Our eating habits say a lot about our overall health, right? For instance, you may not look overly obese and yet you have high cholesterol levels, if you’re on fast food diet 6 days a week then that’s not very surprising at all. If you're the type who munches on sugary treats like there’s no tomorrow then you’re probably at risk of diabetes – that is if you don’t have one already. But if your diet includes avocado, banana, spinach, yogurt, coconut water, lentils, mushrooms, tomatoes, milk, and the likes, you'd think it’s very unlikely that something is wrong with your body, right? Well, not entirely. Because all these foods are high-potassium foods. If it turns out that you have hyperkalemia (high potassium) then you may be in some kind of trouble if you don't tweak your diet to include low potassium foods.
First off, what is potassium – it is a mineral that is vital for our health to ensure that our muscles working properly keeping our heartbeat regular. It also aids in making sure nutrients reach and waste products leave our cells. It is our kidney that is responsible for keeping the right amount of potassium in our bodies. If you have issues with your kidney then you pretty much know where this is going. The same goes if you have a high-potassium diet or taking medications that contain potassium.
Hyperkalemia or high potassium is a medical condition in which potassium levels in the blood are too high. A potassium test using blood (or urine in some situations) can measure the amount of potassium in your blood. A safe or normal potassium level for adults is between 3.5 and 5 millimoles per liter. A reading that is above 6.5 mmol/L can already cause heart problems and actually require urgent medical conditions.
It’s quite hard to detect mild hyperkalemia because it has no signs. That is especially true when you’re also confident that you’re eating healthy, thereby expecting no health issues whatsoever. It’s only when you’ve reached dangerously high potassium levels that symptoms become more pronounced and noticeable. Symptoms include chest pain, heart palpitations, and muscle weakness. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms as well but these can be easily mistaken for other health issues. It can really become very tricky. This is why you may also want to check for your potassium blood level as part of your regular checkup.
According to the National Academy of Medicine, the Adequate Intake (AI) for potassium for women ranges from 2,300mg to 2,600mg. For men, it ranges from 3,000mg to 3,400mg. The US Dietary Reference Intakes don’t have an established Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for potassium so Adequate Intake (AI) is used instead. It is estimated though that the average daily intake of potassium in adults is about 3,016mg for men and 2,320mg for women.
If it turns out that you do have hyperkalemia then you need some replanning with your diet. Here are just 21 low potassium foods that you can start adding to your daily meal plans. See also some tips at the end of the article on how you can keep your potassium levels in check.
Table of Contents
- Low Potassium Foods
- Alfalfa sprouts
- How to Keep Your Potassium Levels in Check
Low Potassium Foods
Watercress’ mineral contents help protect bones. It’s also rich in vitamin A and C, contains calcium, folate, iron, vitamin E, and a decent amount of thiamin, iodine, potassium, and vitamins K and B6. Watercress may help lower the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
Pineapple is good for the immune system because of its high vitamin C content. It’s also an excellent source of manganese. Pineapple also contains trace amounts of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A and K. It also has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties that help in fighting infection or injury.
Rhubarb’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties come from its anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins content. It’s also a great source of vitamin K1. Other nutrients include calcium, potassium, folate, manganese, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Tangerine like all citrus fruits is rich in vitamin C. It actually contains more vitamin A than oranges. It’s also a minor source of thiamin, copper, potassium, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. Aside from boosting immunity, tangerines also help regulate blood pressure, protect the heart, and reduce the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Rice grain and rice snacks are relatively low in potassium. It’s a good source of protein and also contains thiamin, niacin, zinc, and phosphorus. Rice supports energy and also restores glycogen levels after exercising. It’s also a gluten-free grain!
Zucchini, also known as courgette is particularly high in vitamin A which is actually slightly higher when zucchinis are cooked. Zucchini also contains manganese, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, folate, copper, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and thiamine. Its antioxidants contents are apparently more concentrated on its skin.
Teas for up to 16 ounces are good for your low sodium diet. It’s known for its catechins content which is a natural antioxidant that helps in preventing cell damage and reducing the formation of free radicals in the body. Green and white teas have higher catechins content compared to black teas.
Cabbage is packed with vitamin C, in fact, half a cup of cooked cabbage contains about a third of your vitamin C RDA. It also contains fiber, potassium, folate, magnesium, and vitamins A and K. Aside from boosting the immunity system, cabbage also helps in improving digestion, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and keeping inflammation in check.
Cranberries are mainly carbs and fiber. It also contains vitamin C, manganese, vitamin E, vitamin K1, and copper. Cranberries are very high in antioxidants and bioactive compounds. It’s good for preventing urinary tract infections. It may also help in lowering blood pressure and preventing stomach cancer and ulcers.
