Introducing Potassium

Fundamental Mineral for Human Function

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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.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate potassium into your next meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Aubergine/Eggplant and Tomato Curry*

Ingredients

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

Method

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 Food 

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Introducing Phosphorus

Essential for Optimal Bone Health

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Working together with calcium and magnesium, phosphorus is another important mineral related to bone health and is essential for the formation of healthy bones. In fact, about 85% of phosphorus in the body is combined with calcium in the bones and teeth. In all body cells, phosphorus is part of a major buffer system (phosphoric acid and its salts). Phosphorus is also a component of DNA and RNA, which are essential elements of all cells.

In addition, phosphorus helps release energy from food in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The ATP molecule uses three phosphate groups to do its work. Many enzymes and the B-vitamins become active only when a phosphate group is attached. Lipids found in the cell walls also use phosphorus. These phospholipids give cells their fluid structure, which is necessary for the transport of compounds into and out of cells.

The Primary Sources of Phosphorus

Phosphorus is found naturally in many foods from both animal and vegetable products. Foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk are excellent animal sources while sunflower seeds are a good vegan source.

Bioavailability of Phosphorus

Phosphorous is absorbed well from most foods, especially animal-source foods. In plant seeds containing phytic acid/phytate, only 50% of the phosphorus is available for humans. Individuals who consume large amounts of dairy products or cola beverages have higher intakes of phosphorus, which may interfere with calcium metabolism.

Risks Related to Inadequate Intake of Phosphorus

Because phosphorus is so widespread in food, dietary phosphorus deficiency is seen mostly in cases of malnutrition, anorexic individuals, or alcoholics. Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency are poor appetite, anxiety, and irritability. In children, phosphorus deficiency may manifest as decreased growth and poor bone and tooth development.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate phosphorus into your next meal by trying the delicious recipe below…

Beef Stroganoff and Herby Pasta*

Ingredients

400g beef rump steak, trimmed
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
300g small button mushroom
400g pappardelle pasta
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp plain flour
300ml beef stock
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp tomato purée
3 tbsp crème fraîche
½ x 20g pack flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Method

Freeze the beef for 45 mins before you begin, slice as thinly as you can, then season.

In a large, non-stick frying pan, melt half the butter with half the oil. Increase the heat, then quickly sear the beef in batches until browned on both sides. Remove the meat and set aside. Repeat with the mushrooms, then set aside with the beef. Boil the pasta.

Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan and soften the shallots for a few mins. Stir in the flour for 1 min, then gradually stir in the stock. Bubble for 5 mins until thickened, then stir in the mustard, purée, crème fraîche and seasoning. Bubble for 1 min more, then return the beef and mushrooms to the pan.

Drain the pasta, toss with half the parsley, season, then serve with the creamy stroganoff, sprinkled with the remaining parsley.

*Recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food

Introducing Vitamin B9

An Important Nutrient for Conception and Pregnancy

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Many women who are planning or have already had a baby will have heard about the importance of folic acid before conception and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Vitamin B9, as known as folate, describes a group of derivatives of pteryl glutamic acid and folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and for food fortification.

There is conclusive evidence that adequate folic acid intake helps to prevent neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida) in babies. It is recommended that all women of childbearing age who are planning a pregnancy take a daily supplement as it is difficult to achieve through diet alone.

Folate works together with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells. It is also necessary for normal cell division, the normal structure of the nervous system and specifically in the development of the neural tube (which develops into the spinal cord and skull) in the embryo. Vitamins B6, B12, and folate are involved with the maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels. The amino acid homocysteine is an intermediate in folate metabolism and evidence suggests that raised blood homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

The Primary Sources of Folate

The most common sources of vitamin B9 is dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, asparagus, wheat germ, yeast, peanuts, oranges, and strawberries. Animal products such as eggs, milk, cheese and liver also contain vitamin B. 

Bioavailability of Folate

Folic acid from supplements is 100% bioavailable, if taken without food, and 85% bioavailable when taken with food. Naturally occurring folates in food are 50% bioavailable, but the natural forms are highly unstable. Folate is easily destroyed by heat and oxygen.

Risks Related to Inadequate Intake of Folate

Individuals with diets that lack sufficient quantity and variety of green leafy vegetables and legumes are at risk for inadequate folate intake. Folate requirements are increased during pregnancy, especially in the first couple of weeks of gestation. Folate deficiency is highly associated with the risk for neural tube defects in the growing fetus. Women of child-bearing age and pregnant women are advised to meet folate requirements using a combination of natural foods (folate forms) and fortified foods or supplements (folic acid). In many western countries, governments have mandated flours to be fortified with folate. Because folate is critical for cell growth and repair, especially for cells with a short life span, such as cells in the mouth and digestive tract, visible signs of folate deficiency include digestive problems. Other symptoms are tiredness, loss of appetite, fewer but larger red blood cells (megaloblastic or macrocytic anemia), and neurological problems.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here.

To increase your vitamin B9 intake in your next meal, try this delicious recipe:

Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup*

Ingredients
1 tbsp, olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
200g cooking chorizo, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
pinch of cumin seeds
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
pinch of golden caster sugar
small splash red wine vinegar
250g red lentil
2 x 400g cans chopped tomato
850ml chicken stock
plain yogurt, to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chorizo and cook until crisp and it has released its oils. Remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Fry the onion, carrots and cumin seeds for 10 mins until soft and glistening, then add the garlic and fry for 1 min more. Scatter over the paprika and sugar, cook for 1 min, then splash in the vinegar. Simmer for a moment, then stir in the lentils, and pour over the tomatoes and chicken stock.

Give it a good stir, then simmer for 30 mins or until the lentils are tender. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth-ish but still chunky. Can be made several days ahead or frozen for 6 months at this point. Serve in bowls, drizzled with yogurt and olive oil, scattered with the chorizo and a sprinkling of paprika.

*Adapted from BBC Good Food

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