The importance of a potassium-rich diet
There are so many reasons you need to make sure you consume an adequate amount of potassium-rich foods daily. Potassium is an essential nutrient used to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. It’s also the third most abundant mineral in the body and a required mineral for the function of several organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain and muscular tissues.
Potassium-rich diets play an important role in keeping the body hydrated and works with sodium to support cellular function with your body’s sodium-potassium pump.
A high salt diet is known to increase the risk of hypertension. A recent review concludes that consuming adequate potassium-rich levels might be just as important for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
High blood pressure (or hypertension) is a silent killer. Worldwide, it affects an estimated 1 billion people. Studies over recent years have clearly demonstrated that eating a diet high in salt (and therefore sodium), such as the standard Western diet, can lead to hypertension.
Potassium, an electrolyte, is necessary for nerves to transport messages and for muscles to contract. It keeps the heart beating and helps to ship nutrients into cells and remove cellular waste. Potassium-rich diets assist in the maintenance of healthy bones and reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Potassium is a vital mineral involved in the normal functioning of all the cells, tissues and organs of the body. Along with sodium, chloride, calcium and magnesium, potassium is a charged particle referred to as an electrolyte.
Potassium helps conduct nerve impulses, regulate the rhythm of the heart and control muscle contraction. It also plays a part in maintaining bone health and fluid balance.
One of the kidney’s many roles is to ensure that potassium is maintained at the correct levels. Too much or too little can be equally troublesome.
Symptoms of low potassium are highly undesirable and can include severe headaches, dehydration, heart palpitations and swelling of glands and tissues. Potassium-rich diets from natural food sources, like the list of potassium-rich foods below, is considered to very safe and very healthy. The current recommended dietary intake for male and female adults is 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is, and many people have trouble getting as much potassium as they should on a daily basis. Using the potassium-rich foods chart, you can learn what kinds of food you need to eat regularly to meet your requirements and avoid a deficiency. As both a mineral and an electrolyte, you really don’t want to miss the mark when it comes to your potassium-rich foods intake.
As humans evolved, they ate a lot of fruits, vegetables, roots, beans, and grains, all of which provide an ample supply of potassium. However, sodium was less easy to come by and, therefore, we evolved to crave salt. Our natural desire for salt has since been satisfied by the food industry, who mix more than we require into processed foods. At the same time, potassium-rich levels in our diets have steadily dropped as we move away from fresh fruit and vegetables.
1. Sweet potatoes, not bananas, rank highest on the list of foods that are high in potassium. One sweet potato packs a whopping 694 mg of potassium and only 131 calories, plus loads of fiber, beta-carotene, and energizing carbs. Sweet potatoes are a potassium-rich food that contains a higher density of nutrients than white potatoes.
Plus, sweet potatoes have been shown in scientific animal research to exhibit anti-ulcer activity and are likely helpful in the successful treatment of peptic ulcers. Baked, fried, grilled, mashed, or stuffed, sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest and most delicious foods you can eat.
2. Beans. White beans lead the pack when it comes to potassium-rich foods, with half a cup delivering nearly 600 mg, but kidney and lima beans, as well as lentils and split peas, are all respectable sources. Consuming fiber-rich foods like white beans helps lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease. High-fiber diets also encourage a healthy waistline.
Unprocessed soy products are a great source of protein and can also fight inflammation in the body. Bonus: half a cup of cooked soybeans have nearly 500 mg of potassium.
All beans are good for your heart and appear prominently on our list of the 20 best foods for fiber so it’s smart to make beans a much bigger part of your diet.
3. Fish. Meaty fish like halibut and tuna have nearly 500 mg of potassium per 3 ounces serving, but cod and even farm-raised rainbow trout have plenty of potassium too. Wild-caught salmon is loaded with health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits of these essential fatty acids include decreasing the risk of heart disease and stroke while also helping reduce symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, joint pain and chronic skin ailments like eczema.
But potassium isn’t the only reason to add more fish and seafood to your diet. The evidence is mounting that regularly eating fish, not taking fish supplements, can increase your lifespan, thanks in large part to the healthy fats in fresh fish; a high fish diet can even reduce your risk of death by heart disease by 35%.
4. Bananas. Everyone thinks of bananas when they think of potassium-rich foods, and one medium fruit does pack more than 400 mg of this heart-healthy mineral. They are well-known for being a potassium-rich source and they’re a good one, but they’re also relatively high in sugar and carbs.
That’s why they are recommended as a quick source of energy before a workout or a post-workout, nutrient-rich recovery food to help repair muscle and balance water retention. Exercising, especially an intense workout, is one of the major ways that your potassium levels can get drained so that’s why it’s crucial to consume potassium-rich foods like bananas.
But bananas are also the ultimate hunger buster, packed with Resistant Starch, a healthy carb that fills you up and helps to boost your metabolism. Scientific research has also shown that bananas are rich in dopamine, a major mood-enhancing hormone.
5. Avocado is definitely one of the top most favorite potassium-rich foods. A study published in the Nutrition Journal revealed epidemiological data that describes the effects and benefits of avocado consumption on metabolic disease risk factors.
They also act as a “nutrient booster” by enabling the body to absorb more fat-soluble nutrients, such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein, in foods that are eaten with the fruit.
Overall, researchers found that people who ate avocados tended to have healthier diets overall, as well as an increased nutrient intake and a decreased likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome.
When you follow a potassium-rich diet, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion. Eating a potassium-rich diet is like taking a diuretic. This is vital for keeping blood pressure within a normal range. Sodium is still a key player, but simply reducing salt intake alone may not be enough to control hypertension.
Because the review takes into account a range of studies, the findings are compelling. Further research will, no doubt, draw a clearer picture of how sodium and potassium interact to keep blood pressure at healthy levels.
Photo credit: nutrientsreview.com