Food With Potassium to Avoid With Kidney Failure

Kidney failure is one of the leading causes of death in the United States today. The kidneys are responsible for eliminating toxins from the body through the urine. Therefore, when the kidneys stop working properly, fluid and waste accumulate. Kidney disease can be effectively treated with a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes. A proper diet can delay the progression of symptoms and the need for dialysis. Limiting potassium consumption is one necessary dietary change.

Kidney Function

The kidneys are bean-shaped organs that process about 200 quarts of blood daily, filtering out waste products and excess water. The waste and water become urine, which flows through the bladder, where it is released through urination. The kidneys are responsible for a complex chemical exchange; as waste materials are pulled out of the blood, the kidneys measure chemicals such as sodium, phosphorus and potassium, releasing them back into the blood to return to the body. This intricate balance is vital to life. The kidneys also release important hormones, including erythropoietin, rennin and cortisol.

Renal Failure

Kidney failure is the inability of the kidneys to eliminate all of the waste from the blood. Renal failure, also known as chronic kidney disease, occurs slowly over time 12. When failure occurs, people receive dialysis treatments. Dialysis removes the excess waste by filtering the blood through a machine. Following a renal diet can help decrease the amount of waste made by the body, thereby improving kidney function.


Potassium is a mineral that controls nerve and muscle function. Most important, it affects how steadily the heart beats. It is also responsible for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance. Healthy kidneys promote a healthy potassium level within the blood. In renal failure, potassium can rise to a dangerous level because the kidneys are not able to regulate it 1. The best way to control potassium levels in the blood is to avoid high potassium foods.

High Potassium Foods

The American Association of Kidney Patients says that potassium is found in many foods, but it is most abundant in fruits and vegetables 3. Fruits high in potassium include bananas, oranges, papayas, prunes and cantaloupe. Vegetables such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and avocados are also high in potassium. While these foods do not have to be completely avoided, smaller portions and moderation are recommended.

How to Lower Potassium Levels

According to the National Kidney Foundation, a renal dietitian can help ensure that a person's diet is well-balanced 4. A renal patient should consume a variety of foods, but in moderation. Several low potassium foods can be used in place of high potassium foods. For example, a patient may eat apples instead of cantaloupe or cucumbers in place of broccoli.