Potassium is one of the major electrolytes in our body. It plays a role in normal water balance (osmotic equilibrium) and balancing the acid-base balance of the body, which can help calcium with bone formation. It is important in regulation of neuromuscular activity and also promotes cellular growth. The potassium in muscles is related to muscle mass (size) and glycogen (carbohydrate) storage; thus if muscle is being formed an adequate supply of potassium is essential. All of these reasons are why you hear potassium come up in sports performance and nutrition. But it also plays a role in our heart health.
Studies have shown an inverse association with potassium and blood pressure, particularly with the sodium/potassium ratio and blood pressure. What this means is that potassium works to lower your blood pressure, where as a diet high in sodium will increase blood pressure. An increase in potassium intake has been studied and shown to decrease the risk of stroke. Though potassium is good for most, there are some who should consult with your physician or dietitian before increasing your high potassium foods, particularly those with a history of kidney disease.
Most people associate Bananas as a good source of potassium. Potassium is actually found in most fruits and vegetables. Bananas contain approximately 425mg potassium. Other good sources (>200 mg per serving) of potassium include melons (215mg per ½ cup), zucchini (220mg per ½ cup), baked potato with skin (925mg per medium potato) and cauliflower (230 mg per ½ cup) are all good sources of potassium. Fo a healthy adult, the recommended intake is 3500mg per day (on average). Making sure you are eating 1-2 servings of fruit and 2-3 servings of vegetables per day will help to make sure you are meeting your potassium needs!
Stay tuned later this week as I hope to post a few good high potassium recipes!