The high potassium foods in the fruit and vegetable category are functional foods. Not all fruits and vegetables are high potassium foods, so those that are low in potassium may not have all the advantages of the high potassium ones. Multiple epidemiological studies show that high potassium fruits and vegetables contribute to less hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and kidney stones. Not all of the favorable effects come from the potassium ion alone or even from the high potassium fruits and vegetables alone. But they are probably the biggest contributor.
There have been multiple epidemiological studies showing the benefits of high potassium foods. They show that populations consuming diets with large amounts of high potassium fruits and vegetables have greater longevity and less cardiovascular disease than those who consume less.
What are all the ways that fruits and vegetables contribute to lower blood pressure and less cardiovascular disease? The best documented way is their high potassium and low sodium content. Diets that were otherwise unchanged except for adding potassium chloride or potassium bicarbonate resulted in lower blood pressure. However, these were short term studies. The long term studies showing lower blood pressure were done with high potassium foods. These foods have multiple other biologically active components beyond potassium.
These components have both direct and indirect actions in our cells. Some of the potential actions are direct and indirect antioxidant actions. Some components act by reducing inflammation. Some components improve the ability of blood vessels to dilate. Some improve the health of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. The degree to which these actions, as well as multiple other actions that have been shown, are important is actively being studied.
How High Potassium Foods Are Functional Foods
A heavily studied action of the high potassium foods is the ability of potassium to decrease the secretion of aldosterone, which leads to lower blood pressure. This also increases the excretion of sodium by the kidneys, which leads to less excretion of calcium. The calcium stays in the bone, so the bone is less likely to become osteoporotic. Since the calcium stays out of the urine, calcium stones do not form. Many of the details have been worked out.
Many of the other substances in fruits and vegetables have also been studied, but the mechanisms by which these substances improve health are not worked out as well as they are for potassium. Vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, selenium, and multiple phytochemicals, such as carotenoids, polyphenols, and flavonoids are all being studied. The polyphenols were discussed here.
Probably as important as what the high potassium fruits and vegetables contain is what they do not contain. Saturated fat has been well shown to contribute to cardiovascular disease. Very few high potassium foods are high in saturated fat.
Sodium is another harmful substance that is absent in the high potassium vegetables and fruits. In the tables on this site, only the fruits and vegetables with a ratio of 3 potassium to 1 sodium are included. We do not consider foods with a lower ratio to be high potassium foods, but some of the tables for other types of foods have a lower ratio when there are very few high potassium foods.
To Find A Table Of High Potassium Vegetables
The table of the high potassium vegetables is here. You can pick from the large selection in the table and prepare them as we have discussed in the post here to prevent potassium loss during preparation.
We discussed how there have been studies not showing the individual components, especially the antioxidants as discussed here, to have a favorable effect on the CVD. There are multiple possible reasons why the studies may have failed to show an effect, but that does not necessarily mean they are ineffective.
By combining high potassium foods from all the main food groups you can get the proven benefits of high potassium food while getting the potential benefits of the other substances that may eventually be shown to contribute functionally to health. To find a list of the tables for other food groups and all posts click the tab at the top, List of Posts.