High potassium foods have been associated with lower blood pressure, greater bone mineral content, and fewer kidney stones. When your diet consists of high potassium foods you are improving the potassium sodium ratio in your diet. This improves your cellular electrochemical balance, which leads to lower blood pressure, stronger bones, and less likelihood of kidney stones, as well as other benefits to your health.
The Problem With Processed Meats
Processed meats are high in sodium and low in potassium. They shift the potassium sodium ratio of your diet in the wrong direction. It would be expected that they would be associated with higher blood pressure, lower bone mineral content, and kidney stones. A few posts ago we discussed studies showing that processed meats are associated with higher blood pressure. A study in 2011 adds another that shows a diet consisting of more high potassium foods and less processed meat is associated with greater bone mineral content.
Bone Mineral Content Study
In 2011, Australian researchers published a study (1) that divided participants into 5 dietary groups. They then looked at the bone mineral content of the participants. 3 of the groups had average bone mineral density. However two groups differed significantly from the others. The group that had the greatest bone mineral content was the group that had the highest intake of high potassium foods and ate a diet that was closest to a Mediterranean diet. This diet was highest in fruits and vegetables, and lowest in processed meat. The diet that included the greatest amount of processed meat, and that was lowest in fruits and vegetables, had significantly less bone mineral content.
This paper joins a number of other studies showing the adverse effects of processed meat, and the positive effect of fruits and vegetables on bone. Of course it does not resolve the question of what the factor is in these two types of foods that results in these effects.
Main Food Candidates Leading To Increased Bone Mineral Content
For hypertension, the potassium sodium ratio was found to be the critical factor behind hypertension. For bone mineral content, the two main candidates for optimal bone mineral content and density are the potassium sodium ratio and the presence of buffering ions, specifically bicarbonate precursors such as citrate, in the food.
Both potassium and citrate are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables, and are almost completely absent in processed meat. Even if potassium itself is not found to be the critical factor in increasing bone mineral content, it is a good marker for citrate.
Tables Of High Potassium Foods
To find tables of high potassium foods, click the “Links to Food Potassium Tables” tab at the top of this page. Then look for and click the food group you are interested in. The table will have a list of high potassium foods and the amount of potassium in each food.
1. An energy-dense, nutrient-poor dietary pattern is inversely associated with bone health in women. McNaughton SA, Wattanapenpaiboon N, Wark JD, Nowson CA. J Nutr. 2011 Aug;141(8):1516-23. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.138271. Epub 2011 Jun 8.