I’m always on a mission to help people fall in love with more fruits and veggies. In several different segments, Dr. Oz and I have agreed that they truly act like Nature’s pharmacy. Rich in a host of traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals, yet brimming with “new” miracle molecules like phytochemicals and antioxidants, eating 5-9 servings of produce daily is one of the most powerful habits for your health and waistline.
Now new research gives you one more reason to heap colorful fruits and veggies on to your plate. A recent study found that people who consume plenty of potassium-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy enjoy significantly more protection from stroke, especially ischemic stroke (which account for over 80% of all strokes in the United States). The researchers analyzed data from 10 international studies, and found that for every 1000 milligrams of potassium increase, stroke risk dropped 5-14% over 11 years.
Think you don’t need to get serious about stroke yet because it’s something “down the road”? While stroke is the third leading cause of death, remember that it is the number-one cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. And it may surprise you to learn that 1 in 4 people who have a stroke are under age 65.
So while potassium may not be a hot "new" nutrient like so many others splashing across news headlines these days, it’s nonetheless a key component of a diet that helps you add high-quality, vibrant years to your life.
At its core, potassium is an electrolyte that plays a starring role in your body’s fluid balance and blood pressure regulation, as well as nerve and muscle function. According to the Institute of Medicine, most Americans between the ages of 31 and 50 get only about 50% of the recommended 4700 milligrams per day – likely because they aren’t visiting “Nature’s pharmacy” enough on a daily basis.
What to Do Next
Eat a Potassium-Packed Diet
Fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and low-fat milk and yogurt are some of the most potassium-rich foods on the planet. Try adding a half-cup of sliced papaya (which tops the list of potassium-rich fruit) or kiwi (which has more potassium than a banana) to your favorite whole grain breakfast cereal. Tuck sliced tomato and avocado, both potassium powerhouses, into your sandwich at lunchtime. Savor non-fat greek yogurt for a potassium- (and protein-) packed snack. And include a half-cup of pinto beans or a half-cup of lentils with your dinner to finish the day strong.
Focus on Food, Not Supplements
Unless you are under the specific advice of your health-care professional, think “food first” rather than popping a potassium supplement, as supplements don’t seem to deliver the same health benefits, and can carry a greater risk of consuming unsafe levels.
Limit High-Sodium Choices
Cheese, processed meats, pastries, canned soups and fast foods are some of the leading sodium culprits in the American diet, and a recent study found that people who consume high-sodium, low-potassium diets have nearly twice the risk of death from heart disease and a 50% greater risk of death from any cause. As you add more from the produce aisle, see if you can scale back on your portions of these foods as well.
Check With Your Physician
If you have kidney disease or are currently taking blood pressure medication, be sure to check with your physician before adding any new potassium-rich foods to your diet, as you may be under strict guidelines to limit potassium intake.
The beauty of eating this way is that it will not only pay off handsomely down the road in terms of reduced stroke risk, but it will help you start moving your body today toward optimal healing, weight and energy levels. Now that’s a mission I love being a part of!