If minerals were characters, Potassium would be the deep, silent type, the unsung hero quietly going about his work without fuss or fanfare. For some reason, it remains a hidden and unglamorous micronutrient so the power of potassium is not often talked about. Yet it is essential for the healthy functioning of all of your body’s cells, tissues and organs. It also helps to control the amount of water in your body, blood pH levels, blood pressure and muscle function. It assists with conducting nerve impulses and is important for kidney health.
Baobab powder is a natural source of potassium, containing more than six times the amount of potassium in bananas. Baobab powder offers 2270mg of potassium per 100g. Compare this with 628mg potassium per 100g of Salmon and 535mg per 100g of baked potato. Oh, and it’s worth noting that 100g of dark chocolate can deliver around 529mg of potassium too!
“Baobab fruit powder is a naturally rich source of potassium containing six times more potassium than bananas”
So What Exactly is Potassium?
Potassium is known as both a mineral and as one of the most important electrolytes in the body along with other electrolytes phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and sodium. As an electrolyte, potassium has the capacity to transmit electrical impulses in the body enabling nerve conduction and is the major positive ion found inside of cells (you may remember from your high school chemistry classes that the chemical notation for potassium is K+). As a mineral, potassium helps in the healthy functioning of the cells, tissues and organs.
Why do we need Potassium?
“Potassium is essential for the healthy functioning of the nervous system, blood pressure, acid – base balance, heart function, kidney and adrenal functioning and water balance and water distribution within the body, namely the cells, where over 95% of the body’s potassium is found, ” says Nutritional Therapist Cathy Grundy. She adds that “potassium is also an essential electrolyte in the functioning and conversion of blood sugar to glycogen in the liver. Potassium is necessary for contraction and relaxation of the muscles, including the heart.”
One of the interesting things about potassium though is that it doesn’t work alone. It has a very special partnership with another electrolyte, sodium, and works closely in tandem with sodium to regulate fluid levels in the body. Potassium and sodium together help the kidney function correctly, they are both important for energy production and researchers are beginning to discover their roles in the buildup of bone tissue too.
In fact research is showing that it is the ratio of potassium to sodium that is possibly much more important than the actual levels of either mineral alone.
Hypertension: the Paleolithic Potassium connection
Studies have indicated that taking in high levels of salt (sodium) leads to higher levels of potassium being excreted via urine. But this isn’t the whole story. Scientists are suggesting that our problem with potassium may go as far back as the Stone Age. Our Paleolithic ancestors ate a plant-based diet high in potassium and low in sodium, probably at a ratio of 3:1. This could well explain how the human kidney has therefore evolved to maintain electrolyte balance by easily releasing potassium but holding onto sodium.
Salt was relatively scarce in Paleolithic times which is reflected in the way our bodies are able to hold onto this mineral. However, our modern western diets today are so high in salt that in proportion to potassium, we consume it at a ratio of 1:4 potassium to salt or more. That is a complete reversal of the ratio in Paleolithic times. The average western person can consume up to 7 500mg of salt a day which is vastly more than the minimum recommended 1500mg we need to be healthy (our Stone Age ancestors consumed as little as 768mg a day). Conversely, we’re only consuming on average half the amount of the recommended 4 700mg daily potassium requirement.
Now studies indicate that a high intake of salt on its own has been incorrectly labelled as the culprit when it comes to high blood pressure. Closer to the truth is that it is the poor ratio of potassium to sodium that most often results in hypertension. One way to get rid of excess sodium in the body is by consuming more potassium. A study on Hypertension Prevention suggests that changing the balance between these two minerals can be helpful to heart and artery health.
Currently nutritionists seem to agree that a ratio of between 2:1 and 3:1 potassium to sodium is ideal. Also, because of the intricate and complex nature of how various nutrients and minerals interact with each other, it’s best to consume wholefoods and wholefood supplements such as baobab fruit powder unless one has a specific medically diagnosed deficit one needs to address.
“A balanced ratio of potassium to sodium helps to regulate blood pressure”
What happens when we don’t get enough Potassium?
Severe potassium deficiency is most common in people who have disorders which affect nutritional absorption like Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, congestive heart failure, an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia or any illness that causes frequent diarrhoea and vomiting. It is also more likely in people who sweat excessively from physical exertion or from living in a hot climate.
An adult body of 60kg will carry approximately 120g of potassium. “A deficiency of potassium,” says Cathy Grundy “can potentially produce fatigue and muscle weakness – these are typically the first signs within the body.”
Other deficiency signs are:
- Rapid irregular heartbeat
- pins and needles irritability
- swollen abdomen
- low blood pressure
It’s wise to consult your physician regarding increasing your potassium intake if you have kidney disease or are taking medication for hypertension.
“Potassium is essential for regulating the balance of fluid in the body as well as kidney health”
Why EcoProducts Baobab Powder?
Recent tests by Brunswick Laboratories (a leader in bioanalytical solutions serving the food nutraceutical industry) have indicated that baobab fruit powder’s bioavailability exceeds that of acai, pomegranate and grape seed extracts which fall between 15 and 60 on the test scale. Baobab fruit powder scored 220.
Magnesium is important in its active role of transporting potassium and calcium (ions) across cell membranes important for nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction and normal heart rhythm. Magnesium also interacts with potassium, helping to regulate the movement of potassium in and out of our cells. As Baobab powder is rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, a naturally balanced relationship exists between all three minerals.
The nutritional content is preserved in the handling and processing of baobab powder. The baobab fruit is one of the few fruits to dry out completely while still on the tree and the pods are only harvested when they fall to the ground. All we do is separate the powder from the seeds (which we press to get Baobab oil) and then sieve it to give it the wonderfully fine, silky textured powder which mixes easily into foods and drinks that EcoProducts has become known for.
Baobab powder has been safely consumed for thousands of years and Baobab fruit powder received its GRAS certification (Generally Recognised As Safe) from the FDA in 2008.
“EcoProducts baobab powder is a natural source of potassium”
How to enjoy Baobab Powder
Mix a teaspoon or two into your breakfast cereal or porridge or add a tablespoon to your favourite fruit smoothie or green drink. Click here for our recipes.
Because it’s a natural food, there’s no cut and dried formula for how much Baobab powder to consume a day. However, to enjoy the full benefits of baobab powder and for optimum results, as a general rule we recommend taking around 2 tablespoons a day. This will provide 264mg potassium.
“Two tablespoons of Baobab powder (12g) will give you approximately 264mg of potassium”
- Patrick Holford The Optimum Nutrition Bible 1997