Coffee up to 8 ounces are in the clear. And although it contains caffeine that may cause problems for some people, it does contain antioxidants and some essential nutrients as well. Coffee may protect our brain from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and also lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, liver diseases, and depression.
Corn or maize is rich in fiber. About half a cup or half an ear is fine with your low potassium diet. Corn contains pantothenic acid, folate, vitamin B6, niacin, and yes potassium. It’s also a good source of antioxidants, in fact, even in higher amounts compared to other cereal grains. Its lutein and zeaxanthin content help maintain eye health.
Alfalfa sprouts, also known as lucerne, are the immature shoots of the alfalfa plant. It’s high in vitamin K and also a great source of vitamin C, folate, copper, and manganese. It’s good for the heart and metabolic health and activity.
Blackberries’ soluble and insoluble fiber contents make them good for digestion. It’s packed with vitamin c and also high in manganese. It’s also a good source of vitamin K. Blackberries help support oral health and may also boost brain health.
Peaches are a good source of vitamin C and A. It also contains niacin, iron, folate, choline, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and vitamins E and K. It’s good for developing resistance against infections and for eliminating harmful free radicals in our body.
Eggplant is a high-fiber and low calorie and potassium food. It’s a great source of vitamins C, K, and B6, thiamine, niacin, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and folic acid. It helps boost digestion, improve heart health, prevents anemia, control blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Another good source of energy is pasta. It’s usually high in fiber, manganese, copper, selenium, and phosphorus – it basically depends on whether it’s whole-grain or refined pasta. As long as you keep your pasta recipes low sodium, you’re pretty much in the clear.
Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. It also contains various antioxidants. Apples are good for moderating blood sugar levels and promoting gut health. It may also protect against diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Celery is packed with antioxidants including flavonoids, lunularin, and bergapten. And because of its phytonutrients content, celery aid in reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, cells, blood vessels, and organs. In fact, celery, as well as celery seeds, contain about 25 anti-inflammatory compounds that can protect the body against inflammation which is linked to many illnesses.s
Blueberries’ anthocyanin content not only gives it its blue color but also acts as antioxidants and may also offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits. It’s also a great source of fiber, vitamins C and K, manganese, and other nutrients in small amounts. Blueberries can help with heart health, blood pressure, diabetes management, bone strength, and mental health.
Asparagus is one of the known well-balanced vegetables. It’s high in folic acid. It’s also a good source of fiber, potassium, thiamine, and vitamins A, B6, and C. One serving of asparagus provides over 30% RDA of folate for adults. The standard serving size of 6 medium spears should be fine with your low potassium diet.
Up to 9 grapes will only give you about 90mg of potassium which is considered low so you’re good to enjoy this delicious fruit. It’s actually a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, copper, and manganese. Its high antioxidant content helps prevent chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
How to Keep Your Potassium Levels in Check
If you have confirmed via your doctor through testing that you do have hyperkalemia or are at risk, then it’s time to do some serious job to keep your potassium levels in check.
Stick to a low-potassium diet if needed
Your doctor may require you to be on a low-potassium diet, perhaps your blood potassium levels are pretty up there if not already dangerously high. If that’s the case then be religious about your diet. Remember, you don’t want your numbers to spike too high that it will start causing life-threatening effects.
Eat a variety of foods in moderation
If you’re not on a strict low-potassium diet, then still eat a variety of foods in moderation. Almost all foods have potassium so just to be sure, eat in moderation if you’re not entirely positive if you’re eating a low potassium food. In fact, even if it’s a low potassium food, it’s still better to eat in moderation (you don’t want to eat a ton of low potassium food that pretty much equals a high-potassium one).
Check your salt substitutes
Again, the importance of reading labels. There are salt substitutes that are high in potassium. So, check yours. Be on the watch for ingredients that says potassium chloride. Do the same for sports drinks and commercial baked goods since these foods are very high in additives.
Be cautious with herbal remedies or supplements
It’s best to let your doctor know if you’re taking any herbal remedies or supplements as these likely contain ingredients that can raise potassium levels. It may also work against any medication you are taking so it’s really important that you talk (and be honest) to your doctor about it.
Drink more water
We already know that drinking water is good for our bodies. But it’s especially true if you have high potassium levels. Drink more water and remember that dehydration can make hyperkalemia worse. Hydration is important. Period. It’s a good idea to always have a water flask with you. That way you’re more likely to be reminded to drink water as you go through your day.