Many medical publications have associated high potassium foods 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. And a proper electrochemical balance 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. So you would expect them to be associated with higher blood pressure, lower bone mineral content, and kidney stones. A few posts ago, we discussed studies showing processed meats association with higher blood pressure. Furthermore, a study in 2011 adds another study showing this association. This study demonstrated that a diet of more high potassium foods, and less processed meat, results in greater bone mineral content.
Bone Mineral Content Study
In 2011, Australian researchers published a study (1) that divided participants into 5 dietary groups. Then they looked at the bone mineral content of the participants. Three of the groups had average bone mineral density.
However, two groups differed significantly from the others. The group with the greatest bone mineral content was the group that had the highest intake of high potassium foods. And they ate a diet that was closest to a Mediterranean diet. This diet was highest in fruits and vegetables, and lowest in processed meat. Furthermore, the group eating the diet with the greatest amount of processed meat, and with the least fruits and vegetables, had significantly less bone mineral content.
So this paper joins a number of other studies showing the adverse effects of processed meat. Additionally, it shows 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
Multiple studies show that the potassium sodium ratio is the critical factor behind hypertension. For optimal bone mineral content and density, the two main candidates are the potassium sodium ratio and the presence of buffering ions. Specifically, bicarbonate precursors, such as citrate, in the food are critical for bone mineral content and density.
Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of both potassium and citrate. But, in processed meat, the amount of potassium is very low and sodium very high. And bicarbonate precursors are completely absent in processed meat. Consequently, even if researchers find that potassium itself is not 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.