Why is potassium important in your diet?

Potassium is an important mineral with numerous functions in your body. Potassium is needed for healthy muscles and nerves and aids in bone health. Most importantly, potassium can help lower high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, Americans are falling short of their daily potassium needs. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, and low fat milk are all excellent sources of potassium.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Potassium is an essential enzyme for the body's growth and maintenance tasked with managing the normal water balance between cells and body fluids. It helps regulate acidity levels as well as blood pressure and neuromuscular functioning. It also plays a crucial role in transmitting electrical impulses to the human heart.

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Potassium plays a key role in blood pressure, muscle contraction, nerve impulses, kidney function and maintenance of fluid balance in the body. Potassium, like sodium, is an electrolyte. Most of us get far too little potassium and far too much sodium. With too little potassium to blunt the effect of excess sodium, the body loses the electrolyte balance necessary to keep the blood pressure on an even keel. Potassium deficiency has also been linked to risk for kidney stones, osteoporosis and stroke. Almost 100 percent of Americans do not get enough potassium.

Heart Health
Potassium can reverse rising blood pressure. Study participants who increased their fruit and vegetable consumption from 9 to 11 servings per day were able to lower their blood pressure levels within two weeks. Researchers believe the high potassium content of produce was among the primary causes of this turnaround. In addition, Harvard researchers demonstrated that those who consume diets rich in potassium (about 4,300 milligrams per day) were 48 percent less likely to have a stroke than those consuming 2,400 milligrams or less per day.

Research shows that seniors with higher potassium intakes have more lean muscle mass than their potassium-poor peers. Potassium helps maintain the body’s alkaline balance, thus preventing the muscle breakdown that occurs to counter excess acidity.

Bone Health
Several studies have linked potassium intake with reduced osteoporosis risk in elderly men and women in all stages of life (pre-, peri- and post-menopausal). One Tufts University study also showed that higher potassium (and fruit and vegetable) intakes slowed age-related bone-mineral decline.

A higher potassium intake during pregnancy was linked to an 11 percent increased likelihood of having a son, bolstering the old wives’ tale that links eating bananas with having boys. Mothers of boys consumed 300 milligrams more potassium on average per day compared with those who gave birth to girls. One banana contains 450 milligrams of potassium.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.