The Low Potassium Diet

Potassium is one of the essential minerals for the body and it is found in many of the foods you eat. Increased intake of potassium has been shown to lower blood pressure, while low intake of potassium is one of the factors that contribute to the development of high blood pressure, especially when coupled with high intake of sodium – a common problem these days, and especially ominous for Africans.

High potassium intake on the other hand stresses the kidneys, and so a low potassium diet is mandatory in cases of chronic kidney disease, CKD. Recommended daily intake for normal individuals is 4700mg. A potassium restricted diet, for example a CKD diet, should typically provide around 2000 milligrams only per day.

foods high in potassium

What does potassium regulate in your body?

Potassium is important for keeping your heartbeat regular and your muscles working right. However the amount of potassium in your blood has to be carefully controlled, by the kidneys, because high concentration of this mineral in the blood stream can be dangerous. Abnormally high levels of potassium can cause irregular heartbeat or even a heart attack.

Who Needs a Low Potassium Diet?

People with kidney disease need to limit certain foods in their diet that can increase the potassium in the blood to these dangerous levels. But this is a trade-off at best. This is because, as we have seen, increasing potassium intake has been shown to be beneficial to health in general.  Plus, low levels of potassium are linked to a number of unwelcome side-effects. These include glucose intolerance…

Low levels of potassium in the blood in addition are strongly related to glucose intolerance, which is itself a big problem for pre-diabetes and for people who may be at risk of developing diabetes.

What is the effect of potassium in the body?

Many questions have been asked about the benefit of potassium in the body… Such as; can potassium lower your blood pressure? Absolutely!

Research suggests that a higher intake of potassium may reduce the adverse effects of a high sodium intake on blood pressure. Blacks and those with hypertension may especially benefit from an increased intake of potassium, as we saw in the article on low sodium diet. It has been shown that increasing potassium intake has the effect of reducing cardiovascular disease mortality.

In addition to its effects on blood pressure, a higher potassium intake may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones, and might decrease bone loss.

One other benefit of increased potassium intake is the lowering of urinary calcium excretion. This is important in the management of hyper-calciuria and kidney stones and works to decrease the risk of osteoporosis.

Which foods contain potassium?

Foods that have higher potassium content include fruits and vegetables, milk and yogurt, and protein foods including meat and poultry, some fish, and beans and peas. Grains and grain products, fats and oils, as well as sweets typically contain much less potassium.

Fruits and vegetable together typically provide about 20% of dietary potassium intake, milk and milk products (including flavored milk provide about 11%, while meats and poultry provide around 10%. Grain-based mixed dishes such as pasta dishes, macaroni and cheese, pizza and sandwiches; these, together, account for an estimated 10% of total potassium intake.

People ask, is chicken high in potassium? And the answer is that chicken contains moderate amounts of this mineral. And so, in moderation chicken (fried/baked chicken, patties, and nuggets) should be safe for you if you are following a diet low in potassium…

Here is a list of popular foods rich in potassium, arranged highest first (units are mg per 100grams serving):

Beet greens, cooked …………………903mg


Baked potato, with skin……………531mg


Salmon, canned………………………..336mg

Carrots, baby, raw……………………..320mg

Spinach, cooked from frozen…301mg

Broccoli cooked from fresh…….291mg

Cantaloupe, raw……………………..267mg

Tomato, fresh…………………………237mg

Yoghurt, low fat, plain……………234mg


Milk (1%)…………………………………150mg

What foods are high in potassium?

For people on a normal diet, the best way to increase potassium intake is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The list of high potassium foods below is a generalized list. Those on a low potassium diet need to use these foods wisely in their diet. (These have not been arranged in any order):

Fruits: Raw apricot, Avocado, banana, cantaloupe, dates, figs, dried, most dried fruits, grapefruit juice, Honeydew, Kiwi, Mango, Nectarine, Orange, Orange Juice, Papaya, Pomegranate, Pomegranate Juice, Prunes, Prune Juice , raisins.

Vegetables: Acorn Squash, Artichoke, Bamboo Shoots, Baked Beans, Butternut Squash, Refried Beans, Beets, fresh then boiled, Black Beans, Broccoli, cooked; Brussels Sprouts, Chinese Cabbage, Carrots, raw; Dried Beans and Peas, Greens, except Kale; Hubbard Squash, Kohlrabi, Lentils, Legumes, White Mushrooms, cooked; Okra, Parsnips, Potatoes, white and sweet; Pumpkin, Rutabagas, Spinach, cooked; Tomatoes/Tomato products, Vegetable Juices, and smoothies.

Other food & non-food items: Bran/Bran products, Chocolate, Granola, Milk, all types; Molasses, Nuts and Seeds, Peanut Butter, Yogurt.  Taking snuff & chewing tobacco is also known to boost potassium intake.

What foods are low in potassium?

Fruits that are low in potassium include: Apple, Apple Juice, Applesauce, Apricots, canned in juice; Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Cranberries, Fruit Cocktail, Grapes, Grape Juice, Grapefruit, Mandarin Oranges, Peaches, Pears, Pineapple, Pineapple Juice, Plums, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tangerine, Watermelon (limit to 1 cup) .

Note however that if you take more than one serving then the a supposedly low potassium food could become a high potassium food for the person on a CKD diet…

Vegetables that are low in potassium: Alfalfa sprouts, Asparagus, Beans, green or wax; Broccoli (raw or cooked from frozen); cabbage, green and red; Carrots, cooked; Cauliflower, Celery, Corn, fresh or frozen; Cucumber, Eggplant, Kale, Lettuce, Mixed Vegetables, White Mushrooms, raw, Onions, Parsley, Peas, green; Peppers, Radish, Rhubarb, Water Chestnuts, canned; Watercress, Yellow Squash, Zucchini Squash.

And remember that eating more than one portion of these vegetables will take a supposedly low potassium food and make your daily intake higher than the recommended intake. People ask for example, is cauliflower high in potassium? And the answer is yes and no, depending how much you eat. Plus, leeching the cauliflower during cooking, as we’ll see in the next section, will reduce the potassium content…

Other foods: Rice, Noodles, Pasta, Bread and bread products (Not Whole Grains), Cake: angel, yellow; Coffee (limit to 8 ounces), Pies without chocolate or high potassium fruit, Cookies without nuts or chocolate.

How to reduce potassium content from your favorite high-potassium vegetables

This is done through the process of leaching the high-potassium vegetables. Leaching however does not pull all of the potassium out of the vegetables.

This means you still need to limit the amount of leached high-potassium vegetables you eat per serving.  If you are on a low potassium diet you may consider asking your dietitian for guidance what quantities of leached vegetables are safe to have in your diet.

Let’s end this look at the reduced potassium diet with a look at how to leach vegetables for purposes of removing excess potassium.

Instructions for leaching vegetables

For Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Beets, Winter Squash, an

d Rutabagas:

  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.



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