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What Do You Eat if You Have High Blood Potassium?

author image Natalie Faella
Natalie Faella has been studying nutritional sciences since 2008. Her passion for healthy living led her to earn a Bachelor of Science at the University of Connecticut in 2012, and Master of Science at Tufts University in 2014. As a Registered Dietitian, she plans to help promote health and wellness through nutrition education and counseling.
What Do You Eat if You Have High Blood Potassium?
A close-up of low-sodium pretzels. Photo Credit Marat Sirotyukov/iStock/Getty Images

Almost all foods -- meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables and legumes -- contain potassium, an important mineral necessary for the proper function of all cells, tissues and organs in your body. Hyperkalemia, a condition in which blood levels of potassium are elevated, can occur in people with kidney disease, affecting their heart rhythm and becoming life-threatening. Limiting the amount of potassium in your diet can help normalize blood levels to treat and prevent hyperkalemia. A dietitian who specializes in kidney disease can help you formulate a plan to limit dietary potassium.

High-Potassium Foods

High-potassium foods contain more than 200 milligrams per serving. For instance, 1/2 cup of black beans, lentils, yogurt, raisins, cantaloupe, cooked broccoli, spinach and white mushrooms all contain over 200 milligrams of potassium. Other servings of high-potassium foods include two apricots, one-half of a banana, one-fourth of an avocado, and 1/2 cup of oranges, sweet potatoes, artichokes, tomatoes or pumpkin. One cup of milk; 1/2 cup of bran products; 3 ounces of beef, chicken, ham, salmon, scallops or tuna; 2 tablespoons of peanut butter; and 1.5 to 2 ounces of chocolate are all high in potassium as well. Avoiding these foods, or eating only very small portions, can help treat or prevent hyperkalemia.

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Low-Potassium Foods

Low-potassium food options include 1/2-cup servings of blueberries, cherries, grapes, pineapple, lettuce, watercress, raw broccoli, white mushrooms, onions, cucumbers, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers plus white bread, rice, pasta and noodles. One medium-sized apple or plum; 1 cup of watermelon; and one-half of an ear of corn are also low in potassium. In addition, canned fruits such as pears, peaches and apricots are lower in potassium than their fresh counterparts. Low-potassium options for meat and fish include clams, canned crab, lobster, luncheon meats and corned beef, all in servings of 3 ounces or less. Three eggs, 1/4 cup of an egg substitute, one-half of a cup of oysters and 1 ounce of bacon are also low-potassium options for proteins. Be mindful of the serving size of these foods, as larger portions can contain more than 200 milligrams of potassium.

Leaching Potassium From Foods

Leaching potassium from high-potassium foods is another way to reduce the amount in your diet. This involves soaking the vegetables in a pot of warm water for at least two hours or in room temperature water for at least four hours. You can leach potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, winter squash and rutabagas. This process can, however, cause other nutrients such as water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C to be lost as well. Before soaking high-potassium vegetables, peel them, cut them into small pieces and rinse them. After soaking, rinse them again and then cooked as desired. Limit yourself to one serving, usually 1/2 cup. Check with your doctor or dietitian about the amount of leached high-potassium vegetables you can safely include in your diet.

Reducing Potassium in Your Diet

You can make simple substitutions to lower potassium. For instance, choosing vanilla- or lemon-flavored desserts and sherbet or sorbet instead of chocolate or ice cream, and snacking on unsalted popcorn, pretzels or rice cakes instead of nuts or seeds can help decrease the amount of potassium in your diet. Since many low-sodium foods or salt substitutes contain potassium, usually in the form of potassium chloride, season your foods with pepper, lemon or herb blends instead of salt substitutes.

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