Potassium is one of the most misunderstood nutrients in kidney disease. Do you need to avoid potassium? How much potassium is okay to have? Read on to learn all about potassium and kidney disease.
Let’s get started!
- What is a low potassium diet?
- Who needs a low potassium diet?
- Potassium levels
- Foods to avoid on a low potassium diet
- Recommended foods on a low potassium diet
- Beans, nuts & seeds on a low potassium diet
- Benefits of a high potassium diet
What is a low potassium diet?
There is not an official definition of a “low potassium diet”. But, aiming for less than 2,000mg of potassium per day is a good goal if you need to limit potassium.
Who needs a low potassium diet?
The most important thing to remember about potassium and kidney disease is that potassium needs are different for everyone. Some people with kidney disease need a lot of potassium. Others need to limit potassium.
Normal Potassium Level
A normal potassium level is between 3.5 – 5.0 mmol/L. Both a low and high potassium level can be unhealthy.
High Potassium Level
People with kidney disease are more likely to have high potassium (or, hyperkalemia). Your kidneys get rid of extra potassium in your urine. When your kidneys are not working properly, extra potassium can build up in your body.
Remember that many different factors can impact your potassium level. Constipation, some medications, blood sugar and acid levels can impact potassium levels. How much potassium you eat is only a piece of the puzzle.
Bottom line, work with your doctor or dietitian to know how much potassium you should eat.
Foods to avoid on a low potassium diet
Of course, the first step to following a low potassium diet is staying away from foods high in potassium. Remember, there is at least a little potassium in nearly everything we eat. So, you cannot completely cut potassium out of your diet.
High potassium foods
- Most dried fruits
- Sweet Potatoes
- Tomatoes (especially tomato sauce)
- Cooked greens (like spinach or collards)
- Pumpkin and other winter squash
- Brussels sprouts
- Milk & dairy products
Potassium food additives
Food additives are a significant, and commonly forgotten source of potassium in our diet. Potassium is added to many processed foods and can easily double the amount of potassium in food! 
Common sources of potassium food additives
- Processed meat (deli or lunch meat, bacon, sausage, corned beef)
- Artificially sweetened drinks
- Meat from fast food restaurants
- Low sodium products (especially canned soups)
- Frozen or canned prepared food
- Canned or bottled dressings and sauces
- Salty snack foods like cheese puffs
Recommended foods on a low potassium diet
Low potassium vegetables
- Lettuce (all types except spinach)
- Bell Peppers
- Green onions
- Yellow squash
- Green Beans
Low potassium fruits
Lower potassium dairy swaps
- Non-dairy cheese and yogurt
Beans, nuts & seeds on a low potassium diet
Plant proteins such as beans, nuts and seeds can be high in potassium. However, animal proteins like beef, pork, chicken, fish and seafood have a lot of potassium in them too.
Because we know that plant proteins are less harmful to your kidneys than animal proteins, eating beans, nuts and seeds is good for your kidneys. 
Make sure to ask your dietitian what is right for you!
Benefits of a high potassium diet
If your blood potassium levels are normal, then a HIGH potassium diet may be good for you. A high potassium diet, such as the “DASH” diet, is ideal for lowering blood pressure. A typical DASH diet has around 4,700mg of potassium per day.
If you don’t need it, a low potassium diet could rob you of the heart healthy benefits of potassium!