Effective Home Remedies for High Blood Pressure

CHAPTER 5

By Godot Media

Chapter 5: A Potassium-rich Diet

Potassium is among the seven key macro-minerals (requirement-more than 100mg per day), essential for the development and maintenance of the human body. Other important macro-minerals include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, sodium and chloride.

A diet high in potassium is linked with a 20 percent reduced risk of death from various causes. Potassium helps in

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing stroke risk
  • Protecting against muscle mass loss
  • Preserving mineral density in bones
  • Reducing kidney stone development

The primary functions of potassium in the body include synthesizing proteins, building muscle, controlling the heart’s electrical activity and regulating acid-base balance. Potassium is also required for maintaining the total fluid volume in the body, balancing electrolytes and ensuring proper cell function.

How much potassium do you need?

Nutritionists and health experts recommend that the daily intake of potassium should be 4,700mg/day for all adults. However, majority of the adults are unable to meet the daily recommended intake of the mineral. In fact, a health study conducted in the US suggested that the average amount of potassium consumed by Americans is merely 2,640mg/day. The number has remained the same for almost two decades. Also, the report reveals that the intake of potassium in females tends to be much lesser as compared to males.

According to the World Health Organization, potassium intake in adults should be 3,510mg/day. It also agrees that majority of the population all over the world is unable to meet this recommendation.

Health benefits of potassium intake

  • Cardiovascular health and blood pressure

Doctors and health experts continue to emphasize the link between low potassium consumption and cardiovascular disease as well as high blood pressure. A low sodium diet is important for keeping blood pressure in check. However, only a few people know that it is equally important to increase potassium intake.

If you are looking to minimize your risk of increased blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, the most important step that you can take is to increase your potassium intake and reduce your sodium consumption.

  • Muscle and bone maintenance

Research suggests that foods rich in potassium create an alkaline based environment in your body. It helps fight the typical acidosis, which results from consuming a regular Western diet.

The primary cause of acidosis is a diet rich in high-acid food, such as processed grains, meats etc. These can lead to a loss of mineral density in bones, muscle wasting and nitrogen excretion.

A study found that those individuals who consumed potassium up to 5,266mg per day, were able to maintain more lean mass tissue as compared to those who had 50 percent lower potassium intake.

  • Kidney health

It is possible to ensure good kidney health by keeping a regular check on your blood pressure levels. As discussed earlier, diets which contain high amounts of potassium can help regulate blood pressure.

In addition, potassium-rich diets have also been linked to minimizing the risk of kidney stones. It is because plants contain some natural potassium salts, which help in neutralizing acidity in your blood stream. How does this help in reducing kidney stone risk? It basically prevents calcium from leeching out of your bones and causes a reduction in urine calcium. Ultimately, it prevents the formation of stone due to deposition.

It is important to note that even though potassium rich diets can help in avoiding some kidney-related issues in healthy individuals (with normal kidney function), those who already have certain kidney-related problems or have been diagnosed with kidney disease, might have to cautiously regulate their potassium intake. The kidneys of such people may not be in a condition to regulate potassium levels in the bloodstream.

Sources of potassium

Generally speaking, food sources richest in potassium are vegetables and fruits. Certain legumes, dairy products and fish are also important contributors to a diet rich in potassium. Since these foods are also rich in calories, they are consumed in lesser amounts as compared to fruits and vegetables.

For instance, both lima beans and Swiss chard contain almost 1,000mg of potassium. However, a single serving of the beans has six times more calories as compared to a Swiss chard serving. So the chard enjoys higher nutrient richness.

There can be a lot of variation in potassium levels within a group of vegetables and fruits. However, even with all the variation in terms of mineral content, you can be ensured of a good potassium intake on a primarily plant-based diet.

Potassium can be found in a lot of unprocessed, whole foods. Among the best potassium sources are:

  • Leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Potatoes

Many people are unaware that processing food greatly minimizes the quantity of potassium present it. So if you consume a diet which has a significant amount of processed foods, then your potassium intake will automatically be low.

Several processed foods are also rich in sodium content. With increase in sodium consumption, you need a greater amount of potassium to minimize the effect of sodium on your blood pressure.

Generally speaking, consume a vegetable or fruit, rich in potassium, with every meal, to keep your blood pressure in check.

Here is a list of some foods and the quantity of potassium they contain:

  • Potato, baked, large (with skin)- 845 milligrams
  • Sweet potato, 146 grams, baked- 694 milligrams
  • Avocado, medium sized, half-602 milligrams
  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup, raw- 417 milligrams
  • Mushrooms, small, 10 pieces- 415 milligrams
  • Beet greens, half cup, cooked-650 milligrams
  • White beans, half cup, canned- 595 milligrams
  • Tomatoes, one cup-528 milligrams
  • Soybeans, cooked, green, half cup- 485 milligrams
  • Banana, one, medium-422 milligrams
  • Mango, one, medium-323 milligrams

Besides these natural sources of potassium, you can also take potassium supplements. However, ideally all vitamins and minerals should be obtained primarily through your diet. The individual mineral or vitamin separately does not render certain foods important. Rather the combination of food nutrients helps meet nutritional requirements adequately.

