A banana a day might not actually keep the doctor forever away – neither can an apple a day, for that matter, not really – but the potassium that ingesting bananas brings us goes a long way toward keeping us sound of body and mind. It’s not just the bananas, either; as recently illustrated in another blog that appeared here; potassium has many sources and it’s up to us to keep ourselves sufficiently supplied.
Potassium benefits us on several levels, starting with the fact, per medicalnewstoday.com, that it is one of the body’s seven essential macrominerals. That puts potassium in an all-star group that also includes calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sodium, chloride, and sulfur. Potassium is also an electrolyte with its main focus being to control the balance of fluids within our body while also regulating the electrical activity of the heart and other muscles.
In helping to regulate our blood pressure, hopefully keeping it at healthy levels, potassium effectively negates the effects of its micromineral “teammate” sodium, which is known for raising blood pressure.
It also plays a key role in the maintenance of our acid-balance base. Even our brain – our cognitive function – owes a debt of gratitude to potassium; per organicfacts.net, an abundance of potassium promotes the flow of oxygen to our brains, in the process bolstering neural activity and cognitive function. That explains why bananas are often referred to as “brain food,” at least by health experts who are in the know (pun intended).
Quick Review: Sources of Potassium
It is recommended that we intake at least 100 milligrams of potassium a day to keep our circuitry firing properly and in balance, as a potassium deficiency can eventually show up exhibiting annoying (or worse) symptoms such as muscle weakness, fatigue, constipation, irritability, abdominal pain, and confusion, to name a few, per articles.mercola.com, as well as heart palpitations, anemia and bad headaches.
You don’t just have to eat bananas either to get your proper dosage of potassium, although that’s a good start. Other good sources of potassium include avocados, beets, clams, fish such as tuna and cod, molasses, sweet potato and yogurt. Bonus points if you can concoct a recipe using all of those and make it worthy to be served in a reputable restaurant.
Potassium’s Health Benefits:
We’ve covered some of these already, but here’s a summary of potassium’s key benefits:
- Blood pressure. That is, potassium can help lower high blood pressure, which left untreated can lead to serious cardiovascular issues, such as stroke or heart attack. In a study referenced by noted health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola, 80 percent of people on hypertension medication were able to cut their doses in half by increased potassium ingestion.
- Stroke prevention. This ties in to how potassium aids cognitive function, as mentioned earlier. People identified as being at high risk for strokes are often found to have a potassium deficiency. You see, potassium acts as a vasodilator, per organicfacts.net, effectively relaxing blood vessels, enhancing the flow of blood throughout our bodies and reducing the chances of stroke-causing clots.
- Stabilize blood sugar. A drop in potassium is often accompanied by a drop in blood sugar, which can manifest itself in sweating, headache, weakness, trembling and nervousness, per organicfacts.net. A quick intake of potassium chloride and sodium has been shown to provide immediate relief in such scenarios. Diabetics are told to keep their potassium levels at sufficient levels to minimize glucose-level spikes and plunges.
- Stimulate metabolism. Those of us carrying a few extra pounds perk up when we hear this one, as well(ness) we should. Potassium contributes to the metabolic processing of a variety of nutrients by helping to extract energy. Potassium also has been shown to be a key player in protein synthesis as it relates to things such as tissue regeneration and balanced metabolism.
- Regulate muscle activity. Potassium is necessary for the proper contractions and relaxation of our muscles. Ions of this mineral present in muscle cells help sustain optimal muscle and nerve function, keeping our reflexes fast.
- Bone health. A study cited at organicfacts.net found that regular consumption of potassium-bearing fruits and vegetables produces higher mineral density in our bones, making them stronger and prolonging their life.