Diets High in Potassium Reduce Stroke Risk

potassium and stroke

Photo by Dawn Endico

By Case Adams, Naturopath

Turns out that potassium is not only necessary for the functioning of the kidneys and energy metabolism. It also reduces the risk of stroke.

Researchers from Italy’s University of Naples Medical School conducted a large meta-analysis that included 14 studies among 333,250 participants. The researchers found that diets high in potassium significantly decrease the risk of having a stroke.

The average reduction of risk after a pooled analysis calculation came to a reduction of stroke incidence of 20%, with some showing a 28% decreased risk. There were 10,659 events cardiovascular events within the studies.

The researchers concluded:

“Our results indicated a favorable effect of higher potassium intake on risk of stroke. These results confirm the appropriateness of worldwide recommendations for a population increased consumption of potassium-rich foods to prevent cardiovascular disease.”

Decreased sodium and increased potassium linked to lower blood pressure

Multiple studies have also illustrated that decreased sodium accompanying an increase in potassium intake decreases hypertension (high blood pressure) and reduces cardiovascular risk.

This was the conclusion of research from Tulane University School of Public Health, and University of Alabama’s medical school in two separate clinical study reviews. In the second, 52 studies on potassium and sodium were examined.

The researchers wrote:

“A diet that includes modest salt restriction while increasing potassium intake serves as a strategy to prevent or control hypertension and decrease cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Thus, the body of evidence supports population-wide sodium intake reduction and recommended increases in dietary potassium intake as outlined by current guidelines as an essential public health effort to prevent kidney disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.”

Potassium supplements not advised

Note the second study conclusion suggests “dietary potassium intake.” Many health experts and nutritionists advise not taking potassium supplements, however. This is because – as in all minerals – the body balances a variety of minerals. When one mineral is particularly high or low, it can reduce or raise blood levels of the other, resulting in an imbalanced metabolism.

And the side effects of potassium supplements has warranted this warning. Adverse side effects of potassium supplementation include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, gas, headaches and cardiovascular side effects that can even result in death.

These side effects can be seen for taken supplemented doses of potassium between 1500 and 3600 milligrams per day. Under 1500 milligrams – about 40 mEq = 1650 mg – is considered safe.

The problem still will be an imbalance of other minerals. Thus the best strategy – most advised by nutritionists – is to consume potassium within the diet.

This is important because when nature provides potassium, it will supply with it a balance of other minerals such as magnesium and sodium.

Foods naturally high in potassium

Potassium is a necessary component of our metabolism but not all foods are high in potassium. Some notable foods high in potassium include:

  • Dried Apricots (1162 milligrams per 100 grams)
  • Beans (Lima, Adzuki, Soy, Kidney, Great northern, White and Pinto contain from 561 to 1175 milligrams per 100 grams)
  • Spinach and other leafy greens (spinach contains 558 milligrams per 100 grams)/li>
  • Baked Potatoes (535 milligrams per 100 grams)
  • Whole wheat bread (a cup of whole wheat flour – 120 grams – contains 486 milligrams)
  • Avocados (485 milligrams per 100 grams)
  • Acorn squash (437 milligrams per 100 grams)
  • Button Mushrooms (396 milligrams per 100 grams – other mushrooms like Criminis also contain good amounts)
  • Bananas (358 milligrams per 100 grams)

Foods that are high in sodium and low in potassium include processed meats, gravies, cheese, chips and other refined processed foods.


D’Elia L, Iannotta C, Sabino P, Ippolito R. Potassium-rich diet and risk of stroke: Updated meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Mar 18. pii: S0939-4753(14)00106-9. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2014.03.001.

Whelton PK, He J. Health effects of sodium and potassium in humans. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2014 Feb;25(1):75-9. doi: 10.1097/MOL.0000000000000033.

Aaron KJ, Sanders PW. Role of dietary salt and potassium intake in cardiovascular health and disease: a review of the evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013 Sep;88(9):987-95. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.06.005.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with the elements by surfing, hiking and being a beach bum.

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