Diets for Hyperkalemia

Hyperkalemia is a condition characterized by high levels of potassium in the bloodstream 1. According to Medline Plus, the kidneys are responsible for excreting excess potassium from the body, so when levels are high it’s usually due to decreased functioning of the kidneys--such as acute or chronic kidney failure, glomerulonephritis, obstructive uropathy or rejection of a kidney transplant 1. Hyperkalemia often has no symptoms, says Medline Plus, but may cause irregular heartbeat, nausea or a slow, weak or absent pulse 1. Long-term treatment of hyperkalemia involves following a low-potassium diet, which consists of about 2,000mg to 3,000mg potassium per day 12.

Low-Potassium Fruits

Fruits are one of the primary sources of potassium in the diet 2. A person with hyperkalemia should limit fruits that are high in potassium 1. Greenwich Hospital recommends cooking frozen fruit in water, then rinsing and draining the water to help reduce the amount of potassium in fruit. In addition, choose low-potassium fruits such as:

  • apples
  • applesauce
  • apple juice
  • apricot nectar
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cranberries
  • cranberry juice cocktail
  • grapes
  • grape juice
  • fruit cocktail
  • papaya nectar
  • canned peaches
  • peach nectar
  • canned pears
  • pineapple
  • plums
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • watermelon to reduce overall potassium intake 2

Low-Potassium Vegetables

Greenwich Hospital recommends limiting high-potassium vegetables as well. It recommends rinsing and draining canned vegetables to help reduce potassium content. Low-potassium vegetables include:

  • alfalfa sprouts
  • canned bamboo shoots
  • bean sprouts
  • canned beets
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • corn
  • cucumber
  • endive
  • eggplant
  • green beans
  • all types of lettuce
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • radishes 2

Because potatoes are naturally high in potassium, the University of California San Francisco Children’s Hospital suggests trying reduced-potassium potatoes. To make reduced-potassium potatoes, peel and cut potatoes, place them in a pot of unsalted water and allow them to stand for two hours. Then drain, rinse and drain the potatoes again, cook them in a large amount of unsalted water, then drain and discard the water

Other Low-Potassium Foods

There are a few non-fruits and vegetables that contain potassium that people with hyperkalemia need to limit--such as:

  • milk
  • bran
  • whole grains
  • peas
  • beans
  • nuts
  • chocolate
  • licorice 1

Additional Tips

Greenwich Hospital suggests diligently checking food labels for potassium. It says there could be hidden sources of potassium, such as foods containing sugar substitute.