Chronic Kidney Disease and Potassium — Beyond the Basics

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Kidney Disease and Potassium

by  Stephanie Legin RD, LDN

This article helps to add to the knowledge acquired from the article, Chronic Kidney Disease and Potassium — A Guide for the CKD Patient.   For the most accurate measure of potassium amounts in food or to identify if potassium has been added to a food product, it requires knowledge of how to read and understand the nutrition facts label and ingredient list.

The Newly Revised Nutrition Facts Label for the U.S. and Canada

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a Nutrition Facts Label on most packaged foods and beverages.  The label has recently been revised and updated. Some food manufacturers have already started using them on their products; however, they are not required by the U.S. FDA to use them on packaging until January 2020.  

Starting in 2017, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) started requiring food manufacturers to replace existing food labels with newly revised and updated ones. They must be updated by 2021.

Several changes have been made to the food label for both the US and Canada. One, specifically, is very important for individuals with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).   With the revisions, both the U.S. and the Canadian food labels will add the milligrams and % Daily Value (DV) per serving for potassium.   This will help CKD patients identify how much potassium is in a serving of a particular food product. Additionally, it helps individuals make more educated and better food choices based on individualized potassium needs and restrictions.

Understanding Potassium On The
New Food Label

US Food Label

Kidney Disease and Potassium on new FDA label      

It’s important to understand the amounts of any nutrients listed on the food label are for ONE serving of that food.  Using the “New Label” above, this food item has 235mg of potassium in ONE, 2/3 cup serving of this food.  Beware — most cans, bags, or packages most likely contain more than one serving. So, if you eat two, 2/3 cup servings of this food it will provide you with 470 mg of potassium.  

Canadian Food Label

Canadian Nutrition Label

Recommended Daily Value of Potassium

The recommended DV for potassium for individuals with healthy, functional kidneys is 4700 mg per day.  On the food label, the % DV that each serving of food meets is based on the recommended daily intake for potassium for healthy individuals of 4,700 mg.   For example, using the “New Label” above, a 2/3 cup serving of this food will meet 6% DV of an individual’s 4700 mg potassium need for the day.  

Kidney Disease and Potassium

For individuals with CKD, daily potassium requirements vary depending on the stage of CKD and blood potassium levels.  This will change the percent daily value it will meet due to individual needs and require you to do a little math. For instance, if your individual daily potassium limits are 2000 mg per day, then one, 2/3 cup serving of this food will meet 12% DV (still 235 mg) of your total 2000 mg potassium need for the day.

If you need to restrict your daily potassium intake, stick to choosing foods considered “low in potassium” and occasionally select foods “medium in potassium”.  Limit or avoid eating “high in potassium” foods. Keep in mind these potassium guidelines when choosing foods.  

Low Potassium Foods <100mg

Medium Potassium Foods 101-200mg

High Potassium Foods 201-300mg

Ingredient List

Another tool to identify if potassium has been added to a food product is the ingredient list. Potassium is added to many processed foods to help maintain or improve safety and freshness, improve or maintain nutritional value, and/or improve taste, texture, and appearance.

The ingredient list shows all the ingredients in a packaged food.  Ingredients are listed in order of quantity/weight, beginning with the ingredient that weighs the most and ending with the ingredient that weighs the least.  This means that the food contains more of the ingredients found at the beginning of the list and less of the ingredients at the end of the list.

For example, on the following ingredient list, “corn” is the predominant ingredient in this food and “vitamins” are the least.

Kidney Disease and Potassium Ingredients Label

Words To Look For On The Ingredient List

Look for these words on ingredient lists to see if potassium was added.  

  • Potassium acetate 
  • Potassium acid tartrate 
  • Potassium alginate 
  • Potassium alum 
  • Potassium bicarbonate 
  • Potassium bisulfite 
  • Potassium bromate 
  • Potassium bromide 
  • Potassium caprate 
  • Potassium caprylate 
  • Potassium carbonate 
  • Potassium caseinate 
  • Potassium chloride 
  • Potassium citrate 
  • Potassium dichloroisocyanurate 
  • Potassium fumarate 
  • Potassium gibberellate 
  • Potassium gluconate 
  • Potassium glycerophosphate 
  • Potassium hydroxide
  • Potassium hypochlorite 
  • Potassium iodate 
  • Potassium iodide 
  • Potassium lactate 
  • Potassium laurate 
  • Potassium metabisulfite 
  • Potassium N-methyldithiocarbamate 
  • Potassium myristate 
  • Potassium nitrate 
  • Potassium nitrite 
  • Potassium oleate 
  • Potassium palmitate 
  • Potassium permanganate 
  • Potassium persulfate 
  • Potassium phosphate
  • Potassium salts of fatty acids 
  • Potassium sorbate 
  • Potassium stearate
  • Potassium sulfate
  • Potassium trichloroisocyanurate

Use these tools to be a vigilant label reader!  Knowledge is the key to avoiding excessive potassium in the diet and finding new, low-potassium secret weapons to keep your blood potassium levels controlled.  Good control may help slow the progression of CKD or help prevent medical issues.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. KidneyChef urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. KidneyChef advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. KidneyChef does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. KidneyChef does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by KidneyChef is solely at your own risk.


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