Do you ever eat or drink something just because you read somewhere the vitamins and minerals in it are “good-for-you”? It’s okay—I think we all do. Awareness of the nutrients that we need is good, even if we don’t know exactly what they do for us. So, if you remember anything from this post, remember that potassium is REALLY important to your body.
The last couple weeks, I’ve been on my own personal quest to better understand the benefits of potassium, since it’s been in the headlines, and potatoes are such a good source of it. The July 30 headline “Potassium may help lower blood pressure” was broadcast on through Reuters news service The big news in my mind was that the number of adults with known high blood pressure could fall by more than 10% if Americans would just boost their potassium intake.
Last Friday, one of my favorite tell-it-like-it-is RDs, Leslie Bonci, was interviewed by KDKA “Pittsburg Today“. She talked at length about how to get our daily value of potassium, and she championed the potato in this segment. There is good reason for this, as potatoes with skins, top the list of the 20 top-selling fruits and vegetables, ranked by amount of potassium they contain.
Potassium is a mineral that is part of every cell in your body. It helps regulate fluids and mineral balance in and out of cells and in doing so, helps maintain normal blood pressure. Potassium is also vital for transmitting nerve impulses or signals and helping muscles contract—all pretty important functions in our bodies.
Potassium is so important (and deficient in our diets) that one of the key recommendations in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines was to choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as potassium counteracts some of sodium’s effects on blood pressure. (Did you know 1-in-4 Americans has high blood pressure???)
But that’s not all…
I ended up on the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute page about potassium. Not layman’s terms, but lots of information about studies that indicate adequate intake of potassium may reduce the risk of stroke, arthritis, kidney stones, as well as high blood pressure.
Here’s a table from the OSU site that shows how much potassium you need in a day (based on a 2500 calorie diet).
I found a great chart on how to get the most potassium from foods with the lowest calories from the University of Massachusetts, click here to view the chart. Notice, there is no other source per serving on this list that ranks as high as a good ol’ baked potato!
In the Houston & Harper review, they assert: “Americans consume double the sodium and about half the potassium that is recommended by current guidelines… An increase in potassium with a decrease in sodium is probably the most important dietary choice (after weight loss) that should be implemented to reduce cardio-vascular disease.”
So, like I said before, if you remember anything from this post, remember that potassium is REALLY important to your body.