Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: November 28, 2022

Kidney disease can cause potassium levels to build up in the blood, which can lead to serious health problems. That’s why consuming low-potassium meats can help to keep its levels under control.

As a health-conscious carnivore who’s had some kidney issues in the past, I have done extensive research on low-potassium meat and compiled a roundup of the best options available.

Quick Summary

  • Potassium is a mineral that is necessary for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in the body.
  • Kidney disease can cause potassium levels to build up in the blood, which can lead to serious health problems.
  • Eating low-potassium meats can help to keep potassium levels under control.

Benefits of Potassium

An image of foods rich in potassium

Potassium is a natural mineral found in lots of foods, including high-potassium fruits and vegetables, processed meats, and dairy products. It's an essential nutrient, which means that our bodies need it to function correctly.

Potassium plays a role in many different body processes, including muscle contraction, heart function, and fluid balance [1].

Most people think of this mineral as something that is good for your heart. And while it's true that this essential mineral can help lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke, that's far from its only claim to fame.

Here are ten good reasons to make sure you're getting the proper amount of potassium content in your diet:

  1. It helps keep bones strong.
  2. It lowers the risk of kidney stones.
  3. It can help prevent osteoporosis.
  4. It can reduce the symptoms of PMS.
  5. It can relieve muscle cramps.
  6. It can decrease the risk of stroke.
  7. It can improve cognitive function.
  8. It can help you lose weight.
  9. It can improve your skin health.
  10. It can help your kidneys excrete excess sodium [2].

How Much Potassium Do You Need?

An image of a man preparing food at home

You need 1,600 - 2,000 milligrams of potassium daily [3]. Most Americans are able to get to this goal because this element is found in so many foods.

That said, having too much or too little potassium in the system can be dangerous. Too little potassium is known as hypokalemia, and this condition can cause muscle weakness, cramps, and fatigue [4].

Too much potassium is called hyperkalemia, and it can be life-threatening. This condition can cause irregular heart rhythms, which may lead to a heart attack [5].

But people with kidney disease are at risk for both hypokalemia and hyperkalemia.

They may have high potassium because their kidneys cannot effectively remove excess potassium from the body. However, their potassium levels may fall too much if they are undergoing dialysis for their kidney disease.

"Potassium is an important nutrient found in many of the foods you eat. It helps your nerves, muscles, and heart work the right way. But too much potassium in your blood can be dangerous and cause serious heart problems."
- National Kidney Foundation

If that is not enough of a problem, some medications used to treat chronic kidney disease can actually increase the amount of potassium in the body.

For these reasons, people with chronic kidney disease often need to follow a low-potassium or renal diet that limits foods high in this mineral. Most people will be instructed by their physician to reduce their potassium intake to 2,000 milligrams per day or less [6].

Low-Potassium Meats

A top view image of low-potassium smoked salmon dish

Most people think that meat and fish are off the table when you need to limit your potassium intake.

But that does not have to be the case. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation does not consider meat to be a high-potassium food.

That said, some meat is lower in potassium than others, and you can still enjoy that food as part of a healthy, low-potassium diet.

Most meats are considered to be low in potassium if they have under 233 mg of potassium in a 100 g serving.

When it comes to red meat, some examples of low-potassium cuts for kidney disease include:

  • Corned beef brisket
  • Bologna
  • Bottom round roast
  • Liverwurst
  • Beef chuck, loin, or ribs
  • Lamb ribs or roast
  • Veal chops, roast, or tenderloin

Non-red meats and fish can also be great sources of low-potassium protein.

The best options for a low-potassium diet include the following:

  • Chicken thigh or drumstick
  • Flounder or sole
  • Canned tuna fish in water
  • Smoked salmon
  • Clams and oysters
  • Ocean perch

Meats to Avoid on a Low-Potassium Diet

Of course, not every type of meat and fish is low in potassium. In fact, some meats are relatively high in potassium and should be avoided or at least limited if you need to follow a low-potassium diet.

For example, a 100 g serving of the following meats and fish contain more potassium than most and should therefore be limited:

Potassium in Other Foods

A close up image of different foods that contains potassium

The fix is pretty simple for those who do not have high enough levels of the mineral: eat more high-potassium foods.

