It’s always nice when a favorite snack is actually good for you, and that’s exactly what you get with walnuts. Yes, they’re a bit high in calories so you still have to watch portion size, but walnuts are like little packages of nutrients. Regularly snacking on walnuts may reduce your risk of heart disease, which is partly due to their potassium content.
Potassium is essential for muscles and nerves to work properly. Along with several other minerals, potassium conducts electricity, which means it helps create the waves of electrical impulses that stimulate nerves and that make muscles contract and relax, including your heart muscles. One of its most critical roles is regulating your heart beat, but potassium also helps keep fluids in your body balanced and it’s needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates.
Potassium in Walnuts
One ounce of walnuts, which is about 14 halves, has 0.13 grams of potassium. Women should consume 4.7 grams of potassium daily, so this portion has 2.76 percent of the daily amount. Pregnant women have the same requirement, but if you’re breastfeeding, you should increase daily potassium intake to 5.1 grams.
Besides its obvious role keeping your heart beating, potassium helps control blood pressure because it moderates the effect of sodium. Higher intakes of potassium are associated with a reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, according to research published in the March 2008 issue of the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology.” The “Journal of Medicinal Food” published research in September 2011 stating that eating 1 ounce of English walnuts daily may lower your risk of heart disease and contribute to healthy arteries. It did not cause weight gain in the 36 study participants.
Low potassium may be a concern for athletes or anyone who engages in vigorous exercise because it's lost with heavy sweating. Most athletes can restore the amount they lose during one to two hours of activity by eating foods that are good sources of the mineral, such as walnuts, raisins, bananas and oranges. Eating salted walnuts also restores sodium lost during exercise. Low potassium, called hypokalemia, can also be caused by kidney disease, or result from the loss of fluids due to diarrhea or vomiting. Symptoms include fatigue and muscle cramps. A severe deficiency is life threatening, so seek immediate medical attention if you experience heart arrhythmia or loss of muscle control.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Potassium
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Nuts, Walnuts, English
- Tufts University: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids
- Purdue University: Meeting Energy Needs
- PubMed Health: Hypokalemia
- American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Potassium Intake, Stroke, and Cardiovascular Disease -- A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Cardiovascular Effects of Consumption of Black Versus English Walnuts
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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