Jessica Pettway for TIME

It's not just about reducing sodium intake.

Karen Ansel, MS, RDN
March 06, 2018

Eating for better blood pressure isn’t only about what you can’t have. Adding potassium-filled foods (like bananas) to your plate is a delicious way to improve your sodium numbers.

Potassium helps your kidneys flush sodium out of your body, naturally lowering blood pressure. How effective is it? To find out, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers rounded up 766 volunteers and measured their daily potassium excretion, the gold standard for estimating potassium intake. Their findings: For every 1,000 mg of potassium a person excreted, their systolic blood pressure (the top number on your blood pressure reading) dipped nearly four points.

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This delicious side salad is nutrient and antioxidant-packed and a cinch to prepare.

What’s more, those who ate the most potassium were 62% less likely to develop hypertension than those who had the least. The trouble is that 98% of us don’t get the 4,700 mg we need each day. While potassium is in lots of plant-based foods like potatoes, beans, bananas, leafy greens, and nuts, few foods supply large amounts. So you would have to eat 11 bananas or 5 potatoes a day to get your fill. A better strategy? Add potassium-rich foods to every meal, and over the course of the day, you should reach your quota—no math required.