Low Potassium Meats for the Renal Diet

Low Potassium Meats for the Renal Diet

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The renal diet consist of food choices that are low potassium. Fruits and vegetables are often the first that come to mind when thinking of potassium intake. However, low potassium meats are also to be considered.

Keeping potassium intake low is important with low kidney function to help keep blood potassium levels at normal range since the kidneys aren’t able to excrete excess potassium.

Along with low potassium, the renal diet involves food choices that are low phosphorus and low sodium. The amount of protein required in a renal diet depends on the stage of chronic kidney disease.

Following a renal diet ensures that you are able to maintain your health and not overwork the kidneys.

Understanding Low Potassium Meats and Renal Health

Potassium helps regulate the heartbeat, improves bone density, plays a role in muscle contraction, and offsets sodiums harmful effects on blood pressure. 

The kidneys job is to keep the right amount of potassium in the body. When kidneys aren’t working properly, they can’t regulate the amount of potassium in the blood. 

High levels of potassium can cause an irregular heartbeat and possibly cause the heart to stop working leading to cardiac arrest.

Too little potassium increases blood pressure, decreases calcium in the bones, and increases the risk of kidney stones.

The Renal Diet: Considerations for Potassium, Protein, and Sodium

It’s important to consider individual nutrition needs for those with kidney disease. Nutritional needs depend on the stage of kidney disease or if receiving dialysis treatments.


The recommendations for potassium intake vary between 3,500-4,500 mg per day. Whereas, a low potassium diet is 2,000 mg per day.

It’s essential for those on dialysis receiving treatments 3 times a week to limit intake to 2,000 milligrams of potassium or less per day. 

However, a person receiving frequent dialysis (5-7 days a week) may need to consume more potassium.

Commonly consumed high-potassium foods are: potatoes such as white potatoes, sweet potatoes, potato chips, french fries, oranges, orange juice, bananas, kiwi, prunes, melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew, dairy products such as cows milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese

High potassium vegetables- cooked greens, spinach, avocado, tomatoes and tomato products. 

For those with CKD, not on dialysis, potassium requirements depends on the individual’s needs. A low potassium diet may not be needed.

If a person has had high potassium blood levels in the past, they may need to be mindful of how much potassium they consume.


Protein needs vary widely for those with kidney failure. Dialysis patients require a high protein diet to replenish the protein loss during treatment.

While those with CKD not requiring dialysis treatments benefit from a low protein diet. (1)


Many low potassium meats may be higher in sodium. Choosing meats that aren’t pre-seasoned, smoked or cured is a great way to ensure less sodium consumption.

A low sodium diet is 1,500-2,300 mg per day.

Low Potassium Meats: Options and Benefits

Who needs low potassium meats?

If you’re on dialysis you likey are following a high protein diet and told by your healthcare provider to consume animal protein at least 3 times a day with each meal. This can pose a challenge to meet the required protein consumption while also limiting potassium. It’s important to choose low potassium meats to avoid high potassium levels.

Early stages of CKD (stages 1-2) patients can also consume animal proteins to meet protein needs. People that are in this early stage don’t require as much protein as those receiving dialysis, so it’s important to pay close attention to portion sizes and work with a renal dietitian to find out how much protein is right for you.

When is low potassium meats not recommended?

Those in later stages of CKD (stage 3-5) benefit from less animal proteins to help slow the progression of kidney disease. Studies have shown that plant-based protein sources and a lower protein diet can help maintain kidney function longer. A plant-based diet offers less acid load to the kidneys and potentially slows the progression of kidney disease. (2)

Low potassium meats

A low potassium food has less than 200 mg of potassium per serving. Based on the standard serving size of 3 ounces of meat or 85 grams, we will use this across the comparison of all meat types and potassium content.

3 ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards or the size of your palm.

Serving Size of Meat. 3 oz or 85 grams is the size of your palm or a deck of cards.

With a low potassium food considered to be less than 200 mg per serving doesn’t leave a lot of low potassium meats available.

The table below shows the amount of potassium in 3 ounces of various types of meat. The lowest is clams at 39 mg of potassium and the highest is canadian bacon clocking in at a whopping 999 mg of potassium.

Meat type Mg of potassium per 3 ounce portion size
Clams, raw 39
Deli Oven-roasted chicken breast  67
Oysters, raw 138
Chicken wings 180
Tuna, canned 201
Cooked duck 204
Shrimp, cooked 220
Chicken thigh 229
Chicken drumstick 239
T-bone steak 246
Turkey breast 248
Pork chop 261
Breakfast sausage 263
85% lean ground beef 270
93% ground turkey 304
Lamb 310
Italian pork sausage  310
Turkey breast sausage 310
Cod  316
Tilapia 331
Flank steak 339
Chicken breast 343
Pork tenderloin 423
Deli ham 425
Salmon 429
Chorizo 435
Canadian bacon 999
Information obtained for USDA Food Database. Amount of potassium may vary.

Potassium Additives in Meat

Packaged foods that are reduced in sodium oftentimes contain potassium additives.

One study showed 44% more potassium in reduced sodium meats than the original counterparts. (3) This is true for other food products as well such as salt substitutes. 

Potassium in salt substitute is 640 mg vs Dash is 10 mg

Food additives are “any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself and not normally used as a characteristic ingredient of food, whether or not it has nutritive value”(4).

Its addition to food is used for preservation, coloring, sweetening, stabilizing, flavor agent, and acidity regulator. 

If you’re following a low-potassium diet be sure to read the food labels and make sure there isn’t any added potassium in the ingredients list.

Common potassium additives in food are:

  • potassium chloride 
  • potassium benzoate
  • potassium nitrite and nitrate
  • potassium sorbate
  • potassium propionate
  • potassium citrate
  • potassium di and triphosphate
  • tetrapotassium diphosphate

Cooking Methods to Reduce Potassium

One study found that soaking meat for 5-10 minutes in hot water reduced the potassium in beef by 40-49%; chicken and fish by 30-39%. (5) More research  is needed to explore more cooking methods and the impact they have on potassium content of meat. 

Certain high potassium vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and rutabagas can be boiled in water. One study found that boiling potatoes cut in cubes and shredded decreased the potassium levels by 50% and 75% respectively. (6)

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