Friday, September 25, 2015

The Kidney Kitchen: Potassium and the Renal Diet

  Welcome to part 2 of my 5-part series on my kidney diet.  This post will look at potassium and why I have to limit my potassium intake.
  Potassium is a mineral which helps your nerves and muscles to work properly. It also keeps electrolytes and the acid/base content of your blood in balance, promotes muscle growth and sustains healthy brain function. You need some potassium for good health, but too much or too little can affect your heartbeat. When your kidneys don't work properly, they can't regulate the potassium levels in your blood, and it can build up. A potassium level that gets too high (or hyperkalemia) can lead to a heart attack. A potassium level that is too low (also called hypokalemia) can cause muscle weakness or cramps, or even muscle paralysis.  By controlling my intake of potassium, I can help prevent these problems. Examples of foods that are high in potassium include:
- potatoes: red, white, sweet...they're all high in potassium
- dried peas, beans, nuts and seeds
- dairy products such as milk, pudding, ice cream and cheese
- dried fruit such as apricots, dates, figs and raisins
- fresh fruit like bananas, cantaloupe, oranges and kiwi
- tomatoes and tomato products like ketchup, tomato sauce and tomato juice
- All-Bran and other bran cereal
- whole grain breads and cereals
- salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride
- sodium-free baking powder
- sweets like black licorice, chocolate and molasses
- vegetables such as artichokes, spinach, pumpkin and large amounts of mushrooms
You may be thinking that the list of what I can't eat is longer than what I can eat. Well, you'd be right. But there are ways that I can still eat my favourite foods. Take, for example, the humble potato. There are ways that I can cook potatoes to reduce the amount of potassium. One method is to cut the potatoes into small pieces and double cook them. To double cook potatoes, you bring them to a boil and then drain and rinse them and continue cooking them in fresh water. Another option is to leach them in water for 3-4 hours (leaching is a fancy term for soaking). Leaching is what I do when I prepare the scalloped potatoes below.
  Potassium can be hard to control, because it's found in most fruits and vegetables.  But there are still lots of options that I choose from: peaches, sweet peppers, cabbage, apples, celery, turnip...and this is just a few.
  And when I feel like treating myself a little< I make these scalloped potatoes.  In place of milk, I use unfortified Rice Dream rice beverage as the "cream" component.

Jen's Kidney-Friendly Scalloped Potatoes
2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (add more or less onion, depending on your tastes)
4 tbsp. margarine
4 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. no-salt seasoning of your choice (I like either Epicure Fine Herbes blend or Clubhouse No Salt Added Original blend)
2 cups unfortified rice milk
4 tbsp. herb and garlic cream cheese, optional

1. Slice the potatoes and put them to soak in a bowl of cold water for at least 3 to 4 hours, draining and rinsing the potatoes after 2 hours and putting them in fresh water.
2. When you're ready to make the potatoes, drain and rinse them and let them dry for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 6"x9" baking dish and layer the potatoes and onions in it; set aside.
3. Melt the margarine in a medium-sized pot. Whisk in the flour and seasoning until smooth, then whisk in the rice milk. If desired, add in some herb and garlic cream cheese. Heat the sauce until it boils and thickens, stirring often to keep the sauce from sticking and/or burning.
4.  Pour the sauce over the pan of potatoes and onions.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until potatoes are softened.  Then enjoy!

Until next time,

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