When you think of potassium, most people do not generally think of an essential mineral that is necessary for human life. Potassium occurs all over the earth and is essential for all life, growth and development of the life span. In the human body, potassium is found in body fluids and tissue and is necessary for biological processes. As an essential mineral, it is necessary to regulate fluids and electrolytes in the body.
This mineral is also necessary for controlling acidity levels in the body as well as blood pressure and neuromuscular functioning. Normal functioning depends of a delicate balance of the proper potassium levels both on the inside and outside of the cells. Potassium is imperative for transmitting electrical impulses in the human heart. One theory behind high blood pressure is that the average diet contains too much sodium which is worsened by a diet low in potassium.
If you are trying to increase the amount of potassium in your diet the primary food sources of potassium are fruits and vegetables. This is probably one of the reasons why a vegetarian diet prevents high blood pressure. The primary sources of dietary potassium are both fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, kelp, rice and wheat bran, potatoes, bananas, orange juice, apricots, unsalted nuts, seeds and grains, mushrooms, molasses and seafood.
It is important to be aware of your cooking conditions if you are trying to increase your potassium levels because it can be lost easily through cooking methods. The best way to retain potassium is by cooking in a small amount of water for a short period of time. It is rare to be deficient in potassium if you eat a balanced diet. However if you do not eat many fruits, or have gastrointestinal disorders, diarrhea or prolonged diuretic or laxative use, you may have a deficiency. If you are deficient in potassium you will have extreme fatigue and muscle weakness.
Other symptoms of a deficiency in potassium are depression, growth impairment, headaches, insomnia, acne, dry eyes, respiratory problems, and decreased fertility. It is important to stay away from a diet that is high in salt and refined foods. If you take diuretics or drink large amounts of water you may also flush your body of potassium.
It is rare that you would need a potassium supplement as long as you are healthy and eat a balanced diet. If you ingest too much potassium you could be at risk for hyperkalemia which occurs when there is more potassium than the kidneys can handle. This is a serious condition that may lead to death.