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How to Leach Potassium in Vegetables

Updated on July 19, 2013

The danger of high mineral levels

At first glance, an article dedicated to lowering select and useful minerals may seem like nit-picking to the majority of food-lovers. As I write this, Rome's baking thirty-three degree sun is causing me to sweat-out valuable nutrients that I will need to replace. Potassium, water and sodium reserves will need to be replaced or I could feel the uncomfortable onset of dehydration grip me and propel me towards the fridge, where I will duly consume potassium-rich bananas and drown myself (and my body) in cool water.

This is not the case for a large cross-section of people who are afflicted by various illnesses that make controlling mineral levels a very real concern. Up until not long ago I lived a very different life; Where the potassium in spinach could potential kill me, and sodium instilled in me an unquenchable desire to drink water, that I could not drink, or risk my health. Eating well on dialysis, for instance, can be a matter of life and death.

This article therefore is primarily targeted towards dialysis patients as well as anyone who is attempting to strike a balance between sacrifice and happiness in their diets. Due to the seriousness of the topic, and I promise I will lighten up forthwith, consider this article a suggestion, not a commandment and that any dietary changes should be communicated to a qualified overseer.

Apples and oranges

Dialysis foods, with fruit and veggies being the perfect example, can be a difficult game of cat and mouse. Ironically, (as you will probably already know from experience) foods which are high in potassium tend to be low in phosphorus, and vice versa. On top of all this, many vegetables are also high in water content, due to the fact that for the most part, kidney patients have a rough time eliminating fluids, it is an added concern. In this article I am going to deal with vegetables that are generally viewed as taboo to people who need to regulate potassium intake: Spinach, mushrooms and potatoes.

Here is a table showing you what an average serving (per serving) of these vegetables contain in potassium, phosphorus and sodium.

vegetable
Potassium
Phosphorus
Sodium
Mushrooms, (raw)
470mg
140mg
9mg
Spinach (leaves)
558mg
90mg
120mg
Potatoes (baked)
550mg
40mg
6mg
Carrots (as a reference)
220mg
20mg
100mg

Techniques to lower potassium

As we can clearly see, the levels of potassium are far too high (running the risk of hyperkalimia). And while many people will have adjusted their diets accordingly, perhaps we can make a little room to compensate with new techniques.

The first, and most obvious technique is boiling the vegetables thoroughly.

Technique 1: Boiling

Substituting our baked potato with a boiled one will lower is potassium content per 100g by close to 200mg!

Baked potato potassium content: 550mg | Boiled potato: 330mg.

Similarly, other foods also benefit from this process.

Before and after

Vegetable
Before
After
Mushrooms
470mg
n/a
Spinach
558mg
490mg (-68)
Potatoes
550mg
330mg (-220)
Carrots
220mg
90mg (-130mg!)
Davita is an invaluable resource for dialysis patients.
Davita is an invaluable resource for dialysis patients.

Technique 2: Leaching

Leaching does not require boiling water, but requires more time. Unlike boiling -- leaching is a process that I found best described in a wonderful Davita.com article (click the vegetable leaching link to visit the content):

How to leach vegetables to lower potassium

  • Peel the vegetable, cut into small pieces and place in a very large pot of water.
  • Rinse the vegetables.
  • Fill the pot with water and let the vegetables soak for at least four hours at room temperature (or you can let them soak overnight in the refrigerator).
  • After soaking, rinse the vegetables with clean water.
  • Cook vegetables as desired.

Not all vegetables are suited or necessitate leaching, but it is a good habit to get into regardless.

Vegetables low in potassium

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Canned Chestnuts
  • Carrots (cooked)
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green Peas
  • Kale
  • Leached potatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Parsley
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Rhubarb
  • Water
  • Watercress

3: Substituting potassium-rich foods

Given, this is a no-brainer, and in a way I considered not adding this. But I believe it is worth mentioning that with a little creativity and knowledge finding similar, low-potassium foods is a worthy endeavor. You can find a list of safe bets (as a single serving, of course!) to the right of this text.

