Role of Potassium Rich Foods in Health
Many people know that high sodium intake may lead to hypertension. Approximately 10 percent of people with high blood pressure are sensitive to dietary salt (or sodium). A reduction in sodium helps lower blood pressure in all people with hypertension.
Newer evidence suggests that dietary potassium may play a role in decreasing blood pressure. Potassium is involved in nerve function, muscle control and blood pressure. A diet low in potassium and high in sodium may be a factor in high blood pressure. Increasing potassium in the diet may protect against hypertension in people who are sensitive to high levels of sodium.
For people who have hypertension, following an overall eating plan called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) may be useful for lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet is higher in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and lower in total fat, saturated fat, and sodium than the typical American diet. For more information about the DASH eating plan or diet and hypertension in general refer to fact sheet 9.318, Diet and Hypertension.
However, taking potassium supplements is generally not recommended for people with high blood pressure. Instead, a variety of potassium-rich foods should be eaten daily.
Athletes also may need more potassium to replace that lost from muscle during exercise and the smaller amount lost in sweat. Low potassium can cause muscle cramping and cardiovascular irregularities. Eating foods high in potassium can prevent these symptoms. One cup of orange juice, a banana or a potato is sufficient to replace the potassium lost during one to two hours of hard exercise. Sport drinks are poor sources of potassium.