your Food?” at www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn595.pdf for more information.

Promote family mealtimes

The NDSU Extension Service is launching a new program called “The Family Table.” The program includes challenges (and prizes), Facebook messages, an e-newsletter and website. Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/ familytable to sign up.

“The Family Table: Eat, Savor, Connect” website will provide information on monthly topics, such as meal planning, making mealtime fun, cooking basics, buying nutritious food on a limited budget, getting kids involved in meal preparation, and family fitness.

Why promote family mealtimes? Eating together as a family at least three times per week is linked with a more nutritious diet, healthy weight, and better school performance, less risky behavior (alcohol, drug use) among teens, better family communication and many other benefits. Please join us and challenge your family in 2017 to spend more time eating together.

Excerpted from “http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/foodwise/newsletter-postings.” For more information on this topic, contact Luella Morehouse, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program and Family Nutrition Program education assistant, NDSU Extension Service Stutsman County, 502 10th Ave. SE, Jamestown, 252-9030 or luella.morehouse@ndsu.edu.