What is potassium and why is it important to you?


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?

  • 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 article. 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 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) Artichoke Bran/Bran products
Avocado (¼ whole) Bamboo Shoots Chocolate (42 – 55 grams)
Banana (½ whole) Baked Beans Granola
Rock Melon Butternut Squash Milk, all types (1 cup)
Dates (5 whole) Beetroot, fresh then boiled Molasses (1 tablespoon)
Dried fruits Broccoli, cooked Nutritional Supplements: Use only under the direction of your doctor or dietitian.
Figs, dried Brussels Sprouts Nuts and Seeds (30 grams)
Grapefruit Juice Chinese Cabbage Peanut Butter (1 ½ tablespoons)
Honeydew Carrots, raw Salt Substitutes / Lite Salt
Kiwi (1 medium) Greens, except Kale Salt Free Stock
Mango (1 medium) Kohlrabi Yoghurt
Nectarine (1 medium) Lentils  
Orange (1 medium) Legumes  
Orange Juice White Mushrooms, cooked (½ cup)  
Papaya (½ whole) Okra  
Pomegranate (1 whole) Parsnips  
Pomegranate Juice Potatoes, white and sweet  
Prunes Pumpkin  
Prune Juice Swedes  
Raisins Spinach, cooked  
  Tomatoes and 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 1 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) Noodles
Applesauce Beans, green or wax Pasta
Apricots, canned in juice Cabbage, green and red Bread and bread products (Not whole grains)
Blackberries Carrots, cooked Cake: angel, yellow
Blueberries Cauliflower Coffee: limit to 1 cup
Cherries Celery (1 stalk) Pies without chocolate or high potassium fruit
Cranberries Sweetcorn, fresh (½ ear) frozen (½ cup) Biscuits without nuts or chocolate
Fruit Cocktail Cucumber Tea: limit to 2 cups
Grapes Eggplant  
Grape Juice Kale  
Grapefruit (½ whole) Lettuce  
Mandarin Oranges Mixed Vegetables  
Peaches, fresh (1 small)canned (½ cup) White Mushrooms, raw (½ cup)  
Pears, fresh (1 small)canned (½ cup) Onions  
Pineapple Parsley  
Pineapple Juice Peas, green  
Plums (1 whole) Peppers  
Raspberries Radish  
Strawberries Rhubarb  
Tangerine (1 whole) Water Chestnuts, canned  
Watermelon (limit to 1 cup) Watercress  
  Yellow Squash  
  Zucchini Squash  

How do I get some of the potassium out of my favourite 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. For Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Beetroot, Winter Squash, and Swedes:

  1. Peel and place the vegetable in cold water so they won’t darken.
  2. Slice vegetable 3 mm 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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