Potassium is an essential mineral necessary for vital organs to function correctly. A healthy diet is sufficient to obtain the daily potassium requirements. Certain medical conditions can cause high potassium levels in the blood also known as hyperkalemia. Too much potassium can lead to severe and even fatal consequences. These patients are typically required to adhere to a low potassium diet. Luckily, several foods are low in potassium and can be part of a complete diet. Several high potassium foods should be avoided to maintain healthy levels.
High Potassium Levels
We often associate high potassium levels with a medical condition in the kidneys. If the kidneys can’t remove the excess potassium, it builds up causing high levels in the blood. This can happen because of certain medications like antibiotics or high blood pressure medications. It also occurs most commonly in people suffering from acute kidney failure or chronic kidney disease. High potassium levels can lead to sudden drastic changes in heart rhythm that can be deadly.
Symptoms of High Potassium
For patients who are unaware of a high potassium issue, there may be no apparent symptoms at all. Once the levels reach a dangerous level, the symptoms become clear. The most common complaints with high potassium levels are of fatigue and weakness. Other symptoms include abnormal heart rhythm, a slow heart rate, nausea and vomiting, and chest pains. High levels are usually confirmed with bloodwork and treated with IV calcium or insulin and glucose to help flush the excess potassium.
Whole Grain Products
It’s hard to believe that there is a situation where whole grains are not advised because they are typically an encouraged as part of a healthy diet. The problem with these products is they are often high in potassium. For someone who needs a low potassium diet, whole grain products aren’t ideal. These include bread, pasta, and cereal, especially whole wheat products.
Nuts and seeds don’t have as much potassium in them as some other foods, but they do contain a decent amount. The problem is many products contain nuts so it can add up. Meatier nuts like almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and pistachios are all high in potassium. Seeds like sunflower seeds are also high in potassium and should be avoided by those watching potassium levels.
Bran products are sort of like the whole grain products that aren’t typically considered to be “bad” for you. Again, in a person with high potassium levels, some of these products post a danger. Cereals like raisin brans, all bran cereals, and cereals high in bran and fiber are all high in potassium. Other products like bars and muffins that contain a high amount of bran should be off the menu during a low potassium diet.
Meats High in Potassium
Meats aren’t the first thing you think of when you think of high potassium content, but there are a few to keep out of the diet. Foods are typically considered high in potassium if they have more than 200mg. Many types of meat like tuna and chicken fall near those levels and are considered okay to eat. Serving size plays a large role in the healthy consumption of these products. Beef cuts tend to have a high potassium level and should be avoided.
Vegetables High in Potassium
Vegetables are a great source of potassium, which makes them a potential danger. There are several vegetables to try to limit or avoid while on a low potassium diet. Some of the vegetables highest in potassium are asparagus, butter beans, okra, white and sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach and other greens, and Brussels sprouts. Not to worry there are still plenty of healthy vegetables to enjoy like cucumbers, peppers, and green beans.
Fruits High in Potassium
Like vegetables, fruits are an excellent source of potassium. The one that most people are familiar with for its potassium is a banana. Avoid these fruits if you are on a low potassium diet. Other fruits to avoid include apricots, dates, kiwi, oranges, pears, avocados, cantaloupe, and honeydew melons. Low potassium replacement options include fresh berries, lemons, canned pears, papaya nectar, and cranberries.
How Much Potassium is Safe?
The normal recommendations of potassium daily requirements are around 4700 mg. The daily amount recommended for a low potassium diet is 2000 mg per day but may range because everyone’s situation is different. A doctor will advise on how many milligrams to consume on a daily basis and those numbers should be followed strictly.
Have you heard of leaching potassium out of vegetables? Yes, you can actually remove some or all of the potassium content of food so that it is safe to consume on a low potassium diet. It is a process often for people with kidney disease. The process starts with peeling the vegetables and rinsing them thoroughly. They are then put in a pot of water for a minimum of four hours, usually overnight is easiest. Then they are rinsed and cooked as normal. There are other methods where you boil the water as well. You can find all the information on the internet and practice the technique.’