Variations in potassium requirements

Potassium has a direct association with your diet, but body potassium levels are also influenced by several other factors, such as hormones, OTC and prescription medications and kidney function.

For instance those who consume thiazide diuretics, (treatment/medication for blood pressure) might need greater amounts of potassium. It is because these diuretics encourage loss of potassium from one’s body. In addition to this, medical research suggests that laxatives and steroids also lead to depletion of potassium.

Various other blood pressure lowering drugs, like ACE inhibitors and Beta-blockers, lead to an increase in body’s potassium levels. Those suffering from kidney dysfunction might have to restrict their potassium daily intake. It is vital to consult a doctor/pharmacist with regards to various medications taken by you as they can interfere with the body’s potassium levels. Specialists can guide you as to whether you require less or more of the mineral.

Who is prone to potassium deficiency?

A deficiency of potassium is common among people who:

  • Use certain medications, such as birth control pills and diuretics
  • Perform physically challenging jobs
  • Are professional sports people or athletes
  • Suffer from health conditions which impact digestive absorption (e.g. Crohn’s disease)
  • Smoke
  • Have any eating disorder
  • Abuse drugs or alcohol

How to incorporate potassium in your diet

Here are some easy ways to include this excellent mineral in your daily diet:

Sweet potatoes

Swap regular potatoes with sweet potatoes in your diet. Few people are aware that sweet potatoes are actually the richest sources of dietary potassium (not bananas). In fact, you would be surprised to know that there is nearly 695 milligrams of potassium in a single sweet potato and merely 131 calories! In addition to this, sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, energizing carbohydrates and beta-carotene.

Cooking tip: You can fry, bake or grill sweet potatoes and use them as stuffing or mash them to form a side dish.

Tomato puree/sauce

Consuming fresh tomatoes is a great idea; however tomato puree or paste is an even better source of potassium. A quarter cup tomato puree provides 664 milligrams of potassium. Half a cup offers 549 milligrams of potassium. Tomato juice on its own gives you about 400 milligrams of this mineral. If you like using tomatoes in your cooking and wish to get higher amounts of potassium through your diet, then try making spaghetti sauce as often as possible!

Beet greens

Are you one those people who buy fresh beets from the store and then shove the greens into the garbage bin? Well, it is high time you change the habit. Beet greens might be bitter, but when cooked properly, they can taste good and also provide you with nearly 644 milligrams of potassium. That is just half a cup! Beet greens are packed with anti-oxidants and are an excellent folate source, whether eaten in the cooked or raw form.

Yogurt

It is good to incorporate a serving of yogurt in your daily diet. Few people are aware that just 8oz of non-fat plain yogurt actually gives you 579 milligrams of potassium. On the other hand, cultured buttermilk and whole milk might contain slightly less amounts of potassium.
You can mix some yogurt into granola and eat it as a delicious breakfast dish every day. Also try replacing mayo in your salads and sandwiches with yogurt.

Here’s more good news. Majority of the yogurt products available in the market contain probiotics. This is natural bacteria which aids digestion and helps in keeping the gut healthy.

Carrot juice

A 3/4th cup of carrot juice gives you more than 500 milligrams of potassium. Make it a part of your daily breakfast or consume it as a pre or post workout energy boosting snack. Carrots and various other orange-colored vegetables and fruits are not only rich in potassium, but also work well to maintain a good vision.

Bananas

The first food that probably comes to your mind when you think of a potassium-rich diet is banana. It is because one medium banana contains over 400 milligrams of the heart-friendly mineral. Besides being rich in potassium, bananas are extremely satiating and keep hunger pangs at bay. These are a healthy source of carbohydrates and help in boosting your metabolism. So it’s time to go bananas!

Prunes

For those who like prune juice, it’s time to rejoice! Three-fourth cup of prune juice offers 530 milligrams of potassium while half cup stewed prunes give you almost 400 milligrams of the mineral.

Most of you are aware that prunes are great for healthy digestion, but dried plums also help in maintaining strong bones. A health study revealed that women who consumed 10 prunes every day had greater bone density as compared to those who consumed dried apples.

Soybeans

When buying any soy products from the market, it is important to ensure that you pick the unprocessed variety (for e.g. choose edamame over soy powder). Soybeans are a brilliant source of quality protein and also help in fighting inflammation in your body. Just half cup soybeans (cooked) provide almost 500 milligrams of potassium.

Fish

Did you know that meaty fish such as tuna and halibut provide almost 500 milligrams of potassium for every three ounce serving? However, even cod and rainbow trout contain a lot of potassium.

Potassium is just one of the many reasons to add fish (or seafood) to your daily diet. There is increasing evidence that the regular consumption of fish can lead to an increased lifespan. It is largely due to the presence of healthy fats in fish. So a diet rich in fish could lower the chance of heart-related death by almost 35 percent (as reported by Harvard researchers).

It is a good idea to look up cookbooks or search online for innovative recipes that include these potassium-rich foods.

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