Eating well to lower blood potassium and phosphate levels

This information is for people who need to lower the potassium and phosphate levels in their blood.

Having chronic kidney disease can make potassium and phosphate levels in the blood too high. This can make you unwell. 

This page covers: 

  • Which foods you can choose that are low in both potassium and phosphate.
  • Which foods are high in phosphate and gives recommended serving sizes for some of these. 
  • How to cook vegetables to make them lower in potassium.
  • Which additives to try and avoid because they contain potassium and phosphate.

How can I lower my potassium and phosphate levels? 

To reduce the amount of potassium and phosphate in your diet:

  • Eat a healthy diet and choose low potassium and low phosphate foods.
  • Cook vegetables by boiling in water.
  • Check ingredient labels and limit foods with potassium and phosphate additives.

Why do I need to reduce levels of potassium and phosphate in my blood?

Potassium is a mineral found in many foods. It helps our nerves, muscles, and heart to work well. Phosphate (also known as phosphorous) is needed for healthy bones.  

When the kidneys are not working properly, the levels of potassium and phosphate in the blood can rise too high.  

High levels of potassium can cause:

  • A change to the way your heart beats, which can be very dangerous.

High levels of phosphate can cause: 

  • Hardening of your blood vessels. 
  • Damage to your heart .
  • Weakening of your bones.
  • Aching joints.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Sore eyes.

The normal blood levels are:

  • Potassium between 3.5mmol/l and 5.5mmol/l
  • Phosphate between 0.8mmol/l and 1.5mmol/l

What can I eat? 

Aim for five servings of lower potassium vegetables and fruit per day.

Vegetables and fruits are high in fibre and help to ensure you have a healthy gut and regular bowel movements. A higher fibre diet reduces the amounts of potassium and phosphate that gets into your blood stream. Vegetables and fruit help to manage potassium levels in the blood. They are best eaten spread out over the day.

Check the list later on this page for the best lower potassium options.

Choose wholegrain, starchy carbohydrate foods

These foods, such as bread, rice, pasta and cereals give us energy. Try to include one serving at every meal. Choose wholegrain varietiessuch as those listed below as they are high in fibre:

  • Wholemeal or granary bread.
  • Wholegrain cereals such as shredded wheat or Weetabix.
  • Wholewheat pasta.
  • Brown rice.

Potatoes, yams, cassava, and plantain are high in potassium so should be cooked by boiling in water and be eaten in smaller amounts.

Check the list later in this information for cooking tips and the best lower potassium options. 

Eat some pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein foods

These foods are high in protein. Pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils, are good alternatives to meat as they’re lower in phosphate and a good source of fibre, too. If they are making up the main protein part of your meal and you are not having meat, a 200g portion is recommended.

If you are eating these with meat, limit pulses to one tablespoon.
Eggs are naturally high in phosphate, and this will get into your bloodstream very easily.  

  • To help manage your phosphate levels, eat eggs in moderation (4-6 per week).  

By eating fresh, home cooked, meat or chicken you can avoid the potassium and phosphate additives often found in processed meat. We are all recommended to eat less processed meat, such as ham and sausages. This is because of its links with causing bowel cancer. If you’d like to eat small amounts of processed meats occasionally, ask your dietitian to help you find brands that are free from potassium and phosphate additives. 

For more guidance on portion sizes of meat speak to your dietitian. For information on foods to reduce your risk of bowel cancer see the NHS website listed at the end of this information.

To help manage your potassium and phosphate levels:

  • Eat more meals based on beans, peas or lentils. There are some great recipes kidney friendly recipes from Kidney Kitchen:
    Kidney Kitchen | Kidney Care UK
  • Eat eggs in moderation (about 4-6 per week).
  • Eat fresh, home cooked pork, beef, chicken instead of processed cooked meats and sausages.

Eat some dairy and dairy alternatives

Dairy and dairy alternatives such as milk, soya drinks, yoghurts, and cheese are naturally high in potassium and phosphate which will get into your bloodstream very easily. Dairy and dairy alternatives are good sources of protein and calcium so should be eaten in moderation.

To help manage your potassium and phosphate levels:

  • Limit dairy foods to 2 moderate servings per day – see the list later in this information for serving sizes.

Dairy alternative milks, such as soya, oat and almond drinks vary in potassium and phosphate contents. Your dietitian can guide you on brands containing lower levels.

Eat foods high in fat, salt, and sugar less often and in small amounts

Many of these foods can be high in potassium and phosphate because of additives. Check the list later in this information for the best lower potassium options.

