It may sound like bananas, but new research shows that eating this potassium-rich food can improve heart health.
Avocados and salmon are also high in potassium, helping to counteract the negative effects of salt in the diet and lower blood pressure, the researchers said. Other potassium-rich foods include a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, dairy products, and fish.
“It is well known that high salt intake is associated with high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes,” said study author Dr. Liffert Vogt. , Professor of Clinical Nephrology and Renal Physiology at Amsterdam University Medical Centers in the Netherlands.
“Health advice has focused on limiting salt intake, but that’s hard to achieve when our diets include processed foods,” he said. “Potassium helps the body excrete more sodium in the urine. In our study, dietary potassium was linked to the greatest health gains in women.”
The study included almost 25,000 British men and women aged 40 to 79 who were part of a research study between 1993 and 1997. Participants completed questionnaires about their lifestyle habits and blood pressure, and urine samples were analyzed.
Urinary sodium and potassium were used to assess dietary intake.
Researchers found that as potassium intake in women increased, blood pressure decreased.
Each 1 gram increase in daily potassium was associated with a 2.4 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure in these women. No link between potassium and blood pressure has been found in men.
Participants were followed for a median of 19.5 years (meaning half were followed longer, the other half shorter). During this time, 55% of participants were hospitalized or died of heart disease.
After adjusting for factors such as age, gender, body mass index, use of tobacco, alcohol, and lipid-lowering drugs, diabetes, and history of heart attack or stroke, researchers found that people with the highest potassium intake had a 13% lower risk of heart disease. -problems related to those with the lowest intake.
Men had a 7% lower risk of heart problems and women an 11% lower risk, according to the study. The amount of salt in the diet did not influence the relationship between potassium and cardiac events in either gender, the researchers said.
The results were published July 22 in the European Heart Journal.
“The results suggest that potassium helps maintain heart health, but women benefit more than men,” Vogt said in a press release. “The relationship between potassium and cardiovascular events was the same regardless of salt intake, suggesting that potassium has other ways of protecting the heart besides increasing sodium excretion.”
The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume at least 3.5 grams of potassium and less than 2 grams of sodium (5 grams of salt) per day.
A 4-ounce banana contains 375 mg of potassium; 5.5 ounces of cooked salmon contains 780 mg; an almost 5 ounce potato contains 500 mg and 1 cup of milk contains 375 mg.
“Our results indicate that a heart-healthy diet goes beyond limiting salt to increasing potassium content,” Vogt said. “Food companies can help by replacing standard sodium-based salt with an alternative to potassium salt in processed foods. In addition to this, we should all prioritize fresh, unprocessed foods as they are both high in potassium and low in salt.”