It is not an exaggeration to say that potassium literally keeps us alive! It is the body’s principal positively charged ion (cation) inside our cells and thus is essential for maintenance of normal fluid and electrolyte balance, enzyme reactions, cell integrity, and muscle contraction. Potassium and sodium are pumped across the cell membrane, a process that drives nerve impulse transmission.
The potassium found in natural, unprocessed foods is often linked to an organic anion (e.g. citrate). Organic anions play an important role in buffering the acids produced by the body in metabolizing meats or protein-rich foods. These acids can demineralize the bone and increase the risk of kidney stones.
The Primary Sources of Potassium
Fruits and vegetables, especially vine fruits such as tomato, cucumber, zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, and leafy greens and root vegetables are important sources of potassium along with grains, meats, and legumes.
Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Potassium
Moderate potassium deficiency is linked to increases in blood pressure, increased risk of kidney stones, bone demineralization, and stroke. Certain types of diuretics (e.g., thiazide diuretics or furosemide), alcoholism, severe vomiting or diarrhea, overuse or abuse of laxatives, anorexia nervosa or bulimia, magnesium depletion, and congestive heart failure (CHF) are associated with a higher risk for potassium deficiency. Potassium toxicity does not result from overeating foods high in potassium but can result from overconsumption of potassium salts or supplements (including some protein shakes and energy drinks) and from certain diseases or treatments.
Incorporate potassium into your next meal by trying the delicious recipe below…
Aubergine/Eggplant and Tomato Curry*
600g baby aubergines, sliced into rounds
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
400ml can chopped tomatoes
400ml can coconut milk
pinch of sugar
½ small pack coriander, roughly chopped
rice or chapatis, to serve
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Toss the aubergines in a roasting tin with 2 tbsp olive oil, season well and spread out. Roast for 20 mins or until dark golden and soft.
Heat the remaining oil in an ovenproof pan or flameproof casserole dish and cook the onions over a medium heat for 5-6 mins until softening. Stir in the garlic and spices, for a few mins until the spices release their aromas.
Tip in the tomatoes, coconut milk and roasted aubergines, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 20-25 mins, removing the lid for the final 5 mins to thicken the sauce. Add a little seasoning if you like, and a pinch of sugar if it needs it. Stir through most of the coriander. Serve over rice or with chapatis, scattering with the remaining coriander.
*Adapted from BBC Good Foo