Tag Archives: heart disease

Potassium : the underdog nutrient


What is Potassium?

Potassium is an electrolyte in the body (like sodium, magnesium and chloride) that helps regulate the body’s intra-cellular functions by conducting electricity. One of the main purposes of this electrolyte is to regular muscle contractions, and your heart is one of your body’s biggest muscles.

What are the benefits of potassium?

There are many, but for the sake of this article I’m focusing on its role in preventing cardivascular disease. I am sure you have heard often that too much sodium (salt) will contribute to high blood pressure. This is because sodium constricts the blood vessels of the heart which in turn elevates the total pressure of the blood against the heart walls. High blood pressure is dangerous because it is a stepping stone for heart disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes. Potassium performs the exact opposite – it is a “vasodilator”, which means it RELAXES the blood vessels of the heart. In theory, potassium can help to counteract some of the negative effects of too much sodium in the diet. While sodium elevates blood pressure, potassium lowers it.

How much Potassium is enough?

The FDA recommends a DV – Daily Value (for a 2,000 calorie diet) of 3,500mg daily. Most people are unaware of what foods contain potassium, other than bananas. Potassium isn’t publicized as much as other nutrients\minerals in spite of its essential nature (such as Calcium, for example) which is why I call it the underdog nutrient. Here is a helpful table highlighting some good sources of potassium:


As you can see, bananas are on the list but they are well surpassed by lima beans, raisins, and spinach. Go figure! 🙂 Hopefully this short article raised your awareness of the importance of potassium and how powerful it is in counteracting excess sodium in the diet. It is one of the simplest ways to combat heart disease. I do feel that if potassium got as much publicity as sodium, it might be easier for the average consumer to make the connection between the two. Oh well, I guess that’s the RD’s job 🙂



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Myth series #2: Red wine is good for your heart


You’ve seen it in magazines, on the news, and on the web. Red wine is good for your heart. Drink it and you will “slash” your risk of heart disease dramatically…Right?

Sort of.

It all started with the French – we observed over the years their consumption of red wine and also observed their rate of heart disease still remained well below that of America, and we started to correlate the two with each other. There have been multiple studies and loads of research on the topic. So is there at least some truth in red wine’s ability to lower our chance of heart disease? Yes, but it’s benefits are HIGHLY exaggerated and are not enough to warrant starting a new drinking habit.

Here’s what the research says: Red wine is full of antioxidants called polyphenols, specifically one called resveratrol. It’s found in grape juice & white wine as well, but the levels are higher in that of red wine. The stated benefits of red wine consumption include elevating your HDL cholesterol, which is desirable in preventing heart disease. It is also thought to keep the platelets in your blood from becoming “sticky” and clogging your arteries.

There have been many studies toting the benefits of red wine consumption due to the presence of these polyphenols, but what they don’t specify is that the amount of red wine you would have to consume to equal a significant dose of polyphenols is astronomical. Don’t think that’s an excuse to binge drink, however. Excessive alcohol consumption actually increases your risk for elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure, in addition to several types of cancers, cancelling out any benefit you would have received from moderate alcohol consumption.

Red wine consumption is not the only way to raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol – regular physical activity has an even greater impact, as does the consumption of healthy fats like those found in nuts & seeds.

Furthermore, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine to reap any potential benefits, because with all the research that is out there (and still needs to be done), the cons outweigh the benefits. Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure and following a healthy diet will prove more beneficial to preventing heart disease than a glass of red wine.

So should you continue to drink red wine? I do. I’m a huge fan and I treat myself to a glass or two at least two or three times a week. My favorite is the Red Velvet by Cupcake Vineyards, and I love myself a good glass of Cabernet. But I don’t do it with the expectation that it will be a cure-all\prevent all. If I end up redeeming some of these health benefits, more power to me.

So in conclusion, don’t begin drinking for the proposed health benefits if you do not currently drink. The studies suggesting the health benefits of red wine specify “moderate” alcohol consumption which is equal to one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for med.

Realize that the health benefits of wine, while they do exist, are highly exaggerated and nothing to get excited about! The antioxidants in red wine don’t even compare to that of many fresh fruits and vegetables. If you struggle with getting enough fruits & veggies, see my post on juicing 🙂