There’s another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables. It could lower your blood pressure, according to new research.
Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California have found potassium-rich vegetables like sweet potatoes, avocados, spinach, beans and bananas could help lower blood pressure.
"Decreasing sodium intake is a well-established way to lower blood pressure," said professor Alicia McDonough. “But evidence suggests that increasing dietary potassium may have an equally important effect on hypertension."
To reach her conclusions, McDonough reviewed studies that looked at the link between potassium and sodium, which has been known to cause hypertension.
She found that people who had more potassium tended to have lower blood pressure regardless of sodium consumption. Her research indicated that the body does a “balancing act” using sodium to control potassium levels in the blood. Potassium is important for normal muscle and nerve function.
"When dietary potassium is high, kidneys excrete more salt and water, which increases potassium excretion," McDonough said. "Eating a high potassium diet is like taking a diuretic."
She said that as humans evolved, they ate a diet rich in potassium, but low in sodium, leading us to crave sodium, not potassium.
"If you eat a typical Western diet, your sodium intake is high and your potassium intake is low. This significantly increases your chances of developing high blood pressure," she said.
According to a 2004 study by the Institute of Medicine, adults should eat about 4.7 grams of potassium a day to lower blood pressure. Eating about 60 grams of beans would account for 50 percent of that, McDonough said.
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people suffer from high blood pressure. High blood pressure accounts for 51 percent of global stroke deaths and 45 percent of deaths due to heart disease.
McDonough’s study appeared in the April 2017 issue of the American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism.