Conventional medicine has been placing the blame for hardening of the arteries squarely on the fat in our diets for decades now. But it turns out they’ve been missing a very important piece of the puzzle… potassium.
Potassium is essential for good health. This critical mineral helps your body maintain its fluid and electrolyte balance. It helps you retain muscle mass and bone density. And your kidneys, brain, muscles and heart need it to function.
In fact, your heart requires potassium to maintain a steady heartbeat. And everyone now agrees that having enough on board can even lower your risk for high blood pressure.
But researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have uncovered yet one more reason to make sure your diet contains plenty of potassium. It turns out the mineral could literally help save your life.
Potassium rich diets could help prevent stroke
According to their recent research, published in the journal JCI Insight, potassium helps us maintain supple, elastic arteries.1 Which means it could play an important role in heading off a deadly heart attack or stroke.
For the study, the researchers fed three groups of heart-disease prone mice either…
- a low-potassium chow
- a normal-potassium diet
- high-potassium meals
And much to everyone’s surprise, the low-potassium diet did some major damage.
The critters which got the least potassium had hardening of the arteries, a dangerous condition called atherosclerosis. Which in you or me would raise our risk for a heart attack or stroke.
The mice that munched on the low-potassium chow had a spike in the calcium and phosphorous deposits in their arteries (vascular calcification). While their lucky high-potassium peers, on the other paw, had their vascular calcification levels plummet.
Supple arteries help prevent stroke and heart attack
But the potassium benefits didn’t end there. The low-potassium mice had increased stiffness in their aortas, the main artery out of the heart. While the aortas of the mice on the high-potassium chow were the opposite.
In other words, the mineral made the rodent’s arteries more elastic. And supple arteries help prevent strokes and heart attacks.
But the University of Alabama researchers didn’t stop there. They began working their way backwards to double and then triple confirm the connection they’d found between low potassium and calcification.
They exposed artery cross sections and vascular smooth muscle cells to different amounts of potassium to see how they reacted. And once again, they found low potassium directly increased calcification, while high levels of the mineral headed off the buildup.
We’ll need more research to confirm the same results in humans. But there’s every reason to believe that low-potassium diets can cause the same kind of damage in people as was seen in the mice. While high-potassium diets could help prevent stroke.
Plus we already know that diets rich in potassium have a bunch of other benefits. Your goal should be at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day.
Eat more of THESE 4 foods for more elastic arteries
For supple arteries, try eating more of these four delicious, potassium-rich foods…
A whole avocado can provide you with between 967 and 1,100 milligrams of potassium. That’s around 20 to 23 percent of your daily recommended amount of the mineral.
2. Winter squash:
Antioxidant rich winter squash—such as acorn squash—also happen to be a great source of potassium. Just one cup (cooked) provides around 896 milligrams of potassium. That’s around 19 percent of your daily potassium needs.
3. Sweet potatoes:
You may already know sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene and vitamin C. But it turns out they’re a good source of potassium too. A large sweet potato (one and half to two cups cubed) contains somewhere between 672 to 896 milligrams of potassium. Or 14 to 19 percent of your daily recommended amount.
4. Navy beans:
Bursting with fiber, navy beans make a terrific side dish or base for a soup. Plus they deliver a huge punch of potassium. Just one cup of raw navy beans provides around 2,465 milligrams of potassium. That’s an incredible 52 percent of your daily needs.
Bump up the artery-friendly potassium in your own diet today to help prevent stroke.
1. “Dietary potassium regulates vascular calcification and arterial stiffness,” JCI Insight, Volume 2, Issue 19 (October 5, 2017), 2017;2(19):e94920. doi:10.1172/jci.insight.94920