If you’re a gardener I’ll bet that title and photo got your attention. Potash is a common component of fertilizers, used to provide potassium to plants. Potassium (chemical symbol K) is important for us humans too, and in generous quantities compared to other “micronutrients.” Potassium helps nerves carry signals, works to facilitate muscle contraction (including your heart muscle), and plays a key role in balancing the fluids in your body. In this regard, potassium helps counteract sodium, and is a key nutrient for helping maintain normal blood pressure.
The DASH Diet, developed by the National Institutes of Health to reduce high blood pressure, recommends we get 3 times more potassium than sodium- 4700 mg/day potassium to 1500 mg/day sodium in the most effective blood pressure lowering plan. Getting adequate potassium is important to diabetes in part because managing blood pressure is so important to diabetes. Diabetes and high blood pressure are in a photo finish for the first and second leading causes of kidney failure, so managing blood glucose and blood pressure are both incredibly important.
Dietary potassium has an important direct relationship with diabetes too. Some studies have shown, for instance, that low levels of potassium negatively impact blood glucose levels, but getting adequate potassium presents an interesting challenge. Why? Because many foods rich in potassium are also rich in carbohydrate. Two familiar potassium powerhouses- potato and banana- have 5 or 6 grams of carbohydrate per ounce. Other rich sources of potassium include white beans, apricots, yogurt and hard shell squashes- all also carbohydrate containing foods.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach and some fish, salmon in particular, will provide potassium too, but we should not avoid the carbohydrate foods that give us potassium. Making room in your eating plan for potassium rich carbohydrate foods is one way that putting some thought into your meals can pay off big time. There’s plenty of room for those carbs if you manage other nonessential carbohydrates carefully. Make sure you get enough potassium – it’s a powerful nutrient where long term diabetes health is concerned.