Kidney Diet Tips

Kidney Diet Tips: Pumpkin and Kidney Diets

PumpkinsYesterday a  farmer friend delivered a fresh pumpkin to my mom’s front porch. Yes, it’s that time of the year— the beginning of fall harvest, cooler evenings, and soon-to-be leaves turning vibrant colors in celebration of another year passing.

As we were discussing what to do with the pumpkin, the question came up “How does pumpkin fit into a diet for stage 3 CKD?”  To answer, I’ve gathered  some kidney diet tips facts and figures on pumpkin  to share with you.

  • Pumpkin is a great source of beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A), and potassium. It is a good source of fiber and iron. One-half cup of fresh boiled, mashed, pumpkin contains 25 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 1 mg sodium, 37 mg phosphorus, 280 mg potassium and 1.3 g fiber.
  • Since potassium content is high, people on hemodialysis and others with high potassium levels or prescribed a low potassium diet should limit pumpkin.
  • To reduce potassium in fresh pumpkin, as well as potatoes and winter squash, cut into small pieces and soak in a large pot of warm water to 2 hours or longer. An alternative is to boil the small pumpkin pieces for 10 minutes, drain and add fresh water, then boil until cooked. Potassium is usually reduced by 1/3 to ½ of the original amount.
  • Canned pumpkin puree is similar to fresh cooked pumpkin in potassium content, with 250 mg per ½ cup, and most brands do not contain added sodium. In comparison, ½ cup pumpkin pie filling contains 280 mg sodium, 186 mg potassium and 62 mg phosphorus. The pie filling has added salt, sugar, and spices such as allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  • Prepared, frozen pumpkin pie contains around 350 mg sodium, 250 mg potassium and 100 mg phosphorus for 1/6th of a 9-inch pie.
  • Pumpkin seed kernels are not kidney-friendly:  2 tablespoons contain 228 mg potassium and 332 mg phosphorus. If roasted with salt the sodium goes from 5 mg up to 160 mg.

Pumpkin is a healthy choice for kidney patients in earlier stages of CKD who do not require a potassium restriction. Fresh or low-sodium canned pumpkin puree is the best choice. For patients on a low potassium diet, pumpkin can be included in small amounts. For best results, stick to recipes modified for a kidney-friendly diet to keep potassium, phosphorus and sodium intake in check.

So what can you do with a fresh pumpkin? Cut it up and cook to make pumpkin puree–consider canning your own pumpkin to use throughout the fall holidays. Make a pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread or homemade pumpkin soup.  If you had rather, you can always carve your pumpkin it onto a Jack-o-lantern.

Enjoy the following kidney-friendly pumpkin recipes from

Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake

Frost on the Pumpkin Pie

Pioneer Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara Colman, RDN, CDCES

Sara is a renal dietitian with over 30 years experience working with people with diabetes and kidney disease. She is co-author of the popular kidney cookbook "Cooking for David: A Culinary Dialysis Cookbook". Sara is the Manager of Kidney Care Nutrition for DaVita. She analyzes recipes and creates content, resources and tools for the kidney community. In her spare time Sara loves to spend time with her young grandson, including fun times together in her kitchen.