Potassium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in the transmission of electrical impulses through the central nervous system, and in regulating the smooth, natural rhythms of the beating heart. It mediates important cellular chemical reactions required for nutrients to pass into cells, and it helps to maintain the body’s water balance. Potassium also helps regulate stable blood pressure levels and may help in the prevention of strokes. Persons with higher intake of potassium evidence fewer cases of hypertension, and when potassium-rich foods are consumed, blood pressure rates drop.
Diurectics and laxatives can lead to a deficiency of potassium, resulting in retarded growth and development, muscle weakness, heart and kidney damage, mental confusion, and apathy. Potassium deficiency can also be the result of excess vomiting, chronic diarrhea, diabetic acidosis, and kidney disease. Extreme cases of deficiency can lead to dehydration, heart failure and even death.
The minimum daily requirement for potassium ranges from 120 milligrams for a baby, and up to 500 milligrams for an adult. In the United States, the average adult intake of potassium is approximately 1200 milligrams per day.
Persons on low-calorie diets may develop abnormal levels of blood sugar which may be helped by taking potassium supplements. Foods high in potassium include dairy products, fish, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brewers yeast, brown rice, raisins, potatoes, legumes, meat, poultry, vegetables and whole grains.