Potassium, the Key to Health?

April 16, 2013

Consuming adequate vitamins and minerals really is foundational for optimal health. Today's article will focus on why you should include more potassium rich foods in your diet

The World Health Organization recently stated that adults should consume more than 4 grams of potassium daily. We are all aware that potassium is critical for health, especially when it is accompanied by a decrease in the consumption of sodium, but why and where can we get it?

First off, the basics: potassium, sodium and chloride comprise the electrolyte family of minerals. About 95 percent of the potassium in the body is stored inside our cells, while sodium and chloride are mostly located outside of our cells. Potassium is especially important in regulating the activity of muscles and nerves. The frequency and degree to which our muscles contract, and our nerves become excitable, both depend on the right amount of potassium.

What else can potassium do for our health? A new study in the British Medical Journal, found that increasing the amount of potassium along with reducing the amount of sodium, may lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. Researchers from the UN World Food Program, Imperial College London, and Warwick Medical School, among others, evaluated data from 33 studies that involved more than 128,000 individuals. Their overall findings demonstrated that eating two to three additional servings of vegetables or fruit daily can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in people with hypertension and also lower the risk of stroke by 24 percent.

Potassium is essential for strong bones and prevention of osteoporosis. Research shows that women who consume more potassium have a greater bone mineral density than those who take in only 1,400 to 1,600 mg daily. A new study from Switzerland also reported that taking potassium daily significantly improved bone mineral density in healthy elderly adults without osteoporosis.

A recent study in PLoS One found that “higher potassium intake is significantly associated with a lower metabolic syndrome prevalence in women.” Researchers also noted that their findings suggest dietary potassium may be “a new, modifiable dietary factor to ameliorate” the risk of metabolic syndrome, especially among women.

Shop for potassium rich foods! Beans (white, Adzuki, soy, kidney, black, lima, pinto), bananas, spinach, yam, acorn squash, dried apricots, baked potatoes, Swiss chard, salmon, dates, avocado, raisins, papaya, and cantaloupe. Including several servings of these foods and other seasonal produce should have you well on your way to consuming an adequate amount of potassium as well as other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.