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Learning About Chronic Kidney Disease and Potassium

What is potassium?

Potassium is a mineral. It helps keep the right mix of fluids in your body. It also helps your nerves, muscles, and heart work properly.

How does chronic kidney disease affect potassium levels?

Healthy kidneys keep the right balance of minerals in your blood. This includes potassium.

If you have long-term (chronic) kidney disease, it is hard for your kidneys to control the amount of potassium in your blood. You may get too much potassium. This can be harmful.

In some cases, other medicines may make your body get rid of too much potassium. If this happens, you may need to take a potassium supplement.

How can you get the right amount of potassium in your diet?

You can learn how much potassium is in certain foods. Then you can control how much potassium you get in your diet.

Your doctor or dietitian can help you plan a diet that gives you the right amount of potassium. There is no diet that is right for everyone. Your diet will be based on how well your kidneys are working and whether you are on dialysis.

Your diet may change as your disease changes. See your doctor for regular testing. Testing helps you know when to change your diet. Your doctor or dietitian can help you do this.

Changing your diet can be hard. But it is very important to make the recommended changes. They will help you stay healthy for as long as possible.

What foods and products have potassium?

You can control the amount of potassium in your diet if you know which foods are low or high in potassium.

Foods low in potassium

  • Blueberries, apples, cherries, strawberries, watermelon, honeydew melon, and raspberries
  • White or brown rice, pasta, and noodles
  • Cucumbers, radishes, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, peas, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and hummus
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce can be lower in potassium if you eat less than ½ raw tomato or ¼ cup (60 mL) at a time

Foods high in potassium

  • Oranges, prunes, kiwi fruit, avocado, and bananas
  • Bok choy, butternut squash, cooked greens (such as spinach, Swiss chard, and beet greens), and potatoes
    • Tip to lower potassium: Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes or shred before boiling. Discard the water.
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Avoid processed foods that have reduced salt. Many of these foods replace salt with potassium. Always check the ingredient list.
  • Foods higher in potassium that can be enjoyed in smaller amounts
    • Nuts and seeds. Limit to 2 tbsp (30 mL) per serving.
    • Prune juice. Limit to ¼ cup (60 mL) daily.
    • Dried beans and legumes (cooked). Limit to ½ cup (125 mL) a week.
    • Milk and yogurt. Limit all milk products to 1 cup (250 mL) daily.

Other products that may have potassium

  • Diet or protein drinks and diet bars often have potassium. It is also in sports drinks, such as Gatorade. These are meant to replace potassium you lose during exercise.
  • Do not use a salt substitute or "lite" salt without talking to your doctor first. These often are very high in potassium.
  • Avoid packaged foods that have potassium additives. See potassium and your kidney diet to learn more about potassium foods and additives.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you take. Some medicines can raise your level of potassium.
  • Learn more about eating well for chronic kidney disease.

Where can you learn more?

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