Jun 8, 2020

Plant-based sources of Potassium

Most popular packaged foods such as instant soups, pasta sauces, salad dressings, processed cheese etc are extremely high in sodium. Excess sodium affects our health in so many ways - raises our blood pressure, thereby putting pressure on our heart and our kidneys. 

When we consume excess sodium, it leads to water retention in the body. This increases the volume of blood in circulation, leading to high blood pressure. Diet high in sodium increases the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. If the dietary intake of calcium is low, our body is forced to let go of the calcium from the bones. Loss of calcium leads to osteoporosis or weakening of bones.

As our diet becomes more and more Westernized, we end up consuming way more packaged foods. Our daily meals are being prepared with highly processed sauces, dips, spreads and dressings. As much as we are cutting down on our sugar intake, it is equally important to cut down our salt intake as well. 

Along with cutting down sodium, let's also focus on increasing our potassium intake. 

What's the role of potassium in our body? 
Potassium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in multiple functions of our body - 
helps to manage the fluid balance
regulates our blood pressure, 
reduces potential stroke risks,
helps in muscle contraction/relaxation
and much more.

According to this Harvard article,

Too little potassium and too much sodium is bad for the heart and general health.

Potassium and sodium together play a huge role in regulating blood pressure.

When the kidneys flush out excess sodium from the body, it also removes potassium. 

One way to flush sodium out of the body is by getting more potassium. The higher the ratio of sodium:potassium, the greater the chance of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Increasing potassium and reducing sodium intake => both need to happen together
The article also states that the sodium requirement of our body is 200 mg a day, whereas the potassium requirement is around 4700 mg for adults.

According to WHO, the potassium requirement is around 3510 mg per day for adults.

Potassium is found abundantly in fruits, vegetables, greens, lentils, nuts and seeds. Here's a list of plant-based sources of potassium compiled from IFCT - 2017 (Indian Food Composition Tables).

(mg per 100 gms)
Amaranth seeds420
Wheat flour, atta311

Red gram(thuar dal)1395
Moth bean1356
Green gram, dal1268
Black gram, dal1157
Bengal gram, dal957
Peas, dry922

Green Leafy Veg
Betel leaves660
Brussels Sprouts639
Curry leaves584
Amaranth leaves570
Coriander leaves546
Mint leaves539

Other Veggies
Red gram, tender, fresh616
Lotus Root611
Yam, Elephant501
Plantain flower488
Plantain, green402
Mango ginger384
Jackfruit, seeds376
Plantain stem373
Broad beans362
Sweet potato345
Jackfruit, raw327
French beans315

Bael fruit409
Wood apple347
Custard Apple278

Condiments & Spices
Turmeric powder2374
Red chillies2245
Cumin seeds1886
Pipali (Long pepper)1852
Omum (Ajwain)1692
Black pepper1487
Coriander seeds1473
Fenugreek seeds891

Nuts & Seeds
Garden cress seeds952
Dry coconut739
Niger seeds716
Mustard seeds694
Gingelly seeds480

Coconut water215
Button Mushrooms318

  1. Most green leafy vegetables that we easily get in India are rich in potassium (>250 mg per 100gms). I have highlighted the top 10 above.
  2. Similarly, the various lentils and pulses that we eat on a daily basis are all so high in potassium
  3. When it comes to grains/cereals, millets like ragi, bajra and jowar are on the top of the list. They are not only rich in potassium but various other minerals such as calcium, iron etc
  4. Many of the local (country) veggies such as plantain flower, colocasia(arbi), drumstick etc can provide us enough potassium, along with other nutrients.
  5. Most of us are aware that banana is a good source of potassium. 100 gms of banana contains 330mg of potassium. Including this fruit on a daily basis isn't a difficult task, given that bananas are available throughout the year.
  6. The various condiments and spices that we use on a daily basis in Indian cuisine contribute significantly to our micro-nutrients intake, not just potassium. 
My intention to compile these nutrient specific sources is not to move our thought process towards nutritionism

As you can see from my earlier posts as well, all I want to highlight and emphasize is this crucial point -  Local produce available here in India are so rich in various micro-nutrients, be it the veggies, greens and the local fruits. The indigenous millets and pulses also help us significantly to meet our recommended dietary intake of various nutrients. There is no need to take additional synthetic/artificial supplements or buy expensive health mix powders unless you have a serious medical condition.

Let's plan our meals to include a variety of veggies, greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains and pulses. I had shared some thoughts in an earlier post - How to plan for nutritional variety?

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