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A guide to following a low potassium diet

Date: April 2022

Review Date: April 2024

Ref: C-484

PDF:  A guide to following a low potassium diet April 2022.pdf [pdf] 238KB

A guide to following a low potassium diet 

Useful contact numbers and websites:

Renal Dietitians: 01752 439961

Kidney Care: UK https://www.kidneycareuk.org/

Kidney Kitchen: https://www.kidneycareuk.org/about-kidney-health/living-kidneydisease/kidney-kitchen/

National Kidney Federation:  https://www.kidney.org.uk/diet-and-food

Following a low potassium diet

What is potassium?

Potassium is a mineral found naturally in many foods. It is needed in the body for your muscles and heart to work properly.

Why is my potassium level high?

The kidneys normally control the level of potassium in your blood, but in kidney failure, this control is lost, and levels can become too high.

How much potassium should I have in my blood?

• Ideally, your potassium level should be between 3.5 – 5.3 mmol/L

• If you are on haemodialysis you should aim to keep your potassium levels below 6.0 mmol/L

Do I need to worry if my potassium level is high?

Too much potassium can be dangerous as it affects the rhythm of your heart.

What if I have diabetes?

Some advice in this leaflet may appear to conflict with the advice you have been given for your diabetes. However, by choosing lower potassium foods, including fruits and vegetables, from the tables below you can manage both your blood sugars and maintain a safe potassium level. Your dietitian can advise you further on this.

How can I control my potassium levels?

• follow a low potassium diet, potassium is found in everyday food and drink

• maintain regular bowel habits, some potassium is lost in stools

• if you are on dialysis, do not miss your dialysis sessions, dialysis clears potassium from the blood

• maintain good blood sugar control if you have diabetes, high blood sugars can increase potassium in the blood

Not everyone with kidney disease needs to follow a low potassium diet. Therefore, you should only follow a low potassium diet if a health care professional has advised you to do so.

Reducing potassium in your diet

Potatoes and starchy foods

Potatoes are high in potassium; these should only be included in one meal per day. The potassium content of potatoes can be reduced if you peel, chop and then boil your potatoes in plenty of water. 

High potassium to limit

• Un-boiled potato: jacket potato, shop bought or takeaway chips, potato waffles, hash browns, instant mash

• Fruit bread or potato cakes

• Bran cereal or cereals containing dried fruit, nuts, or chocolate

Lower potassium alternative

• Boiled and mashed potato, homemade chips, wedges or roast potatoes that have been par-boiled first Rice, pasta, noodles and cous cous

• Bread, crispbreads, pitta, breadsticks, English muffins

• Cornflakes, Rice Krispies®, porridge, Shredded Wheat®, Weetabix® 


All fruit and vegetables contain potassium. However, they are important for a healthy diet. Choose lower potassium fruits and limit to 2 portions (80 grams or 2 palm-size portions) daily. 

High potassium to limit

• Bananas

• Avocado

• All dried fruit e.g., raisins, sultanas, dates

• Coconut 

• Rhubarb

• Melon, cantaloupe, honeydew

• Mango

• Kiwi

• All fruit juices 

Lower potassium alternatives

• Apples

• Pears

• Small oranges i.e., clementines, satsumas

• Berries (blueberries, grapes, strawberries, raspberries

• Watermelon

• Tinned fruit (drain juice/syrup) 


Boiling vegetables in plenty of water lowers the potassium content, so aim to have boiled vegetables rather than having them raw or steamed. Do not use vegetable cooking water in soup/stews and boil all vegetables prior to adding to stir fries, stews and soups.

High potassium to limit

•  Un-boiled green leafy vegetables e.g., spinach, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts

•  Tomatoes

•  Beetroot

• Mushrooms

• Parsnips

• Celery

• Aubergine

• Dried vegetables

• Butternut squash

• Vegetable juice e.g., carrot juice, tomato juice

Lower potassium alternatives

•  Boiled green vegetables e.g., broccoli, French beans, peas, runner beans

• Tinned tomatoes (juice drained)

• Carrots

• Cucumber

• Lettuce

• Peppers (capsicum)

• Swede

• Turnip

• Tinned vegetables (drain water) 

Meat, fish and other protein foods 

High potassium to limit

• Breaded/battered meat and fish, ham and other processed meats (check labels for potassium additives) 

Vegetarian options:

