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Can kidney patients eat fruit and vegetables?

Tips on making low potassium choices when eating fruit and vegetables.

Contrary to popular belief, patients with kidney disease CAN include fruit and vegetables, even with the dreaded potassium restrictions. Fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet and provide many vitamins and minerals, fibre and taste.

When your kidney function starts to decline, the potassium levels in your blood may start to increase and you may be advised to follow a low potassium diet in order to help reduce it to a safe level. Not all renal patients need to follow a low potassium diet and it is important not to restrict yourself unless you have been advised by a qualified health professional. Your renal dietician can advise you how to follow a low potassium diet while making sure your diet stays balanced, nutritious and tasty.

Fruit and vegetables are a known high source of potassium, however the types chosen and how they are prepared and cooked can impact on their potassium content. Even with a potassium restriction, two portions of fruit, such as an apple and an orange and two portions of vegetables, such as two heaped tablespoons each of carrots and broccoli, are allowed daily. Avoiding known higher sources and preparing them in the right way, helps you to maintain a safe potassium level within your blood.

Tips on making low potassium choices when eating fruit and vegetables :

  • Boil potatoes and vegetables in a large amount of water. Three egg sized potatoes are a suitable portion if following a low potassium diet.
  • Make sure they are well cooked, double boiling is NOT necessary.
  • Avoid using cooking water to make sauces, soups,casseroles or gravy
  • Parboil potatoes if wanting to fry, mash, chip or roast
  • Parboil vegetables before adding to sauces or casseroles. Be sure to throw away the boiling water first!
  • Avoid using a pressure cooker, microwave, steamer or stir-frying
  • If wanting to include fruit juice, one portion of fruit can be swapped for 120ml of fruit juice
  • If you enjoy salad, a handful counts as one portion from your vegetable allowance (if given one). Do not exceed one portion of salad per day if you are on a low potassium diet.
  • Half a standard can of tomatoes (i.e. approx. 200g/8oz) can be swapped for one portion of potatoes, as long as the juice is drained and thrown away.
  • If vegetables are preferred over fruit or vice versa, one portion can be swapped for the other.

Everyone is Different ....

Dietary practices may differ depending on your ethnic background; this can sometimes lead to confusion as to how foods which are eaten regularly and enjoyed can be included in a potassium restricted diet.

THE ASIAN DIET

Pulses are a great source of protein in Asian diets. To help reduce potassium levels in Asian cooking :-

Soak pulses or sprouted pulses in warm water for one hour and drain the water before cooking

A portion of cooked pulses (two-three tablespoons) can be swapped for a portion of potatoes

Ground nut, gram flour and coriander leaves raise potassium content of vegetables when cooked together, therefore, it is better to avoid these additions to your vegetable dishes.

Vegetables are often the main ingredient used in curries, therefore to reduce the potassium content, cut the vegetables up nice and small, increasing the surface area, and soaking them in luke warm water for approximately 45 minutes prior to using.

THE AFRICAN AND CARIBBEAN DIET

Within an African and Caribbean diet, try the following tips if you need to reduce your potassium levels :

Starchy vegetables such as yam and plantain should be boiled before use and a portion (100g-130g depending on type) can be swapped for a portion of potatoes.

Using canned karela and okra in place of fresh, lowers the potassium content in stews.

Reproduced with the kind permission of The Renal Dietitians, Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust

Dietary Information pack : To request our Dietary Information Pack call 0800 169 09 36, or e-mail us at: [email protected] 

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The National Kidney Federation cannot accept responsibility for information provided. The above is for guidance only. Patients are advised to seek further information from their own doctor.