photo of preparing healthy meal
In This Article

Hyperkalemia is when you have too much potassium in your blood. Your body needs some potassium to help your muscles contract, keep your fluid levels balanced, and control your blood pressure. But too much of this mineral can cause dangerously abnormal heart rhythms. 

Diet is one way to bring high potassium levels down and protect your heart.

A low-potassium diet doesn't have to be complicated or restrictive. You can still eat a variety of foods you love. 

If you're not sure how to get started, ask your doctor for advice or for a referral to a dietitian. A dietitian can help you create a meal plan that gives you just the right amount of potassium but still suits your lifestyle and your taste.

How Much Potassium Should I Eat?

The usual recommendation for healthy adults is to eat at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily. The kidneys then remove any extra potassium that your body doesn’t need through urine. But if you have hyperkalemia, your kidneys aren’t doing that job. So you’ll need to lower your potassium yourself through diet. A low-potassium diet should include no more than 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of potassium daily. 

High-Potassium Foods to Limit

Many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products are good sources of potassium. The ones that contain 200 milligrams or more per serving fall into the high-potassium category, and you’ll need to steer clear of them.

Avoid these foods or eat them only in small amounts:

Fruits and fruit juices:

  • Apricots
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew melon
  • Grapefruit
  • Mango
  • Pomegranate
  • Raisins, dates, and other dried fruits
  • Oranges, orange juice, and nectarines
  • Papaya

Vegetables and legumes:

  • Artichoke
  • Black, kidney, pinto, and navy beans 
  • Cooked broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Raw cabbage
  • Raw carrots
  • Lentils
  • White and sweet potatoes
  • Cooked spinach
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes (including sauce and juice)

Nuts and seeds:

  • Most nuts
  • Most seeds
  • Peanut butter

Meat, poultry, and fish:

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Salmon
  • Scallops
  • Lobster

Grains:

  • Whole-grain breads
  • Wheat bran
  • Granola
  • Wheat germ

Dairy products:

  • Milk
  • Yogurt

Drinks:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Soy milk
  • Sports drinks

Lower-Potassium Foods

These foods are safer to eat with hyperkalemia because they contain less than 200 milligrams of potassium per serving. 

Fruits:

  • Apples
  • Berries blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Green or wax beans
  • Cooked carrots
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Green peas

Grains:

  • Foods made with white flour
  • White pasta
  • White rice

Meat, poultry, and fish:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Eggs
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp

Dairy products:

  • Cheddar and Swiss cheese
  • Cottage cheese

Nuts and seeds:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Chia, flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds

Tips to Lower Potassium in Your Diet

While you cut back on high-potassium foods, here are a few other ways to reduce the amount of potassium you eat.

Read food labels

It's hard to know how much potassium packaged foods contain without reading the labels. The Nutrition Facts label includes the amount of potassium in each serving. 

Measure out servings

Even with low-potassium foods, you'll want to watch your serving size. If you eat too much of them, you could take in more of this mineral than you intended. Use a measuring cup to get the serving size just right. A food app or smartphone calculator can help you keep track of your daily potassium totals.

Drain liquids

The liquid surrounding canned fruits and vegetables contains potassium. Drain and rinse these products before you eat them to reduce the potassium content. Also drain the juices from cooked meat.

Leach vegetables

Leaching is a process that pulls extra potassium out of raw or frozen vegetables. Here's how you do it:

First, peel the vegetable. Then slice it into thin strips (1/8-inch thick). 

Rinse it in warm water for a few seconds. Place the vegetable into a bowl of warm water. For every 1 cup of vegetable, use 10 cups of water. Soak for at least 2 hours. You can leave the vegetables soaking overnight, but try to change the water once every 4 hours. 

Rinse again in warm water. Cook using 5 cups of salted water for every 1 cup of vegetable. Finally, drain the cooking water.

This process will remove some, but not all, of the potassium in foods. You still want to be careful not to go overboard on high-potassium vegetables.

Avoid salt substitutes

Some people with high blood pressure use these products instead of salt to flavor their food. But just a quarter-teaspoon of a typical salt substitute contains about 800 milligrams of potassium. For anyone with hyperkalemia, alternatives like pepper, garlic, or lemon juice are a safer way to season food.

Other Ways to Reduce Potassium

Here are a few other things you can do to manage hyperkalemia.

Follow your treatment plan. Your doctor may have prescribed medications like these to bring down your potassium level:

  • Diuretics. Also known as "water pills," diuretics help your kidneys make more urine. Extra potassium leaves your body when you pee.
  • Potassium binders. These medicines attach to potassium in your intestines to remove more of it in your poop.

Avoid herbal remedies or supplements. Check with your doctor before you take any of these products. Some of them can be high in potassium.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: mixetto / Getty Images

SOURCES:

Cleveland Clinic: "Hyperkalemia (High Potassium)."

Harvard Medical School: "Can a Salt Substitute Cause High Potassium Levels?"

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Potassium."

National Kidney Foundation: "Hyperkalemia (High potassium)," "Potassium in Your CKD Diet," "Six Steps to Controlling High Potassium."

UpToDate: "Low-Potassium Diet (Beyond the basics)."