Cooking tips to reduce the potassium in potatoes and vegetables:

  • Peel potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and yam. Cut up and boil in plenty of water. Do not use this water for gravy, soups, or sauces.
  • Boil vegetables and potatoes before adding to stir-fries, stews, or casseroles.
  • Part boil before roasting and frying. Try not to cook vegetables and potatoes in the steamer, microwave, air-fryer or pressure-cooker as this will not reduce their potassium content.

Why should I eat less potassium and phosphate additives?

Both potassium and phosphate are found naturally in all foods. They may also be used as food additives. The potassium and phosphate from food additives gets into your blood stream more easily than that found naturally in food. This will cause higher blood levels of potassium and phosphate.

How do I eat less potassium and phosphate additives?

The names of the additives, or their E numbers, are listed on the ingredients labels where they have been used. Additives with ‘pot’ or ‘phos’ in their name will contain potassium or phosphate.

Check ingredient labels for the additives below to avoid. 

Avoid these additives

E numberNameWhere found
E508Potassium chlorideFoods labelled ‘reduced salt’ or ‘low salt’. Crisps and savoury snacks.
E452PolyphosphatesProcessed potato products such as potato waffles and croquettes.
E451TriphosphatesProcessed cheese such as spreads, triangles and some slices.  Icing sugar, flavoured syrups.
E450DiphosphatesBakery products such as sponge cakes, crumpets, naan bread and scones, processed meat and cheeses, soups sauces, battered products such as fish.
E343Magnesium phosphatesBakery products, salt substitutes.
E341Calcium phosphatesShop-bought desserts and powder dessert mixes, instant pasta mixes.
E340Potassium phosphatesProcessed meats such as ham and sausages. Processed cheeses, sports drinks, dried milk powder.
E339Sodium phosphatesDried milk powder, canned soup, breaded chicken and fish.
E338Phosphoric acidProcessed meat, sweets, cakes, chocolate, dark-coloured cola type drinks.

I also have diabetes, what can I eat?

It can be difficult when you have other health conditions which also affect your eating. For your diabetes you should continue to follow a healthy diet. A diet with wholegrains and less processed food will be good for your diabetes and for your potassium and phosphate levels.  

In addition, you could:

  • Choose low potassium and low phosphate foods – see lists later.
  • Cook your vegetables and potatoes by boiling in plenty of water.
  • Check ingredient labels and limit foods with the potassium and phosphate additives listed above.

Which foods can I eat?

Here is a list to help you choose foods that are lower in both potassium and phosphate.  

Here is some information to help you limit foods that are high in both potassium and phosphate: 

Foods that are higher or lower in potassium and phosphate

FoodsLower in potassium and phosphateHigher in potassium and phosphate
FruitApple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, blackberries, passion fruit, grapefruit (1/2), nectarine (small), lychees, grapes (handful), fruit cocktail, melon or watermelon (1 small slice), pear, mango, satsumas, plum (1), pineapple, cherries, orange, peach, tinned apricots, tinned rhubarb, kiwi.Fresh apricots, avocado, bananas, blackcurrants, damsons, figs, greengages, guava, pomegranate, fresh rhubarb, dried fruit such as dates, raisins, sultanas, prunes. 
Star fruit is not recommended as it is harmful to the kidneys. 
(for more information on portion sizes ask your dietitian) 
Asparagus, aubergine, baby corn, beansprouts, pickled beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, cress, leeks, lettuce (1 small bowl), mange tout, marrow, tinned mushrooms, onion, peas, peppers, pumpkin, runner, beans, spring greens, kale, tinned sweetcorn, tinned tomato (1/4 tin).
Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, yam - boil first. Then mash, fry or roast.
Eat in smaller amounts: broad beans, squash, sprouts, watercress, spring onions, green beans, radishes, celery.
Artichoke, fresh beetroot, celeriac, corn on cob, sweet potato, courgette, fennel, fresh mushrooms, Swiss chard, parsnips, tomato puree, tomato pasta sauce, spinach, okra. cassava, yam. plantain, Chinese leaves, pak choi.
Chips, jacket potatoes.
Frozen chilled or dried potato such as oven chips, potato waffle, hash browns, ready-made or instant mashed potato.
MeatUnprocessed, home cooked fresh meat.Liver, liver sausage, liver paté, saveloy sausage
FishFresh fish such as haddock, cod, salmon, trout.
Boneless tinned fish such as salmon or mackerel.
Sardines, pilchards, whitebait, fish paste.
ShellfishTinned crab.Scampi, fresh crab.
SoupsTinned cream of chicken, packet chicken noodle, oxtail soup.Vegetable and tomato-based soups.
Spreads and oilsOils, butter, margarine, jam, marmalade, honey, lemon curd.Chocolate, peanut butter, tahini, yeast extract (Marmite), treacle.
EggsUp to 4-6 per weekIn moderation.
Beans, pulses
(*cooked weight
**lower in protein)
Choose beans and lentils canned in water as they are lower in potassium.
Recommended serving size is 200g where they are the main protein part of your meal: Tofu, Quorn, lentils*, chickpeas*, beans*, hummus**, baked beans
Soya beans, aduki, pigeon and pinto beans
Dairy and dairy alternatives2 servings per day.  Recommended serving sizes:
Milk 200ml
Yoghurt 1 small pot (125g)
Custard, rice pudding1/3 tin (130g)
Cheese 1 small matchbox size portion
Cottage, ricotta and cream cheeses are lower in phosphate 
For guidance on plant milk alternatives, speak to your dietitian
Starchy foods, bread, and breakfast cerealsWholegrain types such as brown pasta, brown rice, wholemeal bread
Pitta, croissants, English muffins. Home cooked porridge, Shredded wheat, Weetabix
Cornflakes, rice krispies.
Bread with dried fruit, nuts or chocolate
Naan bread, crumpets
Cereals containing dried fruit & nuts (such as muesli, Fruit and fibre, Sultana Bran), All-Bran, Bran buds, Bran Flakes, Oat crisp.
Cakes and biscuitsMadeira cake, doughnuts, meringues, jam swiss roll, danish pastry (no nuts), jam tart, iced bun.
Plain biscuits, jam or vanilla cream filled biscuits, shortbread, plain crackers such as water biscuits, crackers, breadsticks.
Cakes and biscuits containing dried fruit, nuts, chocolate.
Scones, muffins, chocolate cake, packet cake mixes.
Snacks, sweets, and chocolateCorn, maize, wheat snacks, popcorn, pretzels, prawn crackers.
Some snacks have added potassium chloride. Ask your dietitian for a list of suitable options.
Fruit pastilles, boiled fruit sweets, sherbet, peppermints, marshmallows, turkish delight (no chocolate or nuts), chewing gum, fruit gums.
Nuts, seeds, bombay mix, Twiglets, liquorice.
Potato crisps.
Seasoning and condimentsOrdinary salt sparingly.
Pepper, herbs, spices, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, chilli sauce, mint sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, salad cream, tartare sauce.

