Eat your Greens! Potassium & Health

Potassium is an essential micronutrient, mineral, and an electrolyte. You can find this essential nutrient in unprocessed foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. Fortunately, this time of year is a great time to get your potassium from locally grown foods! Green veggies like broccoli, spinach, and swiss chard are all good sources, as well as sweet potatoes and pumpkins. Legumes like lima beans, soybeans, pinto and kidney beans are also great ways to bump up your potassium levels!

Potassium has many important functions in the body. One function is muscle relaxation, which is why it is important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to prevent muscle cramps. In addition to relaxing the muscles, blood vessels also loosen up to allow blood to flow easier. This helps reduce blood pressure, and it can even help the brain send out neuron signals to the rest of the body.

Another important function of potassium is as an electrolyte. It helps keep fluids balanced in the body and counteract what sodium does in the body. Sodium works to reabsorb water through the kidneys and increase blood volume and blood pressure. By counteracting sodium, potassium is very important to maintain vitals within a normal, healthy range. This effect reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular and kidney disease. 

Potassium is a very important mineral and is vital to human health. Including potassium rich foods in your diet keeps blood pressure within a healthy range and your muscles happy and relaxed.

Natalie Emerick is dietetic intern with a masters degree in nutritional science with a concentration in sustainable food systems from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.