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What is potassium?

Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte. It is found in most foods and your body needs it for many things. It is important to keep potassium at a healthy level in your body. Having too much or too little potassium is very serious and can even be deadly if not treated.

Potassium plays an important role in helping your muscles expand and contract. Your heart is a muscle; so, when your body's potassium is at a healthy level, it helps your heart to beat the right way.

Most foods have potassium, like bananas, but some have more than others. Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, dairy and red meat are foods that are high in potassium. If you have kidney disease, your doctor may have told you that you need to lower the amount of potassium in your diet. Download the potassium food guide for lower potassium foods that can still be tasty options.

Download our potassium tracker

Fun fact!

Fun fact! Potassium was first discovered in the ashes of burnt plants. Its chemical symbol ‘K’ comes from the Latin word Kalium. Kalium means potash (a type of salt), hence potassium. It was discovered in 1807 by Sir Humphry Davy, a British chemist.

Download our potassium food guide

Learn more about high potassium, or hyperkalemia.

Symptoms of high potassium

Many people do not feel symptoms of high potassium. Having too much potassium in your blood can be dangerous. It can even cause a heart attack. If you do feel symptoms, some of the most common are:

fatigue-weakness-200

Feeling Tired Or Weak

Feeling Tired Or Weak

nausea

Feeling Sick To The Stomach (Nausea)

Feeling Sick To The Stomach (Nausea)

muscle-pain

Muscle Pains Or Cramps

Muscle Pains Or Cramps

chest-pain

Trouble Breathing, Unusual Heartbeat, Chest Pains

Trouble Breathing, Unusual Heartbeat, Chest Pains

High-potassium foods

High-potassium foods and drinks are those with more than 200mg of potassium per serving.

Examples of foods that can be high in potassium include:

banana

Fruits

Some fruits, including: bananas, grapefruits, oranges, cantaloupes, raisins, and other dried fruits

Fruits

potatoes

Vegetables

Some vegetables, including: potatoes, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, and cooked spinach

Some vegetables

beans

Beans

Black beans, pinto beans, baked beans

Beans

meats

Most Meats

Most meats

fish

Most Fish

Most Fish

cheese

Dairy Products

Milk, cheese, yogurt

Dairy Products

almonds

Nuts

Including peanuts and peanut butter

Nuts

chocolate

Chocolate

Chocolate

Find low-potassium recipes

Low-potassium foods

Low-potassium foods and drinks are those with no more than 100 mg of potassium per serving. Your doctor or dietitian may suggest you eat foods that are low in potassium if you tend to have too much potassium in your blood.

Examples of foods that can be low in potassium include:

cucumber

Vegetables

Some vegetables, including: cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers

Some vegetables, including: cauliflower, peppers, cucumbers

strawberry

Fruits

Some fruits, including: grapes, strawberries, blueberries

Some fruits, including: grapes, strawberries, blueberries

bread

Bread

Bread

rice

Rice

Rice

pasta

Pasta

Pasta

Low potassium

While many people with kidney disease struggle with higher potassium levels, sometimes people with kidney disease may have low potassium; also known as hypokalemia. Having low potassium in your blood can also cause harm to your body. 

Learn more about low potassium, or hypokalemia.

The symptoms of low potassium are:

  • Muscle weakness, cramping, twitching, or pain
  • Your body feels so heavy it is hard to move–almost like paralysis
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation and bloating
  • Abnormal heart beat
  • Heart attack

Common causes for low potassium are:

  • Poor appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Certain medicines

Working with the dietitian at your dialysis center will help you make the best food choices based on your potassium levels. The potassium food guide provides a list of potassium levels in specific foods.

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