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Chocolate and kidney disease: a tasty treat or a forbidden fruit?

Most of us love a bit of chocolate. But what is the deal with chocolate and kidney disease? As dietitians, we get asked this a lot.  

Chocolate can often be viewed as a super-concentrated source of potassium and therefore a forbidden forever food if you have kidney disease.  Here are some questions and answers about chocolate that can help you understand more about it in relation to kidney disease.  


Does dark chocolate contain more or less potassium than milk or white chocolate? 

In general the higher the % cocoa in the chocolate, the higher the potassium content.  This is certainly true when talking about dark chocolate (e.g. 40% dark compared to 70% dark) but the tables are turned when we start talking about white chocolate which only has cocoa butter in it but a much higher content of milk powder (also high in potassium).  Then you have milk chocolate which has cocoa in it AND milk powder. So on balance, your best bet with chocolate is to go for plain chocolate but with a lower % of cocoa. 


What about cocoa powder? 

Cocoa powder is really high in potassium but the good news is that we don’t tend to use that much when e.g. making a chocolate cake.  So two to three tablespoons in a chocolate sponge cake recipe making 12 portions? Not a problem! 


How much chocolate can someone with kidney disease eat? 

Well, that is really individual.  If you have been advised to be careful with potassium-rich foods, then avoiding having a bar of chocolate would be sensible but eating a chocolate digestive instead of a plain digestive is unlikely to make much difference.  But always get advice from your healthcare team for that all-important individualised advice! 


Chocolate type Source Weight Phosphate mg Potassium mg
Plain 36-50% UK 100 140 (4.5) 300
Plain 45-59% US 100 206 (6.6) 559
Plain 60-69% US 100 260 (8.4) 567
Plain 70-85% US 100 308 (9.9) 715
White UK 100 230 (7.4) 350
White US 100 176 (5.7) 286
Milk UK 100 224 (7.2) 450
Milk US 100 101 (3.3) 182
Cocoa powder US 100 734 (23.7) 1524
Biscuits fully coated with chocolate, with marshmallow UK 100 103 (3.3) 259 (6.6)
Dark Chocolate Rice Cake  US 100

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