An example of how to make a seemingly bland menu more palatable would be the following serving and recipe:


Low Potassium Mashed Potatoes (not quite -- but good enough!)

To prepare 3 servings of our quasi-mashed potatoes you will need:

  • Three cups of cauliflower
  • Two ounces of cream cheese
  • Half a teaspoon of Garlic
  • Half a teaspoon full of black pepper.

Begin by slicing the cauliflower into thin pieces and by rinsing them with water. Put the cauliflower in a covered dish and microwave on a high setting for around 10 minutes. After which, drain the vapor, and place the result in a blender and let her rip until the mixture is smooth.

Now add the remainder of the ingredients and blend again. The result should be our highly prized potassium modified mashed taters.

Conclusion

Preparing vegetables for a low-potassium diet is remarkably straight-forward and can go a long way in improving both your health and you appetite. I hope you have found this article useful, and I hope to hear from you on the comment section and see if you have any suggestions or tips which you have.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thoog. 

Information is key

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Comments

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    • profile image

      katherine 

      11 months ago

      If I soak the pieces of cauliflower in water for hours, and then do it again (leaching) what will the potassium (and if phosphorus is in cauliflower) content per cup be (before adding in the other items in the recipe). Is there a good list somewhere that tells the starting amount, amount/content after one 2-4 hour leaching, and then after a second 2-4 hour leaching?? Thanks.

    • profile image

      Nancy West 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for you sharing! mY Mother has had kedney failure for sometime now because of diabetic and having to watch her potassium. Thanks again & May God Bless You!

    • profile image

      martha 

      6 years ago

      i appreciate this article. i'm taking care of my father and found out he has restrictions for sodium and potassium plus he is also diabetic. Can tomatoes be leached too in order to reduce potassium?

    • Jameshank profile image

      Jameshank 

      6 years ago from Japan, NY, California

      Thanks for sharing a very informative hub!

    • thooghun profile imageAUTHOR

      James D. Preston 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Thank you both! nlhouser, I'm glad you found it informative I wrote it for people like you!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image

      prettydarkhorse 

      8 years ago from US

      very useful and lots of good advices, Congrats! Maita

    • nlhouser profile image

      nlhouser 

      8 years ago from Central Nebraska

      Wonderful article. I have diabetics and several other health problems which makes this article very informative. Thank you lots.

      nlhouser

    • thooghun profile imageAUTHOR

      James D. Preston 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Hello fellow nominee, thanks for reading the hub (or scoping out competition :P). Yes, potassium becomes part of a different dietary regime, and it can be fatal if ignored. Granted, this tends to be rare, but it happens. Secondly, one of the worst aspects of dialysis is not being able to indulge in foods of choice, and being restricted in so many ways.

      I suppose this hub is a testament to breaking free from this, so it shouldn't be as gloomy as it may sound ;)

      thanks for stopping by!

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Interesting, never knew that an individual could have too much potassium in one's body; however it makes sense with a person on dialysis would. Thanks for sharing this insight.

      Although, I'm a contender as well; I wanted to stop by and offer congratulations, on being selected as one of the nominees in the Hubalicious contest this week. :)

    • thooghun profile imageAUTHOR

      James D. Preston 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      So true ;) Thank you for stopping by Dixie!

    • DixieMockingbird profile image

      Jan Charles 

      8 years ago from East Tennessee

      You know - I finally caught on to chemistry (and passed!) when I realized it was just recipes! Brilliant idea there - love it!

    • thooghun profile imageAUTHOR

      James D. Preston 

      8 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Hello dallas! You're mother is abolsutely right! I daresay hypokalemia is generally a bigger issue than the reverse. And most people neglect proper hydration ;)

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 

      8 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      I should had used the "recipe" approach with chemistry students when I taught chemistry ! Great hub. Think I'll have a banana.. My mom told me Potassium is good for you and of course I BELIEVED HER !

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