Kidney Diet Tips

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Hidden Potassium in Reduced-Sodium Meat

When trying to make smarter choices at the grocery store, you may be tempted to purchase the reduced-sodium meat or poultry option of your favorite deli meat instead of the original product. After scanning the ingredient list to insure no phosphate additives, you note a significantly lower sodium content. However, while aiming to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet, you may be unknowingly increasing your potassium intake.

Swapping Sodium for Potassium

Sodium chloride or salt is commonly added to foods to preserve and enhance the taste and texture. As manufacturers work to lower the sodium content of processed foods, sodium chloride is commonly replaced with potassium additives, like potassium chloride. This additional potassium in the diet may put individuals with late stage chronic kidney disease (CKD) or end-stage renal disease (ESRD) at risk for elevated level of potassium in the blood, known as hyperkalemia.

Study Reveals Higher Potassium Content in Sodium-Reduced Deli Meats

Reduced-sodium meat and poultry products may not easily fit into a potassium restricted diet. A recent Canadian study compared the potassium content of 19 original meat and poultry products to their sodium-reduced counterparts (Parpia et al., 2018). It was found that on average a reduced-sodium meat or poultry product contained 44% more potassium than the original product. However, there was much variability between the different brands. See the table below for a few comparisons of meat and poultry products included in the study.

The Sodium and Potassium Content of the Original Product Compared to the Sodium-Reduced Product

(Canadian Products)

Original Product Sodium

(mg/100 g*)

Potassium

(mg/100 g*)

Sodium-Reduced Product Sodium

(mg/100 g*)

Potassium

(mg/100 g*)

President’s Choice® oven roasted chicken breast 760 420 40% Less Na than President’s Choice® oven roasted chicken breast 550 520
President’s Choice® oven roasted turkey breast 770 450 55% less Na than President’s Choice® oven roasted turkey breast 460 950
Compliments® naturally cooked fully cooked bacon 2,800 570 50% Less Na than Compliments® fully cooked bacon 1,600 1,000
Schneider’s® naturally smoked bacon 800 230 40% less Na per 50-g serving than Schneider’s® Regular Bacon 400 500

Parpia et al., 2018, Table 2

*100 grams is equal to 3-1/2 ounces. This may be more than the recommended serving size on the package.

Ingredient Check

The next time you find yourself at the grocery store and reaching for a low or reduced-sodium meat or poultry product, check the ingredient list for added potassium. For example, if you reach for Jennie-O® Oven Roasted Reduced Sodium Turkey Breast deli meat you will find “potassium phosphate” listed on the ingredient list. However there is no potassium information available in the Nutrition Facts on the label. This is the case with other deli products as well. In addition, you may notice phosphate additives but no information on the phosphorus content.

On average, a sodium-reduced product containing a potassium additive has more than double the potassium than a product without a potassium additive listed on the ingredient list (Parpia et al., 2018). A few potassium additives to watch out for are potassium chloride, potassium phosphate and potassium lactate.

When More Potassium is Good

Some patients with kidney disease do not need to restrict potassium, but also benefit from reducing sodium intake. For example, those with earlier stages of CKD who have normal or low potassium levels may benefit from eating a diet with more potassium. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan which is rich in potassium and low in sodium may help lower blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease.

Patient who are on peritoneal dialysis often have lower potassium levels and may need to include higher potassium foods. For these groups, reduced-sodium deli meats with more potassium may not be a bad thing.

Reference

Parpia, A. S., Goldstein, M. B., Arcand, J., Cho, F., L’Abbé, M. R., & Darling, P. B. (2018). Sodium-Reduced Meat and Poultry Products Contain a Significant Amount of Potassium from Food Additives. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition  and Dietetics. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2017.10.025.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.


Melanie Wierda, RD, CSR

Melanie Wierda, RD, CSR

Melanie is thrilled to start her blogging journey with DaVita. She has been a dietitian for over three years. In her free time, she enjoys running, visiting the local farmers' market and volunteering with a local nutrition education program.