A low-potassium diet restricts the amount of potassium in your diet.
You may need to follow a low-potassium diet if you have a condition that can cause high potassium levels in your blood — a condition called hyperkalemia — like chronic kidney disease.
This article provides a list of foods to eat and limit on a low-potassium diet and includes a sample low-potassium diet menu.
What is a low-potassium diet and who might need to follow one?
Potassium is an essential mineral that plays an important role in proper kidney and heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission (1).
Many fruits and vegetables contain high levels of potassium but it’s also present in many other foods like dairy, meats, and seafood.
Normally, your kidneys tightly regulate the amount of potassium in your blood.
But for people whose kidneys don’t function properly, potassium blood levels can increase to harmful levels, causing irregular heart contractions, and in severe cases, heart attacks.
As such, people with advanced chronic kidney disease may need to follow a low-potassium diet to maintain normal potassium levels.
Additionally, certain medications for blood pressure like potassium-sparring diuretics and ACE inhibitors can increase your risk for hyperkalemia.
A potassium blood test measures the potassium levels in your blood, but most people with hyperkalemia experience no symptoms.
A normal blood potassium level is 3.5–5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) (1).
A low-potassium diet typically restricts potassium to about 2,000 mg per day, but your physician or dietitian will determine your specific level of restriction based on your blood potassium level and overall health (3).
For reference, the adequate intake of potassium for healthy adults is 2,600 mg per day for females and 3,400 mg for males (1).
Low-potassium diet foods to limit and eat
Knowing which foods are high and low in potassium can help guide your food choices while following a low-potassium diet.
Keep in mind that a low-potassium food can become a high-potassium food if you eat a large amount, and a high-potassium food can be considered a low-potassium food if you only eat a small amount of it.
High-potassium foods to limit
High-potassium foods contain more than 200 mg of potassium per serving.
Here are some high-potassium foods to limit in your diet:
- Vegetables: artichoke, avocado, beets, bok choy, brussels sprouts, parsnips, potatoes (sweet and white), parsnips, pumpkin, spinach, and tomatoes
- Fruits: bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, oranges, peachs, plantains, and pomegranates
- Grains: bran cereals and granola
- Proteins: beef, fish, poultry, and legumes, including black, kidney, pinto or white beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, and chickpeas
- Dairy and dairy alternatives: milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and coconut and soy milk
- Beverages: bottled or instant tea, carrot juice, coconut water, low-sodium broths, pomegranate juice, prune juice, and orange juice
Low-potassium foods to eat
Low-potassium foods contain less than 200 mg of potassium per serving.
Here are some low-potassium foods to include in your diet:
- Vegetables: asparagus, bean sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumbers, green beans, green peas, peppers, kale, lettuce, mushrooms, and onions, including green onions
- Fruits: apples, apricots, berries, cherries, fruit cocktail, grapes, lemons, limes, plums, pears, and watermelon
- Grains: oatmeal, bread, pasta, and rice
- Proteins: canned tuna, eggs, peanut butter, some vegetarian burgers, and tofu
- Dairy and dairy alternatives: almond, rice, and oat milk, cream cheese, natural cheese like cheddar or Swiss, and sour cream
- Beverages: apple juice, coffee, cranberry juice, grape juice, pineapple juice, soda, and tea
1-Day sample low-potassium diet menu
Here is a 1-day sample low-potassium diet that contains less than 2,000 mg of potassium:
- Breakfast: 1/2 cup (40 grams) oats, 1 cup (140 grams) of blueberries, and 2 whole eggs
- Snack: 2/3 cup (170 grams) Greek yogurt and 28 almonds
- Lunch: mixed-green salad topped with canned tuna, sliced radishes, green onion, and shredded carrots, and dressed with rice vinegar and sesame oil
- Snack: apple slices with 2 tbsp (33 grams) of peanut butter
- Dinner: 4 oz (112 grams) chicken breast and 6 spears of asparagus
Remember that it’s still OK to eat foods high in potassium as long as your diet consists primarily of low-potassium foods.
Tips for following a low-potassium diet
Here are some helpful tips for following a low-potassium diet:
Read nutrition labels
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list the amount of potassium their products contain on the nutrition label (4).
Therefore, you should always be reading the nutrition labels of the foods you buy to make sure they don’t consume too much of your daily potassium budget.
Keep in mind that the potassium content of different foods will vary by brand depending on how they’ve been processed and whether they contain potassium additives.
Be extra cautious of foods like broths or soups labeled as low- or reduced-sodium since some manufacturers replace sodium with a potassium additive.
Soak potatoes after cooking
Potatoes are the ultimate comfort food.
However, they are high in potassium and not the best for a low-potassium diet — but they don’t have to be completely off-limits.
Although soaking potatoes before cooking them is suggested to lower their potassium content, it’s not very effective (3).
Conversely, soaking potatoes for as little as one hour after cooking has been shown to significantly lower the potassium content, with longer soaking times up to 12 hours, showing a 70–85% decrease in potassium (3).
The process of soaking allows potassium to leech out of the food into the water so do not reuse the soaking water.
Watch your use of supplements that contain potassium
Be cautious of any dietary supplements that you take, especially multi-vitamin or mineral supplements.
Not all multivitamin-mineral supplements contain potassium, but those that do typically provide about 80 mg of potassium.
Additionally, protein powders — especially whey and casein protein — can contain around 200 mg of potassium per serving.
The bottom line
People with certain conditions like chronic kidney disease, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and congestive heart failure may need to follow a low-potassium diet.
A low-potassium diet limits potassium to 2,000 mg per day, but your level of restriction will depend on your blood potassium levels and other factors.
Foods low in potassium contain less than 200 mg per serving while foods high in potassium contain more than 200 mg per serving.
As long as you eat mostly low-potassium foods, including some high-potassium foods in your diet is OK.
Always check the nutrition label of the products you buy for potassium content, and be cautious of any supplements you take that could contain potassium.