Some of the best foods high in potassium are found in a plant-based diet since fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of this mineral.

Some foods high in potassium are:

  • Bananas
  • Beets
  • Potato
  • Sweet potato
  • Spinach
  • Cantaloupe
  • Brussels sprouts
  • White beans
  • Bok choy
  • Avocado
  • Swiss chard

In addition to getting more potassium through certain foods in your diet, you can also take supplements. These are available over the counter at most pharmacies and grocery stores. Potassium supplements come in both pill and liquid form.

So, fixing too little potassium is a relatively simple process. But things are more challenging for those who need to keep their potassium levels low.

Some of the low-potassium (less than 200 milligrams of potassium per serving) foods that are recommended on a CKD diet include:

  • Apples and apple juice
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple and pineapple juice
  • Watermelon
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Squash
  • White rice
  • Rice milk
  • Noodles
  • Bread
  • Coffee
  • Tea

In addition to consuming low-potassium food, people with kidney disease or kidney failure should also avoid food that is high in potassium content in their renal diet in order to maintain a good potassium balance.

Some of these foods include potassium-rich fruits and vegetables like:

  • Dried apricots
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Artichoke
  • Legumes
  • Acorn squash
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Chocolate
  • Granola
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Peanut butter
  • Salt substitutes
  • Seeds, nuts, and whole grains

Leaching Potassium

A top view image of different fruits and vegetables that is rich in potassium

There is a helpful trick to open up the number of things you can eat while on a low potassium diet. You can leach potassium from some high potassium foods by soaking them in water for several hours.

This process can be helpful if you struggle to find low potassium foods that you enjoy.

Some of the best foods to leach potassium from include:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Rutabagas

To reduce the potassium content from these potassium-rich foods:

  1. Start by peeling and slicing them into thin pieces.
  2. Rinse the food, then soak it in warm water for at least two hours, using at least ten times the amount of liquid as there is food.
  3. If you will be soaking longer than two hours, make sure to change the warm water out every four hours at a minimum.
  4. After soaking, drain the remaining warm water and rinse the food.
  5. Cook the food as you usually would for your low potassium diet. Higher temperature cooking water may reduce potassium levels even further.

FAQs

Why Does Meat Contain Potassium?

Meat contains potassium because potassium is a major component of animal muscle cells. Most of the potassium in the body resides in the cells. And the cells with the most potassium are muscle cells.

How Can I Lower My Potassium Levels Naturally?

You can lower your potassium levels naturally by following a low-potassium diet and avoiding high-potassium foods. Cooking methods can also make a difference - boiling vegetables will leave them with less potassium than they otherwise would have.

What Is the Normal Level of Potassium?

The normal level of potassium is 3.5-5.0 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). Levels up to 6.0 mmol/L are concerning and should be addressed by a physician. Above 6.0 mmol/L is considered dangerous and requires urgent medical action [7].

How Can I Lower My Potassium Level Quickly?

You can lower your potassium levels quickly by using medications. Although eating ]a potassium restricted diet can help, they will not lower potassium levels as promptly as medications can.

Are Herbal Supplements Good for High Potassium?

No, herbal supplements are not good for high potassium. In fact, many herbal supplements can actually raise potassium levels. Therefore, it is best to avoid them if you have kidney disease.

Low Potassium and Meat

Although you need to watch your intake of certain meats while on a low-potassium diet, there are still plenty of delicious options to choose from.

ButcherBox offers a variety of low-potassium meats that are acceptable for those on a renal diet. Click here to learn more about ButcherBoxes meat delivery service and see why it is the best way to get high-quality, grass-fed meat delivered directly to your home.


References:

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/potassium.html
  2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/potassium/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/potassium-supplement-oral-route-parenteral-route/description/drg-20070753
  4. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/hormonal-and-metabolic-disorders/electrolyte-balance/hypokalemia-low-level-of-potassium-in-the-blood
  5. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15184-hyperkalemia-high-blood-potassium
  6. https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-health/kidney-disease-and-potassium
  7. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium
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