This Surprising Mineral Can Prevent Diabetes
Insulin resistant (type 2) diabetes is one of the fastest growing diseases in the world. And the complications can be not only unpleasant, but also fatal. So wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could protect yourself? Wouldn’t it be even better if you could protect yourself in a way that is both delicious and simple?
Today I’m going to share with you how you can use natural, dietary potassium to protect your health. I’ll give you some tips to avoid low potassium as well as how to include plenty of dietary potassium in your diet.
The Dangers Of Low Potassium
For decades researchers noticed that low levels of potassium were linked to blood sugar problems. Specifically, low levels of potassium were seen in cases of poor glucose tolerance. When glucose tolerance is poor, that means that blood sugars rise. That’s called hyperglycemia, which is considered a pre-diabetic state.
But what they weren’t really sure about was whether potassium caused the problems. So they set about trying to figure that out. And after much study they were able to show that reduced potassium levels can cause hyperglycemia.
Shockingly, in spite of this knowledge, medical professionals still push drugs when simple dietary changes could have better results.
The Dangers Of Drugs
The real kicker is that researchers find that a particular class of drugs - thiazide diuretics - can cause low potassium levels and hyperglycemia. And yet, thiazide diuretics are the most common drug used for hypertension.
The irony is that in the long term, low potassium levels are not only associated with hyperglycemia and the development of diabetes. Low potassium can also worsen hypertension. So the very drug that is used to reduce the short term effects of hypertension, may make it worse over time. And, at the same time, it can lead to high blood sugar.
Not surprisingly, a number of studies have found that thiazide diuretics are associated with an increased risk of developing diabetes.
On the other hand, other classes of drugs used for hypertension such as ACE inhibitor drugs, act to increase the retention of potassium. So they have the opposite effect on potassium compared to thiazide diuretics. The ACE inhibitor drugs, by increasing potassium levels, not only can treat hypertension. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes.
ACE inhibitors certainly have other risks associated with them. I’m not recommending that you use them. However, my point is simply that drugs that reduce potassium increase diabetes risk while drugs that increase potassium decrease diabetes risk.
So if you suffer from hypertension, I strongly suggest that you do not use thiazide diuretics if you have any other options. As I have detailed in other articles, one commonly effective way to reverse hypertension is by increasing the amount of dietary potassium.
For many decades it has been known that diets high in fruits and vegetables are associated with reduced risk of developing diabetes. There are plenty of reasons why that might be. They contain lots of nutrients and fiber. But recent evidence suggests that the high potassium content of fruits and vegetables may be the most protective.
Simply put, aside from avoiding drugs that deplete potassium, the best thing you can do is to increase your dietary potassium. You can do that by including lots of delicious foods that are naturally rich in potassium.
Here are some of the foods that are highest in potassium:
- potatoes - one average potato contains a whopping 1000 mg, which is about 25 percent of your daily need.
- bananas - just one banana contains over 400 mg of potassium.
- leafy green vegetables - a cup of cooked spinach or chard has about 1000 mg of potassium.
- milk or yogurt - a cup contains over 600 mg of potassium.
- beans - a cup of cooked beans contains approximately 1000 mg of potassium.
- avocados - an average avocado contains very nearly 1000 mg of potassium.
- winter squash - a cup of winter squash contains, on average, about 400 mg of potassium (some varieties such as acorn are higher).
And in general, fruits and vegetables of all kinds are a good source.
A Warning About Excess
Like many things, you neither want too little nor too much potassium. In a healthy person, potassium levels are regulated automatically. However, there are some cases in which too much potassium can be a problem. For example, if you use drugs such as ACE inhibitors that can increase potassium retention, then you should be careful not to consume excessive amounts of potassium. And if you have kidney disease, you may have to be careful about potassium intake as well.
The other thing to be aware of is supplemental potassium in mineral form. Some salt substitutes are made out of potassium chloride. While small amounts on food won’t be a problem, be careful about going overboard. The same goes for potassium nutritional supplements. In the mineral form it’s easier to take too much potassium.
From food, however, for most people it is virtually impossible to eat too much potassium. Diets that are very high in naturally-occurring potassium in food such as the DASH diet, are well studied. They are proven to help reduce hypertension and diabetes risk.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes or you just want to protect your health, ensuring that you are eating a diet rich in naturally-occurring potassium could be a smart move. Of course, you also want to avoid drugs that deplete your potassium levels. Do those two things, and you can optimize your blood sugar health.