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Nutrition Basics: What Is Potassium?

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Potassium is an important mineral found naturally in many foods. What does potassium do for the body? It helps keep your heartbeat regular and your muscles and nerves working well. When you’re living with CKD, kidneys have trouble keeping your potassium level balanced, which could put your health at risk.

Too much OR too little potassium could cause:

  • Tingling and numbness in your toes and fingers
  • Muscle weakness, cramping, fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat or palpitations
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WHAT TO REMEMBER:

Know Your Potassium - Ask your care team about your target potassium level.

How much potassium per day is right for me?

A healthy range for your potassium level is 3.5-5.0 mEq/L if you’re living with a CKD and 3.5-5.5 mEq/L if you have ESRD. If your potassium level is too high or too low, your care team can help you choose the best fruits and vegetables in the right amount to maintain a healthy potassium balance. Some example are listed below.

LOW POTASSIUM FOODS INCLUDE:

  • Apple
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Pear
  • Pineapple
  • Tangerines
  • Plums
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Greens
  • Spinach (raw)
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Yellow Squash
  • Turnips
  • Water Chestnuts (canned)

Fruits: 1 small piece or 1/2 cup. Choose fresh, canned, or frozen fruits. If dried, only 1/4 cup.
Vegetables: 1/2 cup fresh or cooked or 1 cup raw leafy

HIGH POTASSIUM FOODS INCLUDE:

  • White Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomato products
  • Avocados
  • Spinach (cooked)
  • Orange juice
  • Bananas
  • Fresh melons
  • Raisins
  • Dried apricots
  • Beets
  • Nectarines
  • Papaya
  • Salt substitutes*

Fruits: 1 small piece or 1/2 cup. Choose fresh, canned, or frozen fruits. If dried, only 1/4 cup.
Vegetables: 1/2 cup fresh or cooked or 1 cup raw leafy

*Salt substitutes contain potassium chloride and therefore are high in potassium.

What causes high potassium?

Healthy kidneys help regulate potassium levels. In early stage CKD, your potassium level may stay normal. In later-stage CKD, as kidneys lose function, your potassium level may get too high—or too low. If your potassium level is too high, work with your dietitian and your care team to get it back into your target potassium range. It’s important to address a high potassium level immediately, since it puts your health at serious risk. 

Find out how to lower potassium levels

Here are some tips for lowering potassium in your diet:

  • Try salt-free and potassium-free herbs and spices—avoid “salt substitutes” that contain potassium chloride.
  • Check ingredient lists for added potassium—especially in processed foods labeled “low sodium” or “reduced sodium.”
  • If you’re on dialysis, complete all of your treatments exactly as prescribed—to help maintain the target potassium level.
  • Talk to your care team if you have any digestive issues, high blood sugar or are taking any herbal and/or vitamin supplements—these may affect your potassium level.
Seasoned diced potatoes

TRY THIS SIMPLE METHOD FOR LOWERING POTASSIUM IN POTATOES

Double-boiling potatoes—white or sweet (yams)—removes some potassium for a delicious, healthier side dish. Peel potatoes, then slice or dice into small pieces. Place potatoes in a pot with large amount of water and bring to a boil. Drain, refill with a large amount of fresh water and boil potatoes a second time until soft and tender.

Explore kidney friendly recipes

COOK YOUR OWN KIDNEY-FRIENDLY MEALS

When you cook for yourself, you can take charge of your own phosphorus, sodium, and more. For more help crafting your own kidney-friendly diet, check out our recipes!

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