A person’s diet plays a crucial role when it comes to heart health. Heart-healthy foods like oatmeal, berries, tuna, and nuts can keep the heart in tip-top shape. Aside from this, there are other foods that are good at protecting the heart – bananas and avocados.
According to a study published in JCI Insight, both fruits contain a high amount of potassium, a mineral which is necessary for a healthy heart. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have conducted a study wherein they used a mouse prone to developing atherosclerosis, a disease wherein the arteries narrow due to plaque build-up. For 30 weeks, the mice subsisted on a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet that contained varying levels of dietary potassium: low potassium (0.3 percent weight/weight), normal potassium (0.7 percent wt/wt), and high potassium (2.1 percent wt/wt).
The animals in the low-potassium group showed signs of increased vascular calcification and aortic stiffness as compared to the normal-potassium mice. On the other hand, reductions in calcification and stiffness were marked in the high-potassium group.
Closer examination revealed the full and direct impact of potassium on the heart. The researchers discovered highly calcified arterial rings in the low-potassium group upon looking at arterial cross-sections. The opposite was observed in the arterial rings of the high-potassium group.
Following this, the researchers then examined the effects of low-potassium cell culture on vascular smooth muscle cells. Under these conditions, the expression of numerous gene markers associated with bone cells surged exponentially. However, there was a decrease in the expression of vascular smooth muscle cells and this indicates that a low-potassium environment could cause these markers to transform into bone-like cells.
The researchers noted that this reaction can be caused by several factors of the low-sodium environment. Most notably, the intracellular calcium of vascular smooth muscle cells was elevated through a potassium transport channel known as the inward rectifier potassium channel. Additionally, the activation of downstream mediators such as protein kinase C and cAMP response element-binding protein (CERB) seemed to further encourage calcification.
The researchers concluded that:
“In summary, we have determined a causative link between reduced dietary potassium and vascular calcification in atherosclerosis. These findings provide molecular insights into the previously unappreciated regulation of vascular calcification and stiffness by low potassium intake and emphasize the need to consider dietary intake of potassium in the prevention of vascular complications of atherosclerosis.”
A “Smoothie” Way Of Getting Your Daily Fix
Bananas and avocados are simply the best for your daily dose of potassium. They can be enjoyed as is or be made into a delicious and satisfying smoothie added with dark leafy greens like spinach.
However, if you bet for a sweet and creamy banana and avocado smoothie, simply follow the recipe below.
1 soft and peeled medium-sized avocado
1/2 cup yogurt (Greek or unsweetened are preferable)
3 teaspoons natural sweetener of your choice (Honey or maple syrup work well in this recipe)
1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk of your choice (Almond milk and rice milk are ideal)
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
Toss the banana, avocado, and yogurt into a blender and blend until smooth. Throw in the remaining ingredients and blend until everything is evenly mixed. Transfer to a glass or mason jar and enjoy.