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Is Pumpkin Good For Dialysis Patients?

It’s that time of year already! As we fall into the autumn season, it’s officially back to school, the leaves are turning (depending on where you live!), and everything is pumpkin spiced. Who doesn’t love pumpkin? But, is pumpkin good for dialysis patients?

This blog post will break down the nutrition benefits of pumpkin, potassium content, limits for kidney patients, and some lower potassium options.

Benefits And Potassium Content of Pumpkin

Did you know that pumpkin is actually a fruit? Technically speaking, a fruit comes from the flower of a plant and is able to produce seeds. But, pumpkin is usually grouped in the winter squash category as it has a similar nutrient profile and is prepared in the same way.

You can’t exactly snack on raw pumpkin, but it can be roasted/baked or puréed into many recipes like baked goods, soups, sauces, smoothies, pancakes, and more.

Pumpkin is a very nutritious food that is nutrient dense and low in calories. It contains a high amount of beta-carotene (vitamin A), antioxidants, vitamin C & E, and is an excellent source of fiber….and potassium.

The following is a comparison of potassium content of different squashes per 1/2 cup serving:

  • Acorn (cubed, boiled)= 448 mg
  • Butternut (cubed, boiled)= 291 mg
  • Pumpkin (boiled, mashed)=282 mg , canned=253 mg
  • Zucchini (boiled, sliced)= 238 mg, boiled, mashed= 317 mg
  • Yellow crookneck (1/2 medium, raw)= 222 mg
  • Spaghetti squash (boiled, baked)= 91 mg

Spaghetti squash is the clear low potassium winner. A cup of pumpkin would give you over 500 mg of potassium, so portion size definitely matters.

Potassium and Dialysis Patients

Because pumpkin is a good source of potassium, it is usually limited on a renal diet. But, not every dialysis patient has the same potassium needs.

The general recommendation is to limit your potassium intake to 2000-3000 mg/day. The amount depends on what type of dialysis you are on, how often you dialyze, and how much urine you make.

If you are on hemodialysis 3x/week and make little urine, you usually need to keep your potassium intake closer to 2000 mg/day. However, if you are doing peritoneal dialysis, dialyzing more frequently or still make a lot of urine your potassium needs will be higher.

The best thing to do is ask your clinic dietitian or kidney doctor what your daily potassium goal is and monitor your potassium levels on your monthly lab report. That way, you’ll know if pumpkin is something you can include in your diet in moderation.

Lower Potassium Pumpkin Spice Options

Non-Dairy Creamers

You definitely want to avoid the usual Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte. The pumpkin spice sauce is made of sugar, condensed milk and pumpkin puree. If you order a grande size including the normal 2% milk and whipped cream, this will give you 390 calories, 14g fat, 230 mg sodium, 50g of sugar! and over 700 mg of potassium. That is too much of everything in your morning beverage.

Instead, you can save yourself $7 and make your own coffee adding a pumpkin spice non-dairy creamer. Both Silk Pumpkin Spice Dairy Free Almond Milk Creamer and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Non-Dairy Creamer provide 0 mg potassium per 1 Tbsp serving, however do contain 4-5g of added sugar.

NutPods Unsweetened Dairy Free Pumpkin Spice Creamer is a good option if you’re looking for no added sugar, but it does contain Dipotassium Phosphate. It’s fine to use on occasion, but I wouldn’t use it all the time.

All of these creamers can give your coffee a little boost of pumpkin spice flavor without having to use too much. Note that some creamers contain phosphate additives, so pay attention to the label.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

Using pumpkin pie spice is another great low potassium alternative. Give your oatmeal, smoothie, baked goods, or pancakes a kick of pumpkin spice flavor with this delicious spice blend. One Tbsp= 37 g potassium, but usually 1-2 tsp is enough to add to a recipe.

Use A Small Amount Of Pumpkin Puree

Another option is adding 1-2 Tbsp of pumpkin puree (1 Tbsp=32 g potassium) or use a combo of 1 Tbsp pumpkin puree + 1-2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice. This can add a lot of pumpkin flavor without going overboard on the potassium. You can also add a tsp of vanilla extract and a little monkfruit or stevia to sweeten things up.

5 Ways To Add Pumpkin Spice

5 Ways To Add Pumpkin Spice To Your Life. Is pumpkin good for dialysis patients? Dialysis Dietitian

Pumpkin Free Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin pie is usually off limits to dialysis patients because of the potassium content, but here is a great kidney friendly pumpkin free pumpkin pie recipe using spaghetti squash instead!

If you’re looking for other low potassium dessert ideas you can check out my previous blog post for some more options.

Is Pumpkin Good For Dialysis Patients?

So, while it is true that pumpkin is a higher potassium food, there are ways you can sneak in that pumpkin spice flavor to satisfy your cravings without going overboard on the potassium.

Pumpkin is a very nutritious food, and in small amounts can be a healthy addition to your renal diet plan. Enjoy!

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