This article was written by dietetic student Maria Vargas Guzman & reviewed by Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG.
There is obviously a reason everyone loves pizza. Honestly, why wouldn’t we? Pizza is the perfect combination: crispy crust and melty cheese. It’s also convenient, cheap, and is a great way to make vegetables tasty!
However, if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD) and need a low potassium diet (not everyone with CKD does!), you might feel that there is no way pizza could be kidney friendly. There must be tons of potassium in all that tomato sauce and cheese, right?
Although there can be a lot of potassium in pizza, keep reading to find out ways to make smarter pizza choices!
Why Worry About Potassium?
Potassium is a very important mineral and electrolyte for the body. It helps keep your muscles working and regulates your heartbeat and blood pressure. However, some people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have high potassium levels in their blood. This is called “hyperkalemia”. This occurs due to the inability of the kidneys to remove potassium as well as they should. If the kidneys can’t get rid of potassium, high levels of potassium in your blood can cause harm.
If you have hyperkalemia, it may be a good idea to limit how much potassium you eat.
Your dietitian will determine how much potassium you need to eat each day and how often you should eat these foods high in potassium.
How Much Potassium in Pizza?
Of course, the amount of potassium in pizza depends on the toppings and ingredients in the pizza. Let’s understand which pizza ingredients may be sending potassium sky high.
Main Sources of Potassium in Pizza
Often thought of as a main ingredient in pizza, tomato sauce is very high in potassium. A ¼ cup of tomato sauce has 223mg of potassium alone! Pizza sauce also tends to be very high in sodium.
Processed meats such as pepperoni, sausage, prosciutto, and ham are high in potassium. Even worse, these meats often have added phosphorus.
Spinach, especially cooked, has a surprising amount of potassium. A ½ cup of cooked spinach has 420mg of potassium.
Another surprise, mushrooms have 428mg of potassium per ½ cup of cooked mushrooms.
How It Adds Up: Exact Amount of Potassium in Pizza
The exact amount of potassium in pizza varies significantly based on the toppings. But, for a ballpark estimate, 1 slice of a 12-inch cheese pizza with tomato sauce has about 200mg of potassium. Add pepperoni, and potassium goes up to about 300mg.
Words of Encouragement: No Need to Give Up Pizza
It can be a challenge to find kidney friendly pizza. Remember, you can always make your own pizza at home and control how much potassium (and sodium!) is in your pizza. Try this low sodium pizza crust to get you started!
However, if you find yourself eating out, there are plenty of options for you. Nowadays, restaurants are more flexible and have a variety of options for people who need a special diet. You don’t need to give up pizza, you just need to make smarter choices for your health.
Make a Special Request
If possible, ask for less tomato sauce and cheese. You can also ask that no extra salt be added to your pizza to keep sodium down.
Choose Low Potassium Pizza Toppings
If you need to limit potassium, make low potassium pizza topping choices. Some great options are:
- green and red peppers
- fresh garlic
- fresh basil
Reconsider Tomato Sauce
Ask for pesto sauce instead of the regular tomato sauce. Consider a ‘naked pizza’ with olive oil and garlic. If you are making your own pizza at home, try this Roasted Red Pepper Sauce in place of tomato sauce.
Be Mindful of Portion Sizes
Even low potassium pizza can become high potassium pizza if you eat enough of it. Plus, pizza from a restaurant will likely be very high in sodium. One slice (1/8) of a 12-inch pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut has 590mg of sodium!
No matter what kind of pizza you choose, enjoy just a couple slices and pair it with a kidney friendly salad or other veggie!
If the restaurant doesn’t have the swaps you are looking for, don’t overthink it. Try to eat lower sodium and lower potassium meals the rest of the day. This will help make sure you do not exceed your daily nutrition goals.