By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach
Increased consumption of potassium will reduce blood pressure regardless of sodium intake.
I will quickly follow that statement with a caveat which is that the potassium must be obtained from fresh produce and the sodium intake does not come from a bucket load of packaged and fast food.
I've been convinced of that for years and especially since our trials of The Greengrocer's Diet discovered many people starting the diet with high BP experiencing rapid drops in BP in a relatively short time.
But, as we know you all know, without evidence-based research it's just anecdotal and of little consequence.
Here's what the research says
Eating potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans, bananas etc could be key to lowering blood pressure. Professor of cell and neurobiology from University of Southern California (USC), Alicia McDonough, explored the link between blood pressure and dietary sodium, potassium and the sodium-potassium ratio.
McDonough's review found several population studies which demonstrated that higher dietary potassium was associated with lower blood pressure, regardless of sodium intake. Interventional studies with potassium supplementation also suggested that potassium provides a direct benefit.
"Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure," McDonough says, "but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension."
McDonough's studies on mice further demonstrated how potassium works with sodium in a clever balancing act which requires sodium to control the potassium levels in the blood, critical to normal heart, nerve and muscle function. When our levels of dietary potassium are high, the kidneys excrete more salt and water along with the unrequired potassium. On the other hand, when our sodium intake is higher than our potassium intake the risk of high blood pressure is significantly increased because neither the sodium nor the potassium is excreted. What little potassium we have in our system is held onto by sodium retention.
Doctors who have been telling patients to cut out salt from their diet would do better to tell them to increase the amount of potassium in their diet obtained from fruit and vegetables, while cutting out packaged food.
Frankly I can't enjoy vegetables without some salt which is why it makes perfect sense that they need each other - for taste and good health.
(The para below is taken directly from the Science Daily Review of the research)
Increasing dietary potassium will take a conscious effort, however. McDonough explains that our early ancestors ate primitive diets that were high in fruits, roots, vegetables, beans and grains (all higher in potassium) and very low in sodium. As a result, humans evolved to crave sodium -- but not potassium. Modern diets, however, have changed drastically since then: processed food companies add salt to satisfy our cravings, and processed foods are usually low in potassium.
That's important for any Paleo devotee who's distracted in thinking protein is the key to everlasting great health
So how much potassium should we consume?
The Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council state the average daily intake of potassium for adults is 3,800 mg, however, when you set up a meal plan with your planning tool and check the amount of potassium in a typical GGD day, I think you'll quickly see how few people actually realise this amount. It's pretty hard to do.
Hypertension is a global health issue that affects more than one billion people worldwide.
The World Health Organization estimates that hypertension is responsible for at least 51 percent of deaths due to stroke and 45 percent of deaths due to heart disease. Key to preventing hypertension is to lower blood pressure levels with a fresh natural diet comprising mainly of fresh produce.
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