Stock up on potassium for a healthy heart – and more!
01/06/2021 / By Leslie Locklear / Comments
Stock up on potassium for a healthy heart – and more!

If you’re looking for an effective – not to mention delicious – way to support your cardiovascular system, stocking up and snacking on tropical favorites such as bananas and avocados just might do the trick.

This is because those two fruits are rich in potassium, an essential mineral that has been linked to good cardiovascular health, specifically, by preventing the arteries from hardening – a condition known in the medical community as vascular calcification.

According to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, one way to avoid developing this condition is to have enough potassium in one’s diet. The researchers came to this conclusion after observing the effects of a low-potassium diet on mice.

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“Dietary potassium regulates vascular calcification and arterial stiffness,” the researchers said, noting in their study that an increase in dietary potassium levels actually lessened vascular calcification and aortic stiffness in the test subjects while decreasing dietary potassium led to an opposite effect.

This means that mice that had been fed with low-potassium diets exhibited harder arteries, while those that were fed with a high-potassium diet had more flexible ones.

These findings emphasize the need to consider the dietary intake of potassium in many individuals in order to prevent conditions such as vascular calcification, as well as other issues related to cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis, from happening.

These findings are especially important, given that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, with about 610,000 people dying from the disease every year.

How can I add potassium to my diet?

Here’s some good news for those planning to add more of this heart-supporting mineral to their diets: potassium is everywhere.

As noted by food experts and nutritionists, potassium can be found in many fresh fruits and vegetables, such as the following:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit
  • Melons, including cantaloupe and honeydew
  • Apricots
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Pumpkins
  • Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, chard and broccoli
  • Lentils such as peas, Lima beans, pinto beans and kidney beans
  • Soybeans and soy-based products
  • Nuts and tree nuts

In addition, this essential mineral can also be found in dairy products such as yogurt, in free-range meat and poultry and in some types of fish such as wild-caught tuna, halibut, cod, trout and rockfish.

Aside from that, potassium can also be found in other foods such as whole grains and whole-grain food products — including whole-wheat bread and pasta.

Despite its relative abundance, however, Americans, on average, only consume around 2,640 milligrams (mg) of potassium daily — a far cry from the 3,510 mg recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the 4,700 mg posited by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

This, as noted by medical experts, can be worrisome, especially since potassium is linked to so many important bodily functions.

What else can I expect from having healthy potassium levels?

Potassium is considered to be the third most abundant mineral in the body, with the majority of the mineral said to be stored in one’s muscles, and the rest stored in his bones, liver and blood.

As noted by experts, having healthy levels of potassium in the body has also been linked to the following health benefits:

Potassium helps maintain the body’s fluid balance

Potassium functions as an electrolyte and is known to counteract the effects of sodium on the body’s fluids. This, experts have noted, helps to maintain consistent blood pressure, as well as the acid-base balance in the body, among other things.

As noted by experts, maintaining good fluid balance is important for optimal health, especially since having imbalanced fluids in the body can lead to issues such as dehydration, which in turn affects the heart and kidneys if left untreated.

Potassium helps maintain healthy bones and muscles

Potassium, according to medical experts, plays an important role in overall muscular function, such as muscle contraction and the communication between muscles and nerves.

Aside from that, potassium also plays a part in optimal bone development, specifically, by limiting the amount of calcium excreted by the body through peeing.

This, experts have said, contributes to the development of healthy total bone mass in adults, as well as prevents the development of osteoporosis.

Potassium may help guard the body against strokes

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, with the disease claiming more than 130,000 Americans annually.

The good news, however, is that eating a potassium-rich diet may help prevent the occurrence of strokes.

This is mainly because potassium lessens the effects of sodium, a mineral, which, in high doses, can trigger strokes. Aside from that, potassium is also known for its ability to help prevent high blood pressure, which is considered to be a major risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Potassium can help prevent the development of kidney stones

Those aiming for healthy kidneys may find it beneficial to add potassium-rich foods to their diet, mainly because of the mineral’s ability to stave off the production of kidney stones.

This, according to experts, stems from potassium’s ability to reduce the presence of calcium in one’s urine and instead, redirect it to the skeletal system. Talk about hitting two birds with one stone.

Potassium can aid in sensible weight management

Planning to achieve a more healthy weight? Try adding more potassium-rich foods to your diet.

This is based on a study that found that adding potassium-rich foods to a low-calorie, high-protein diet allowed overweight individuals to experience impressive reductions in their body mass indexes (BMI).

The mechanism behind this, however, is yet to be discussed, although it is likely to be the result of multiple factors, including the adoption of a more healthy lifestyle.

Thinking of adding more of this essential mineral to your diet? Here are some recipes you should check out:

Organic Banana Nut Butter Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 large bananas, broken into chunks and frozen
  • 2 cups organic vegan milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter or any organic nut butter
  • 2 tablespoons organic cacao nibs
  • 2 tablespoons organic Manuka honey, OR organic maple syrup to taste

Preparation:

  1. Place bananas, milk, nut butter, honey and cacao nibs in a blender and blend for about 30 seconds.
  2. Check the consistency and taste. Adjust as desired.
  3. Pour into glasses then serve.

Smashed Avocado Toast

Ingredients:

  • 4 organic plum tomatoes, halved
  • 4 thin slices wholegrain or sourdough bread
  • 1 small organic avocado peeled and stoned
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 handful of organic cress or baby rocket leaves

Preparation:

  1. Grill the tomatoes for 20 minutes until soft.
  2. While waiting for the tomatoes to finish cooking, toast the bread.
  3. Meanwhile, smash the avocado and add lemon juice and cayenne, then set aside.
  4. To serve, spread the avocado-lemon mixture on the toasted bread, then top with the grilled tomatoes and some cress or baby rocket leaves.
  5. Enjoy!

Potassium is one of the most important minerals one should be adding to his diet, especially since it is linked to several important bodily processes and functions.

Don’t worry though because getting more of this essential mineral is quite an easy task since we are surrounded by its delicious food sources.

Sources:

Insight.JCI.org

NutraIngredients.com

NutritionInsight.com

Academic.OUP.com

Link.Springer.com

ScienceDirect.com

NEJM.org

Kidney-International.org[PDF]

MDPI.com

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