What is potassium and why is it important to you?

Potassium is a mineral found in many of the foods you eat. It plays a role in keeping your heartbeat regular and your muscles working right. It is the job of healthy kidneys to keep the right amount of potassium in your body. However, when your kidneys are not healthy, you often need to limit certain foods that can increase the potassium in your blood to a dangerous level. You may feel some weakness, numbness and tingling if your potassium is at a high level. If your potassium becomes too high, it can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack.

What is a safe level of potassium in my blood?

Ask your doctor or dietitian about your monthly blood potassium level and enter it here:

If it is 3.5–5.0………………………………You are in the SAFE zone
If it is 5.1–6.0………………………………You are in the CAUTION zone
If it is higher than 6.0………………………You are in the DANGER zone

How can I keep my potassium level from getting too high?

  • You should limit foods that are high in potassium. Your renal dietitian will help you plan your diet so you are getting the right amount of potassium.
  • Eat a variety of foods but in moderation.
  • If you want to include some high potassium vegetable in your diet, leach them before using. Leaching is a process by which some potassium can be pulled out of the vegetable. Instructions for leaching selected high potassium vegetables can be found at the end of this fact sheet. Check with your dietitian on the amount of leached high potassium vegetables that can be safely included in your diet.
  • Do not drink or use the liquid from canned fruits and vegetables, or the juices from cooked meat.
  • Remember that almost all foods have some potassium. The size of the serving is very important. A large amount of a low potassium food can turn into a high- potassium food.
  • If you are on dialysis, be sure to get all the treatment or exchanges prescribed to you.

What is a normal amount of potassium intake per day for the average healthy individual?

A normal amount of potassium in a typical diet of a healthy American is about 3500 to 4500 milligrams per day. A potassium restricted diet is typically about 2000 milligrams per day. Your physician or dietitian will advise you as to the specific level of restriction you need based on your individual health. A kidney dietitian is trained to help you make modifications to you diet in order to prevent complications for kidney disease.

What foods are high in potassium (greater than 200 milligrams per portion)?

The following table lists foods that are high in potassium. The portion size is ½ cup unless otherwise stated. Please be sure to check portion sizes. While all the foods on this list are high in potassium, some are higher than others.

High-potassium foods

Fruits

Vegetables

Other foods

Apricot, raw (2 medium)
dried (5 halves)

Acorn Squash

Bran/Bran products

Avocado (¼ whole)

Artichoke

Chocolate (1.5-2 ounces)

Banana (½ whole)

Bamboo Shoots

Granola

Cantaloupe

Baked Beans

Milk, all types (1 cup)

Dates (5 whole)

Butternut Squash

Molasses (1 Tablespoon)

Dried fruits

Refried Beans

Nutritional Supplements: Use only under the direction of your doctor or dietitian.

Figs, dried

Beets, fresh then boiled

Nuts and Seeds (1 ounce)

Grapefruit Juice

Black Beans

Peanut Butter (2 tbs.)

Honeydew

Broccoli, cooked

Salt Substitutes/Lite Salt

Kiwi (1 medium)

Brussels Sprouts

Salt Free Broth

Mango(1 medium)

Chinese Cabbage

Yogurt

Nectarine(1 medium)

Carrots, raw

Snuff/Chewing Tobacco

Orange(1 medium)

Dried Beans and Peas

Orange Juice

Greens, except Kale

Papaya (½ whole)

Hubbard Squash

Pomegranate (1 whole)

Kohlrabi

Pomegranate Juice

Lentils

Prunes

Legumes

Prune Juice

White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)

Raisins

Okra

Parsnips

Potatoes, white and sweet

Pumpkin

Rutabagas

Spinach, cooked

Tomatoes/Tomato products

Vegetable Juices

What foods are low in potassium?

The following table list foods which are low in potassium. A portion is ½ cup unless otherwise noted. Eating more than one portion can make a lower potassium food into a higher potassium food.

Low-potassium foods

Fruits

Vegetables

Other foods

Apple (1 medium)

Alfalfa sprouts

Rice

Apple Juice

Asparagus (6 spears raw)

Noodles

Applesauce

Beans, green or wax
Broccoli (raw or cooked from frozen)

Pasta

Apricots, canned in juice

Cabbage, green and red
Carrots, cooked

Bread and bread products (Not Whole Grains)

Blackberries

Cauliflower

Cake: angel, yellow

Blueberries

Celery (1 stalk)

Coffee:limit to 8 ounces

Cherries

Corn, fresh (½ ear) frozen (½ cup)

Pies without chocolate or high potassium fruit

Cranberries

Cucumber

Cookies without nuts or chocolate

Fruit Cocktail

Eggplant

Tea:limit to 16 ounces

Grapes

Kale

Grape Juice

Lettuce

Grapefruit (½ whole)

Mixed Vegetables

Mandarin Oranges

White Mushrooms, raw (½ cup)

Peaches, fresh (1 small), canned (½ cup)

Onions

Pears, fresh (1 small), canned (½ cup)

Parsley

Pineapple

Peas, green

Pineapple Juice

Peppers

Plums (1 whole)

Radish

Raspberries

Rhubarb

Strawberries

Water Chestnuts, canned

Tangerine (1 whole)

Watercress

Watermelon (limit to 1 cup)

Yellow Squash

Zucchini Squash

How do I get some of the potassium out of my favorite high-potassium vegetables?

The process of leaching will help pull potassium out of some high-potassium vegetables. It is important to remember that leaching will not pull all of the potassium out of the vegetable. You must still limit the amount of leached high-potassium vegetables you eat. Ask your dietitian about the amount of leached vegetables that you can safely have in your diet.

How to leach vegetables.

  1. Peel and place the vegetable in cold water so they won’t darken.
  2. Slice vegetable 1/8 inch thick.
  3. Rinse in warm water for a few seconds.
  4. Soak for a minimum of two hours in warm water. Use ten times the amount of water to the amount of vegetables. If soaking longer, change the water every four hours.
  5. Rinse under warm water again for a few seconds.
  6. Cook vegetable with five times the amount of water to the amount of vegetable.

References: National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium

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