Your kidneys are responsible for regulating minerals and fluids in the body. One example is potassium, a mineral responsible for contributing to nerve and muscle function that keeps your heart beating regularly, according to Up to Date. If you experience kidney—also known as renal—failure, your kidneys cannot adequately filter potassium. Your physician may recommend a low-potassium diet.
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If you experience kidney failure, your body cannot filter a sufficient amount of potassium from the body. As a result, the excess potassium upsets the fluid balance in the body, resulting in muscle weakness, nausea and irregular heartbeat, according to Up to Date. When you have potassium levels above 5 meq/L, this is known as hyperkalemia. Your physician may recommend a low-potassium diet to prevent or reduce this condition’s effects.
Potassium counts are listed on food labels, which allows you to closely monitor your intake. While you should consult your doctor on the best number for you, most patients with kidney failure should consume between 1,500 and 2,700 mg of potassium per day—the typical recommended daily allowance is 4,700 mg, according to Up to Date.
Foods to Choose
With limited exceptions, all foods contain some amount of potassium, according to Up to Date. When consuming a low-potassium diet, aim to eat foods that contain less than 250 mg of potassium per serving. Examples of low-potassium foods include eggs, shrimp, chicken, asparagus, onions, green peas, grapes, peaches and berries. The best identification method is to read nutrition labels—you cannot tell a food is high in potassium by simply looking at it.
Foods to Avoid
Up to Date defines a high-potassium food as one that contains more than 250 mg of potassium. Many vegetables and dairy products contain this high potassium level. Examples of very high potassium foods include avocado, beans, Brussels sprouts, black-eyed peas, corn on the cob, okra, parsnips, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, figs, kiwi fruit, oranges and watermelon, according to the End State Renal Disease Network of Texas. Chocolate and nuts also should be avoided, according to the American Association of Kidney Patients. It is best to consume these foods only in small serving sizes or replace them entirely for a low-potassium option.
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommends dicing and boiling potatoes in water in order to reduce the amount of potassium. Because potassium is attracted to water, some of the mineral can seep out of the food. You also should pay close attention to portion control—if you eat a high-potassium food, such as a pear, eat only half the pear to reduce potassium intake. You also may consider speaking with your dietitian to identify low-potassium foods that can replace high-potassium foods you currently enjoy.