• Pulses: baked beans, kidney beans, lentils, etc (pulses can be eaten in place of meat or fish in vegetarian/vegan meals)

• Any processed vegetarian products containing soya, pea protein, lentils, etc

• All nuts and seeds

Lower potassium alternative

• All fresh/unprocessed meat and fish

Vegetarian options:

• Chickpeas

• Quorn

• Eggs

• Tofu

Dairy foods

High potassium to limit

• Milk powder

• Condensed/evaporated milk

Lower potassium alternative

• Limit milk to ½ pint per day OR 100 ml plus one pot of yoghurt (125 grams)

Dairy alternatives:

• Rice milk

• Oat milk (check for potassium additives)

• Cream

• Crème fraiche 

Savoury snacks

High potassium to limit

• Potato crisps e.g., hula hoops, quavers

• Vegetable crisps

• Twiglets

• Bombay mix

Lower potassium alternative

• Corn or wheat crisps

• Poppadoms

• Popcorn

• Breadsticks, crackers

Biscuits, cakes, sweets and puddings

High potassium to limit

• Cake, biscuits or cereal bars which contain chocolate, coffee, nuts, coconut or dried fruit Fruit scones, teacakes, malt loaf

• Mince pies

• Banoffee pie 

• Fudge, liquorice, marzipan, sugared almonds

Lower potassium alternative

• Victoria sponge, madeira cake, ginger cake, cherry cake

• Plain biscuits, shortbread, digestive, ginger nuts, etc

• Plain scones/pancakes

• Apple or cherry pie

• Sponge puddings, trifle

• Boiled or jelly sweets, marshmallows, mints

Drinks and alcohol 

High potassium to limit

• Pure fruit juice

• High juice, Ribena®

• Tomato juice

• Coffee

• Hot chocolate, malted milk drinks

Alcohol: wine, beer, lager, cider, stout, sherry

Lower potassium alternative

• Cranberry juice (aim for no added sugar)

• Fruit squash

• Tonic water, soda water

• Tea, fruit tea, herbal tea

Alcohol: spirits e.g., rum, vodka, whisky, gin, brandy 


High potassium to limit

• Tomato sauce, tomato puree, sundried tomato paste, brown sauce

• Salt substitutes e.g. LoSalt

• Chocolate spread, peanut butter, marmite

Lower potassium alternative

• Mayonnaise, horseradish, chutney, mustard, mint sauce, mango chutney, cranberry sauce

• Pepper, herbs and spices

• Honey, jam, marmalade

Potassium additives

An increasing number of processed foods contain potassium additives. This type of potassium is much more easily absorbed into your blood stream. In order to reduce your intake of potassium additives you should:

• Limit your intake of processed foods as much as possible

• Check the ingredients list on food labels for potassium additives. Common potassium additives include: di and tripotassium phosphate, tetrapotassium diphosphate, potassium hydrogen carbonate, potassium chloride, potassium sorbate

The following products commonly contain potassium additives:

• Breaded and battered meat/fish

• Bacon, cooked sliced meats (ham, chicken, turkey, etc), gammon

• Cheese spreads

• Non-alcoholic sweetened drinks (containing potassium sorbate)

• Crisps and savoury snacks 

All products differ, so it is worth checking different brands as some may not contain potassium additives. Please note that manufacturers often change ingredients, so it is worth re-checking labels from time to time.

Key points and tips

• Boil potatoes and high potassium vegetables in a large amount of water before frying/roasting or adding to soups and stews

• Discard vegetable water and do not use in gravy or stews

• Use lower potassium vegetables in casseroles, stews or curries

• Do not use a pressure cooker, microwave, or steamer to cook raw vegetables/potatoes

• Drain water from tinned fruit/vegetables

• Rice, pasta, couscous, and noodles are all low in potassium and good alternatives to potatoes

• Limit high potassium foods that provide little nutritional benefit e.g., chocolate, potato crisps, processed foods

• Do not use salt substitutes

• Check processed foods for potassium additives, especially processed meat, snacks, and soft drinks

• Avoid packet and tinned soups, they are high in salt and potassium. Make your own soups using low salt stock, lower potassium vegetables, and use pasta, rice, or barley to add bulk

• For vegetarians and vegans, do not eat beans/pulses/lentils with potatoes on the same day. Your dietitian can provide further information on low potassium vegetarian and vegan diets.



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