Low sodium salts such as LoSalt, Solo (these contain potassium chloride)


Tomato ketchup / brown sauce - limit to 1 tablespoon.


Tea, herbal tea, fruit squash, light-coloured fizzy drinks.
Coffee – recommended to limit to 1 cup per day.
Dry sherry, liqueurs, spirits, white wine (1 small glass per day).


Coffee - try to limit to 1 cup per day.
All fruit and vegetable juices / smoothies.
Malted or hot chocolate drinks (such as Ovaltine,   Bournvita, cocoa), milk shakes, yoghurt drinks.
Cider, strong ale, stout, Guinness, bitter, lager, red wine.


Foods high in fat, salt and sugar

This booklet gives a full range of foods that are low and high in both potassium and phosphate. It includes some foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar such as savoury snacks, cakes and sweets. These are included to give you a variety of options. You may prefer not to eat these foods if you are trying to eat less fat, salt and sugar or if you have diabetes. 

What if the foods I eat are not listed here?

If a food you eat is missing ask your dietitian for guidance.  Our contact details are on the NBT Nutrition and Dietetics Service webpage:

Nutrition & Dietetics | North Bristol NHS Trust (

How can I eat more sustainably?

Many people want to eat food that is more environmentally friendly. These ideas are good for the planet and for you too:

  • Limit red and processed meats. Try some plant food sources of protein such as beans, lentils, soya mince, Quorn, tofu instead.
  • Moderate the amount of dairy foods you eat and consider a plant based milk.
  • Eat less processed food that is high in fat, sugar, and salt.


  • This information has shown you ways you can eat less potassium and phosphate by:
  • Eating a healthy diet and choosing low potassium and low phosphate foods.
  • Cooking all vegetables by boiling.
  • Checking ingredient labels and limiting foods with potassium and phosphate additives.

Useful webpages

For guidance on healthy amounts of meat to help reduce your risk of bowel cancer: 
Red meat and bowel cancer risk - NHS (

Information on kidney disease and food written by the kidney dietitians at North Bristol NHS Trust:
Nutrition and Dietetics Patient Information | North Bristol NHS Trust (

Recipes to enable you to cook delicious kidney friendly meals from scratch:
Recipe Index | Kidney Care UK

Practical advice to help you reduce your weekly food shopping bill while maintaining a nutritious and kidney friendly diet:
Shop for a kidney friendly diet on a budget | Kidney Care UK

© North Bristol NHS Trust.  This edition published May 2024. Review due May 2027. NBT003671.

Eating well to lower blood potassium and phosphate levels