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 Diet & Nutrition

october 2012

Why A Low Potassium Diet?

Dr Harita Shyam 
Potassium is a mineral that is found in many foods. It keeps the heart beating regularly, helps to maintain fluid balance and allows the nerves and muscles to work properly. However some health conditions demand a low potassium diet. Your doctor may prescribe one such if you are on medications that raise serum potassium or if you are suffering from chronic kidney disease.
Under normal health parameters, the body maintains a balanced level of potassium; the excess amount is thrown out during the process of urination. This capacity to maintain potassium balance is affected in patients of chronic kidney disease. High potassium level in the blood is a condition termed as hyperkalemia (hyper=high, kal=potassium, emia=in the blood).
To follow a low-potassium diet, learn which foods are high in potassium so that you can limit the amounts you eat or eliminate them completely from your diet.

While you are on a diet to lower potassium, your blood levels will be monitored by a doctor. A low-potassium diet should keep your blood potassium at a safe level - between the range of 3.5 and 5.0 mg/dL. If you have too much potassium in your blood, you will need to adjust your diet accordingly. If your level is higher than 6.0, you have reached the danger zone, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Hyperkalemia does not usually cause noticeable symptoms until the potassium level is very high. Complications show up as irregular heart rhythm or severe muscle weakness or paralysis.

The recommended dietary allowance of potassium per day is 4700 mg; people with chronic kidney disease should limit it to 1500 mg to 2700 mg per day. A qualified dietician or nutritionist can help a patient chalk out a low potassium diet. Almost all foods contain some amount of potassium, so the key is to choose foods with low potassium levels. Fruits, vegetables and dairy products are some of them.

When On Low Potassium Diet, Avoid These!
  • Mangoes, bananas, citrus fruits, dried fruits, pomegranates, coconut and raisins.
  • Spinach, beets, broccoli, tomatoes and potatoes.
  • Juices and juice blends made from these fruits and vegetables.
  • Soups, coconut water, barley water, packed fruit juices and carbonated beverages.
Know Your Way

A diet to lower potassium limits the amount of foods you eat from entire food groups and this can result in other nutrient deficiencies. It is important therefore to seek the advice of a qualified dietician. The latter can help you plan your meals to be as balanced as possible and determine the specific nutritional supplements that are necessary for you.
Some low potassium fruits and vegetables to mention are: guava, apple, papaya, pears, all gourd vegetables like - bottle gourd, ridge gourd, snake gourd, cabbage, cauliflower.