Eat More Potassium, 6 Reasons Why
Potassium is a big deal, at least to the World Health Organization, which has recently stated that adults should consume more than 4 grams of this mineral daily. Other medical experts agree potassium is critical for health, especially when it is accompanied by a decrease in the consumption of salt (sodium). So what should you know about potassium?
Potassium protects your heart and brain
Let’s start with the new study appearing in the British Medical Journal, in which an international team of experts determined that increasing the amount of potassium in the diet along with reducing the amount of sodium can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke. The benefits also extend to the kidneys, as it was discovered that increasing potassium did not have an adverse effect on kidney function or on hormone levels.
How much potassium should you consume each day? In the United States, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has determined that the Adequate Intake (AI) for adults is 4,700 mg daily.
An AI is established when there is insufficient scientific evidence to determine a nutrient’s estimated average requirement. Similar to an RDA, the AI represents the average daily amount of a nutrient believed to provide an adequate level in a population of healthy people.
To determine the impact of potassium on health, the scientific team from the UN World Food Programme, Imperial College London, and Warwick Medical School, among others, evaluated data from 33 studies that involved more than 128,000 individuals. Their overall findings were that eating two to three additional servings of vegetables or fruit daily can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the upper and lower figures in blood pressure readings) in people with hypertension and also lower the risk of stroke by 24 percent.
Researchers believe most individuals do not get enough potassium in their diet but that they could if they consumed the equivalent of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. In addition to protecting against high blood pressure and stroke, here are five more reasons to get enough potassium.
Why potassium is important
- You literally cannot live without potassium. That’s because this mineral’s main job is to help trigger your heart to contract and send blood throughout your body.
- Increasing the amount of potassium in the diet can help not only adults, but children as well. As a growing number of young people are being diagnosed with high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes, it is becoming increasingly important to improve the diets of children and adolescents, and that means making sure they eat more fruits and vegetables rich in potassium.
- 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.
- Adequate levels of potassium are necessary to help prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a common condition that places people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. A new study in the journal Clinical Endocrinology noted that low potassium levels were significantly associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease among middle-aged and elderly adults.
- You need adequate potassium to help prevent metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. A new study in PLoS One reports that “higher potassium intake is significantly associated with a lower MetS (metabolic syndrome) prevalence in women.” The authors 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.
Eat more potassium
To get more potassium into your diet, here are some rich food sources to add to your daily menu. They include beans (white, Adzuki, soy, kidney, black, lima, pinto), bananas, spinach, acorn squash, dried apricots, baked potatoes, Swiss chard, salmon, dates, avocado, raisins, papaya, and cantaloupe.
It is also important to know your kidney function is normal. If not, potassium levels might accumulate in the body and cause serious problems with your health. Never take potassium supplements without physician guidance. Too much potassium in the blood stream can be lethal. If you have any underlying condition that causes high potassium, known as hyperkalemia, speak with your doctor about the best diet for you.
Aburto N et al. Effect of increased potassium intake on cardiovascular risk factors and disease: systematic review and meta-analyses. BMJ 2013. DOI:10.1136/bmj.f1378
Jehle S et al. Effect of potassium citrate on bone density, microarchitecture, and fracture risk in healthy older adults without osteoporosis: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2013 Jan; 98(1): 207-17
Lee H et al. Potassium intake and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome: the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2008-2010. PLoS One 2013; 8(1):55106
Sun K et al. Low serum potassium level is associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and its related metabolic disorders. Clinical Endocrinology 2013 Feb 13. DOI:10.1111/cen.12168
Zhu K et al. The effects of high potassium consumption on bone mineral density in a prospective cohort study of elderly postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis International 2009 Feb; 20(2): 335-40