As if we needed another reason to eat fruits and vegetables, a new study found another benefit of these natural foods: lowering blood pressure.
Researchers from the University of Southern California have found a link between increased dietary potassium and lower blood pressure.
“Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure,” McDonough says, “but evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension.”
McDonough started his study by reviewing recent studies on rodent models, illustrating the effect potassium has on blood pressure. He found that increased dietary potassium pushes the kidneys to excrete more water and salt, which lowers blood pressure. He then analyzed the same effect in humans, finding similar results.
This study is concerning especially for Western people, whose diet is high in sodium intake and low in potassium intake — this increases the odds of developing high blood pressure. Processed foods especially are rich in salt and low in potassium. If we want to counterbalance that, we should eat more foods rich in potassium: especially fruits and veggies.
But how much is enough? McDonough references a 2004 Institute of Medicine report which recommends that adults consume at least 4.7 grams of potassium per day to lower blood pressure — that’s the equivalent of to eating a cup and a half of black beans, for example, or a big portion of spinach. Bananas, prunes, raisins, and yogurt are other good sources of potassium. McDonough suggests developing public policies to increase intake of dietary potassium from plant-based sources and adding the potassium content to labels to make people more aware of potassium sources. In 2009-2010, the average dietary potassium intake of the U.S. population aged two years and older was 2.6 grams per day — not nearly enough.
This is another addition to the long list of benefits that fruits and veggies provide. The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. A diet rich in fruits and veggies also reduces blood pressure directly (in addition to the potassium mechanism) and numerous studies have found that fruits and veggies go a long way towards protecting your body of diabetes.
Journal Reference: Alicia A. McDonough, Luciana C. Veiras, Claire A. Guevara, Donna L. Ralph. Cardiovascular benefits associated with higher dietary K vs. lower dietary Na evidence from population and mechanistic studies. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology And Metabolism, 2017; 312 (4): E348 DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.00453.2016
Alexandra is a naturalist who is firmly in love with our planet and the environment. When she's not writing about climate or animal rights, you can usually find her doing field research or reading the latest nutritional studies.