Avoid Eating Too Many Potatoes If You Have This Medical Condition

Supporting the health of our cells, muscles, and nerves, potassium is crucial to our body's functioning. The essential nutrient also aids in converting carbohydrates into energy, maintaining a healthy heartbeat, and more, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Healthy adults are advised to get 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily. However, people with certain health conditions may want to steer clear of foods with a high potassium content — and we're not just talking about bananas. Rather, potatoes are one potassium-rich food best avoided for people diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

More than 1 in every 7 adults is thought to have chronic kidney disease, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What's more, up to 9 in 10 adults are completely unaware that they have the condition. Chronic kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are no longer able to effectively filter waste from our blood due to long-term kidney damage. Eventually, this can make a person more susceptible to stroke, hypertension, heart disease, or premature death. To help manage kidney health, patients may be given specific dietary recommendations.

People with chronic kidney disease may be advised to avoid high-potassium foods

The reason potassium can pose a health risk to patients with chronic kidney disease is because the kidneys are already struggling to regulate potassium levels in the body, explains the National Kidney Foundation. Increased potassium intake can subsequently put a person at risk for hyperkalemia, a condition in which the amount of potassium in the blood exceeds normal levels. More mild cases of hyperkalemia may produce symptoms of nausea, muscle weakness, or tingling sensations, while more serious cases can be fatal.

For this reason, people with chronic kidney disease may be advised to stick with a low-potassium diet, particularly if they are in the later stages of the disease. During earlier stages of the disease, such dietary restrictions may not be necessary. Patients who are told to keep potassium intake to a minimum, however, may want to avoid potatoes. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in one boiled, salt-free potato with the skin intact, you'll find 515 milligrams of potassium. Some research suggests, however, that the way in which potatoes are cooked may help significantly lower their potassium content.

Methods for cooking potatoes to lower potassium content

In a 2020 study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition, researchers looked at the effects of soaking, frying, and normal cooking on potatoes' potassium content. The research team used three different types of potatoes in the study: fresh potatoes, canned potatoes, and frozen french fried potatoes. It was found that soaking fresh raw potatoes had no effect on the root vegetable's potassium content, while normal cooking methods produced insufficient decreases in potassium. Combining the two methods proved fruitful, however. When normal cooking methods were followed by soaking the fresh potatoes, the potassium content was able to be reduced by up to 70%. The researchers concluded that with these cooking techniques, people with chronic kidney disease may be able to include potatoes in their diet.

The National Kidney Foundation also supports the double-boiling method for potatoes, which involves peeling and slicing the vegetable, bringing it to a boil, draining, and then finishing off the cooking process with a fresh pot of water. Patients with chronic kidney disease or any other kidney issues should first speak with their doctor or a kidney dietitian about what diet plan is best for them. While some individuals may be advised against eating potatoes, some patients on dialysis may need to increase their potassium intake to make up for the nutrients being lost.