How Potassium Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

How Potassium Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

If you were shopping in a grocery store in the 1940s, you wouldn’t recognize the bananas in the produce section. The Gros Michel species was shorter and stubbier than today’s version, without that signature curve. That banana was wiped out by the TR-1 (Tropical Race -1) fungus. The Cavendish bananas we eat today are resistant to TR-1, and they’re clones of a banana species that was grown in the Duke of Devonshire’s hothouse in China.

However, a new fungus, TR-4, resistant to all fungicides, is threatening Cavendish bananas—and the race is on for a resistant replacement.

We don’t just hope bananas stick around for their great texture and flavor. They’re also a great source of potassium, and mounting evidence shows how important potassium is for heart health. (But don’t go nuts; each one averages 105 calories.)

A new lab study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found potassium-rich foods could help protect against atherosclerosis, which reduces your risk for a heart attack. The study showed that animals with lower dietary potassium were more likely to experience artery calcification, or hardening of their arteries. In addition, previous research found increased potassium levels and lower sodium levels reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, a deficiency can trigger an irregular heartbeat and boost your blood pressure.

So, make sure you’re getting enough potassium in your diet—adolescents and adults aim for 4,700mg daily. Not a fan of the banana (1=425mg potassium)? Try salmon (3oz=300mg), beans (1/2c=300-475mg) and/or a baked potato (925mg).

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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