Minerals can build up to high levels in patients with kidney failure. Dietary awareness and self-management are critical to avoid complications.
Both potassium and phosphate are minerals found in most of the foods we eat. In the right amount, these minerals keep your nerves and muscles functioning well, and your bones healthy. However, too much of these minerals will wreak havoc in your body. When your kidneys are fine and dandy, they help keep these minerals in check. However, when you experience kidney failure, your kidneys won’t be able to filter them out, leading to a high build up of potassium and phosphate in your system.
High potassium levels in blood tends to lead to complications like body weakness, muscle cramps, breathing difficulties, irregular heartbeats and worst of all, heart attacks.
High phosphate levels in the blood also increases the risk of you having weak and brittle bones, itching, as well as calcium deposits in blood vessels and organs in the body (which can lead to cancerous tumours and heart attacks).
When on dialysis
If you’re a dialysis patient, you should be extra aware of the types of foods which contain potassium and phosphate as your kidneys cannot do their job anymore. While everyone knows that bananas are rich in potassium, many are not aware that many other types of foods contain high levels of these minerals. Some foods are double dangers to a dialysis diet, containing high levels of both potassium and phosphate.
We’ve compiled a useful list of foods that are high in phosphate and potassium (and what you can substitute them with), so you can better self-manage your diet.
Foods High in Potassium
Food Type High in Potassium (Limit) Substitute with
Fruits Bananas Fresh peaches
Kiwi Canned pears
Oranges Mandarin oranges
Orange juice Apple juice
Canned or frozen peaches Fruit cocktail
Grapefruit juice Grape juice
Greens Mustard greens (choy sum) Cooked cabbage
Swiss chard Kale
Potatoes Sweet potatoes, white potatoes Corn
Veggies Ladies fingers Asparagus
Tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice Onions
Butternut Squash Boiled cauliflower
Foods High in Phosphorus
High in Phosphorus (Limit) Substitute With
Processed meats (like luncheon meat, ham, bacon etc) Fresh chicken
Sardines Prawns or shrimp
Dark colas (like Coke, A&W root beer, Pepsi) Clear-coloured sodas (Sprite, 100 Plus etc, but limit intake)
Oatmeal Ground wheat, or grits
Double-Danger Foods (High in Both Potassium and Phosphorus)
High in Potassium AND Phosphorus (Limit) Substitute with
Hard cheese Low-fat cream cheese
Chocolate desserts and pudding White cakes, desserts made with lemon and apple (diabetics should consult a dietitian)
Cream soups Low-sodium broth-based soups
Peanut butter Low-fat cream cheese, jam
Dried beans, peas Fresh or frozen green beans
Ice cream Sorbet, sherbet
Nuts and seeds Unsalted popcorn, rice cakes, salt-free pretzels
Wholegrains like wheat bread, pasta, bran cereal, wild or brown rice White bread, rice cereal, corn flakes, white pasta, white rice, couscous, graham crackers
Dried fruits Grapes or low-potassium fresh fruits
List of High-Phosphorus Foods to Avoid / Limit
Dairy Fruits / Veggies Other
Cheese Beans (Except green beans) Biscuits
Ice cream (except sherbets) Broccoli Bran and bran products
Milk Mushrooms Chocolate
Pudding Raisins Cheerios
Chicken or beef liver
Rice (brown or wild)
List of High-Potassium Foods to Limit / Avoid
Fruits Veggies Other
Apricots Asparagus Bran and bran products
Bananas Avocado Clams
Honeydew, cantaloupe Beans (except green beans) Chocolate
Grape juice (grapes are OK) Broccoli Coffee (limit 2 cups / day)
Mangoes Brussell sprouts Lentils
Oranges and other citrus fruits (and juice) Greens Milk
Papaya Mushrooms Salt substitute
Prunes (and juice) Potatoes (including sweet potatoes) Yogurt
Raisins Spinach Squash Tomatoes (and sauces) Zucchini
Eating a renal diet will help you manage your chronic kidney disease well, and you’ll feel less tired, weak, and sick. Hopefully, this cheat sheet will help you on your way to a healthier, happier life. With that said, everyone’s needs are different, and kidney patients’ dietary needs may change depending on the stage of your kidney conditions. It’s always best to consult your renal dietitian before making changes to your dietary plan.