It has long been recognized that people with high potassium intakes have lower blood pressure. Raising average potassium intakes to the recommended population level of 4.7 g per day would lower systolic blood pressure levels by 1.7 to 3.2 mm Hg. This reduction is equivalent to that which would be observed if Westerners reduced their salt consumption by 4 grams per day.
The link between potassium and blood pressure
In order for your body to function properly, it is essential to maintain a good balance of potassium, both internally and externally cells. Since potassium is an electrolyte, it is a positively charged ion which must remain sufficiently concentrated (approximately 30 times more concentrated inside the cells than outside). In order to be able to play its role, that is to say, among other things, to interact with sodium in order to control nerve transmissions, muscle contractions and cardiac function.
So many studies have shown the link between low potassium and hypertension that researchers are now convinced that increasing potassium levels is as important in managing hypertension as a low-salt diet.
Signs of potassium deficiency
Potassium is present in quantity in the fruits and vegetables, but if you eat a diet high in processed foods, you’re likely not getting enough of them. In addition, it is generally recommended to consume five times more potassium than sodium. But with most of the population in industrialized countries having a diet high in processed foods loaded with sodium, the majority of them have an intake twice as high in sodium as in potassium.
If you suffer from hypertension, this could therefore be a sign of potassium deficiency, this precious mineral. Similarly, dehydration caused by vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive sweating can lower your potassium levels, as can certain medications, including diuretics, laxatives, chemotherapy, and steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Signs of severe potassium deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, abdominal pain and cramps; in the most severe cases, abnormal heart rhythm and muscle paralysis can be observed.
The best dietary sources of potassium
When talking about potassium, most people immediately think of bananas. But you don’t have to eat bananas to ensure you get enough potassium. Especially since bananas are also so high in sugar.
Bananas contain potassium, indeed, but just like the vast majority of other fruits and vegetables. Potassium is the predominant nutrient in most fruits and vegetables, but there are other dietary sources of potassium.
Avocado, for example, contains twice as much potassium as bananas and it is rich in good monounsaturated fat.
As a general rule, however, you should get enough potassium by eating a wide variety of vegetables, including:
– Swiss chard (960 mg of potassium for 175 g )
– Avocados (874 mg for 344 g)
– Spinach (838 mg for 180 g)
– Cremini mushrooms (635 mg for 140 g)
– Broccoli (505 mg for 140 g)
– Brussels sprouts (505 mg for 140 g)
– Celery (230 mg for 150 g)
– Romaine lettuce (230 mg for 90g)
If you suffer from hypertension, it is strongly recommended that you optimize your potassium intake. The current recommended daily allowance for an adult is 4.635 mg.
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