Low potassium intake has been associated with a number of NCDs (non-communicable diseases), including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney stone formation and low bone-mineral density. An increased potassium intake may reduce blood pressure, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, have beneficial effects on bone-mineral density, and mitigate the negative consequences of high sodium consumption. Source: World Health Organization
The NIH states that potassium has these additional functions for the body:
- Build proteins
- Break down and use carbohydrates
- Build muscle
- Maintain normal body growth
- Control the electrical activity of the heart
- Control the acid-base balance
Potassium can also help balance the negative impact of too much sodium, since sodium may increase blood pressure while potassium counteracts this bio-effect. Paying attention to potassium-to-sodium ratios in one's food is useful for this purpose. While it's not clear what the optimum potassium to sodium ratio is, we can take an example from nature. Fresh coconut water, considered a very healthy beverage, has a ratio of about 4 to 1, so trying to aim for that mix is a good place to start.
Vegan ingredients help meet daily requirements for potassium and cooking fresh food at home makes it easier to control the sodium side of the equation. Dates and dried apricots have more potassium than bananas while excellent vegetable sources of potassium include chard, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, spinach, and the ubiquitous kale!