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It’s estimated that as many as 98% of Americans do not get enough potassium in their diet (1). Potassium is an electrolyte mineral vital for the proper functioning of all living cells. It’s needed for muscle contraction, nerve impulses, fluid balance, pH maintenance, and several other biological processes.
Without potassium, your body simply cannot function as it should. When you’re deficient in potassium you could constantly be running on fumes—always operating at a sub-optimal state.
This would explain why so many people experience big improvements when they get more potassium in their diet. Here are 7 essential health benefits you may experience from eating more potassium-rich foods.
Recent surveys have found that high blood pressure affects one in every three Americans (2). Which is a concern because high blood pressure (hypertension) is one of the leading causes of heart disease.
Potassium helps in the regulation of your blood pressure. Scientists have discovered that potassium indirectly controls blood pressure by regulating the amount of salt your body retains (3).
When you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, it increases salt retention which results in elevated blood pressure. With enough potassium, it has the opposite effect. Your body can get rid of excess salt, lowering blood pressure.
One study even found that people with high blood pressure were able to lower their blood pressure simply by eating more potassium-rich foods. On average, the participants decreased their systolic blood pressure by 3.5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 1.96 mmHg (4).
If you often struggle with bloating, it’s a sign you could be deficient in potassium. When you have too much salt and not enough potassium, it can cause your body to retain water.
The increased water retention leads to swollen cells and tissues which causes the uncomfortable sensation you recognize as bloating. This can be even more of an issue if you eat a lot of processed foods, which are high in salt.
Once you start adding potassium-rich foods to your diet, your body can quickly eliminate excess salt which, in turn, will ease bloating.
It’s important to note that this form of bloating is not to be confused with gas and a bloated tummy. That is a sign of an unhealthy gut, rather than a potassium deficiency.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is cut off. Starved of oxygen, brain cells begin to die—often resulting in irreversible brain damage.
Since this damage cannot be repaired, prevention is incredibly important. While there are several tactics out there to decrease your chances of getting a stroke, evidence suggests that a potassium-rich diet can help (5).
In fact, one systematic review looked at over 30 studies on the link between potassium intake and stroke. The researchers calculated that people who had the highest levels of potassium in their diet had a massive 24% decreased risk of stroke (6).
As you get older, your body has a more difficult time keeping the muscle it has. Even if you’re not a professional athlete, muscle loss (called sarcopenia) can be a serious problem. It compromises functional strength, joint stability, and increases your chances of injury (7).
The two most effective ways to prevent muscle loss are to consistently stay active and get enough plant-based protein. But evidence also suggests you can further prevent muscle loss by getting enough potassium in your diet (8).
Potassium-rich foods help maintain an alkaline environment in your body. This counteracts the acidifying effect of unhealthy foods like dairy, processed grains, and certain meats. When muscle tissue is too acidic, it leads to significant muscle loss (9).
Since potassium-rich foods alkalize the body, they also help protect your bones. When your tissues become too acidic, it can result in the loss of important bone minerals.
Studies have even found that acid-forming foods cause the body to pull calcium out of your bones (10). The calcium is then used to alkalize the surrounding environment. Once the calcium is pulled from your bones, it is not put back.
If you are in the habit of consuming acid-forming foods, it can cause your bones to become frail and weak over time. Fortunately, potassium can help.
Research has even shown that eating potassium-rich foods can cut down your risk of developing osteoporosis by reducing the rate at which bone is broken down (11).
Your nervous system has the big job of delivering messages between your brain and body. These “messages” or nerve impulses control a plethora of physiological functions including muscle contractions, your sense of taste and touch, reflexes, and even your heartbeat.
Nerve impulses can only trigger in the presence of sodium and potassium ions. The movement of these ions generates an electrical charge, which then triggers a nerve impulse.
As a result, if you don’t get enough potassium in your diet, it can impair the function of your nervous system (12). This is why a potassium-rich diet can help maintain a healthy nervous system.
If you have ever experienced kidney stones, you know how excruciatingly painful they can be. Some people are more susceptible to developing them than others.
Aside from drinking enough water, evidence suggests that a potassium-rich diet can significantly cut down the risks of developing kidney stones (13). Potassium prevents the formation of mineral crystals (stones) by attaching to calcium and preventing the urine from becoming too acidic.
The best way to get enough potassium is to eat the right foods. Supplementing potassium is generally not recommended unless your doctor says otherwise.
To safely increase your potassium intake, consider eating more fruits and veggies that are rich in potassium. These include avocados, bananas, beans, broccoli, coconut water, cucumbers, mushrooms, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, watermelon and zucchini.
If you find it hard to eat enough potassium-rich foods, consider drinking an organic green juice every day to boost your intake through superfoods. Since an estimated 98% of people don’t get enough potassium, almost everyone can experience health benefits from eating more potassium-rich fruits and veggies.