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Potassium is essential for the normal functioning of all cells. It regulates the heartbeat, keeps muscles and nerves working properly, and is vital for synthesizing protein and metabolizing carbohydrates.

Thousands of years ago, when humans roamed the world gathering and hunting, potassium was abundant in the diet, while sodium was scarce. The so-called Paleolithic diet provided about 16 times more potassium than sodium. Today, most Americans get only half the recommended amount of potassium in their diets. The average American diet contains about twice as much sodium as potassium due to the superiority of hidden salt in processed or prepared foods, not to mention the potassium deficiency in these foods. This imbalance, which contradicts how people develop, is thought to be a major contributor to high blood pressure that affects one in three American adults.

Sufficient intake recommendation for potassium is 4,700 mg. Bananas are often touted as a good source of potassium, but other fruits (like apricots, prunes, and orange juice) and vegetables (like pumpkin and potatoes) also contain this often-neglected nutrient.

The effect of potassium on high blood pressure

Diets that emphasize more potassium intake can help keep blood pressure in a healthy range compared to diets low in potassium. The DASH trial (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) compared the three regimens. The standard diet, which approached what many Americans ate, contained an average of 3.5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, providing 1,700 mg of potassium per day.

There were two comparison diets: a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, containing an average of 8.5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, providing 4,100 mg of potassium per day, and a “combination” diet containing the same 8.5 servings of fruit and vegetables plus low-fat dairy products and reduced sugar and Red meat.

In people with normal blood pressure, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables lowered blood pressure by 2 percent. 8 mm Hg (at systolic reading) and 1.1 mm Hg (at diastolic reading) more than the standard diet. The combination diet reduced blood pressure 5.5 mm Hg and 3.0 mm Hg more than the standard diet. In people with high blood pressure, the combination diet lowered blood pressure by 11 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 5.5 mm Hg in diastolic pressure.

Potassium and the risk of stroke

High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for strokes, so it’s not surprising that higher potassium is associated with a lower incidence of stroke. A prospective study that followed more than 43,000 men over eight years found that men who consumed the highest amount of dietary potassium (an average of 4,300 mg per day) were 38% less likely to have a stroke than those with a median intake of only 2,400 mg.

However, a similar prospective study that followed more than 85,000 women for 14 years found a more modest association between potassium intake and stroke risk. Additional research has mostly supported these findings, with the strongest evidence supporting the high dietary potassium seen in people with high blood pressure and blacks who are more prone to high blood pressure than whites.


Try to eat more products. Consuming more potassium from foods, especially fruits and vegetables, can lower blood pressure and the risk of heart diseaseand stroke.

Never take potassium supplements without a doctor’s prescription as this can easily lead to dangerous high potassium levels.

Be careful with the potassium content of salt substitutes because it can be high.

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