By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Potassium is an electrolyte along with magnesium, chloride, sodium and calcium. Electrolytes are regulated very carefully in our blood and tissues to maintain the proper functioning of all of our electrical impulses for heart, muscle and neurological function. Potassium has a vital role in the electrical activity of the heart, regulating acid-base balance, building muscle and synthesizing proteins.
Potassium is a nutrient that doesn’t get much attention as most people assume they are getting enough from their diet. But it’s been estimated that ONLY two percent of Americans are getting the recommend 4700 mg per day that is recommended. That’s because fruits and vegetables are the biggest source of potassium, and the average American simply isn’t getting enough servings each day, which means on average, taking in only 1755 mg per day on average.
Consuming an optimal amount of potassium may protect against cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, muscle wasting, osteoporosis and kidney stones. It is important to note that sodium and potassium work in a balanced partnership with each other to maintain cellular health and fluid balance, if a diet is high in sodium then this works to deplete the potassium levels even further. The health benefits for potassium include:
The advice has been for a long time to reduce your sodium in all dishes and food for healthy blood pressure. Alternatively, you can increase your potassium and eat minimal processed foods to support better health and lowered blood pressure. Potassium works to reduce the fluid in the cells and can reduce the pressure on the cardiovascular system. The higher the sodium intake, the higher the demands for potassium become — unfortunately in the average standard diet, that balance does not remain intact.
In one study involving more than 12,000 adults, high potassium intake was associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying. Those who consumed 4 g of potassium per day had a 37 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and 49 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease, compared with those who took the standard 1,793 mg/day.
Other studies demonstrate that increasing the consumption of potassium to 4.7 g per day predicts lower even rates for future cardiovascular disease, with estimated decreases of eight to 15 percent in CVA and six to 11 percent in myocardial infarction.
Potassium helps to open up the blood vessels, reduce blood clotting and improve kidney health — all of these factors contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Potassium also promotes the increased excretion of sodium which helps to reduce vasoconstriction, insulin sensitivity and inflammation.
Other benefits with optimal potassium intake were improved endothelial function, increased artery elasticity, reduced left ventricular enlargement and improved left ventricular diastolic function compared with placebo.
Not only does potassium help to reduce blood pressure which also helps to support and protect kidney health, it also helps to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Potassium acts a blood buffer and will reduce the need to draw calcium out of the bones. A high-potassium diet may also prevent or at least slow the progression of renal disease. An increased potassium intake lowers urinary calcium excretion and plays an important role in the management of hypercalciuria and kidney stones and is likely to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
If anyone has kidney disease they may need to be careful with their potassium intake and it is best to talk with your doctor.
Potassium appears to protect us against muscle wasting as we age. One study demonstrated that people who have a high potassium intake appear to maintain their muscle mass with study participants averaging up to 3.6 pounds (1.6 kgs) more lean muscle then those who were ingesting less than half this amount of potassium.
Maintaining muscle during a lifespan and with age has significant benefits to improve mobility and physical strength along with reducing osteoporosis and fragility.
A strong theory for potassium role in protecting bone health maybe due to the body using potassium as a buffer in the blood to reduce low grade metabolic acidosis. This can then save calcium being pulled from the bones. Some studies demonstrate that potassium could help to prevent osteoporosis via this mechanism. Potassium helps to reduce urinary calcium loss — just one serving of a potassium-rich fruit or vegetable such as a banana can reduce up to 60 mg of calcium per day being lost via urine and this will have a significant effect over time for healthy calcium levels.
Foods That Are High in Potassium — 1 Cup Equivalents
Going on a Guided Reboot and including juice regularly in your diet, will help you feel the benefits of ingesting optimal levels of potassium.