How to figure the maximum sugar, salt, potassium, ...already consumed? 
March 17, 2023 5:46 PM   Subscribe

If a person had a slice of cake (size of whole cake not known),   and an irregular amount of a can or bottle of soft drink,   and other things like donut, anything high in potassium, etc., how do you calculate it to figure out if the limit of the day, has been reached or passed?  I mentioned potassium as an example since too much could cause Hyperkalemia . Is there is a website that helps with that? I'm not suggesting everyone likes donuts , soda, etc., but for people who like those things, how is it calculated?
posted by amfgf to Health & Fitness (16 answers total)
Best answer: I just assume that with a fairly normal diet that isn’t identical every day, the amounts you take in will balance out over a week or so. If your health is normal there is no reason at all to calculate things like daily potassium from normal servings of normal foods.

If I really needed to calculate, I would estimate based on something similar, like an approximately same size serving of a somewhat similar cake.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:09 PM on March 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, without more details on the makeup of the cake or the amount consumed, the best you can do is a rough estimate. There's a reason why people who want to tightly control their intake of any sort of nutrient do so by weighing portions on scale and referring to nutrition labels.

When I'm tracking such things, I'll often type a query into google of the form "100g [name of food] nutrition." This will usually bring up enough information to do a bit of math and work things out. But it works best for raw ingredients, like "100g pinto beans nutrition." Prepared foods can vary a lot, although something like a canned soft drink is likely standardized enough for this to work.

If a person has a condition such that eating the wrong thing, or too much of anything, could send them into acute hyperkalemia or something equally serious, then (although I am not a medical doctor) I suspect the only good recommendation is to plan meals ahead and avoid irregularity.
posted by egregious theorem at 6:15 PM on March 17, 2023 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Processed foods are labeled. Just add up the milligrams.

The "danger" threshold depends on kidney function. For folks with chronic kidney disease, a renal diet is important. Absent CKD, your kidneys got you covered. I used to have a T shirt that said "Have you thanked your nephrons today?"
posted by basalganglia at 6:19 PM on March 17, 2023 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You have to know the quantities. Most bought foods are labeled or their nutritional information googleable. You can get best guess information for 'similar items' but the variance is quite high between recipes. Even different cuts of meat differ a lot.

There are a bunch of websites and apps you can to track this stuff. I've never liked any of them, though I have used them a source of recipes and associated nutritional information. For your own recipes, you can just sum the info of the ingredients. It was just easier for me to use a spreadsheet, but I'm that way inclined.

It is a lot of effort initially but we're creatures of habit so once you've got the numbers it's just a matter of determining how many 'X portions' you've eaten.
posted by gible at 7:05 PM on March 17, 2023

Best answer: There are lots of books and websites that include nutritive values. Here's a website from the USDA, with big tables of values of common foods listed starting in page 12. You'd just look up your food for the day and add up the values within your recommended value.

For high potassium, it's things like bananas, orange juice, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, dairy... Here's a link, but there are many sources out there. With a regular diet, it's typically very hard to get hyperkalemia unless you have a serious underlying medical condition.

When I was on hemodialysis for kidney failure, I had strict limits on sodium, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus because I had no kidneys for my body to filter those things on my own, so I had to work with a renal dietician to plan my diet. My doctors ran regular monthly or bimonthly bloodwork to monitor my levels. Over time I got a hang of which foods I had to avoid and which I could have in moderation. It was more of a broad strokes sort of approach than checking for every milligram every single day, and the diet became second nature.
posted by mochapickle at 7:18 PM on March 17, 2023 [2 favorites]

If a person had a slice of cake (size of whole cake not known), and an irregular amount of a can or bottle of soft drink, and other things like donut, anything high in potassium, etc., how do you calculate it

You don't, because without accurate starting figures to feed into the calculation, doing the calculation is a waste of time. So you just take your best guess.

If consistently taking your best guess proves harmful, that's an incentive to get more rigorous about measurements and/or skew future guesses a little further in whichever direction would have avoided those harms.

Quite a few of your recent questions strike me as reflecting some kind of search for hard and fast answers to things that honestly there are no hard and fast answers for. The world is just messy, and navigating that mess requires work and experience, and successful shortcuts are few and far between. Certainty, to my way of thinking, is to be treated as usually mistaken and demanding of careful interrogation rather than something to be generally sought after.
posted by flabdablet at 2:54 AM on March 18, 2023 [5 favorites]

Best answer: It's possible to ascertain levels of particular substances using serum or urine tests. Hyperkalemia will also show up on an EKG.

However, if you're concerned about your intake of particular nutrients, you should only consume portions with known sizes.

You appear to have a range of health and dietary concerns. Have you considered speaking to a medical professional?
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 3:55 AM on March 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've tracked my fat intake for a couple periods of time, and I think you can tune your guesstimates to be good enough. If you've weighed 25 doughnuts of various kinds over the course of several months, a glance at the 26th doughnut is enough for you to say yes, no, or get me a knife I'll take half.

I read something recently that noted we get our potassium from plants, and our sodium from animals, I. E. meat. That was news to me.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:01 AM on March 18, 2023

Response by poster: Thanks for noting that the question's wording is general knowledge related and not about anyone in particular. Also the idea is to be proactive enough to never have to need to fix a problem.

mochapickle, thanks for the links. I have to download the first one so I have to do it later. I'm reading the second one.

The Asparagus.
Citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruit.
Cooked spinach.
Melons like honeydew and cantaloupe.
Prunes, raisins and other dried fruits.
Pumpkin and winter squash.
Salt substitutes that contain potassium.
Tomatoes and tomato-based products like sauces and ketchup.

There is another site that I never heard of (which means nothing) that has a much, much longer list. How does a person avoid eating all those really good for you food items?
By the way the symptoms of too much potassium and other medical conditions are so very mild it's very hard to even notice.
posted by amfgf at 1:40 PM on March 18, 2023

Best answer: Look at the Cronometer app, which tracks a variety of micronutrients (which I believe includes potassium). It pulls from a pretty large database and you can also add foods based on nutrition labels or recipes.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:40 PM on March 18, 2023 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The symptoms of too much potassium in a normally healthy individual should be basically none at all, because the kidneys are very good at getting rid of the excess. To consume a dangerously high amount of potassium you'd need to be overdosing on a supplement. Ordinary foods won't contain enough potassium to do harm unless you're able to eat them in truly epic quantities, like (rough calculation) 50 bananas a day for several days.
posted by pipeski at 2:53 PM on March 18, 2023 [6 favorites]

the idea is to be proactive enough to never have to need to fix a problem.

Sounds good on its face, but the number of conceivable health problems is so many times greater than the number of actual health problems that any one human being could encounter in a lifetime that in fact it's not an achievable goal.

Prevention is generally better than cure, but an all-prevention no-cure policy stance is unbalanced enough to be unwise. Every preventative measure you could possibly take is a tradeoff, and if your whole life is run on the basis of preventing every bad thing that could conceivably happen to you, you'll inevitably end up trading off stuff you actually do need against stuff you only theoretically might need. That dilemma has clearly already started to make itself apparent to you, as evidenced by your question about avoiding all those good foods for fear of excess potassium.

For most people nearly all of the time, the best things we can do for our health do not involve latching onto specific potential problems and taking specific steps to avoid those. Rather, it's better to adopt generally sound policy designed to help us avoid whole swathes of problems at a stroke while also making it take less time and effort to solve the random assortment we never will see coming.

Get good sleep. Eat a variety of nutritious foods. Build enough physical movement into your day. Those are the basics and for most people, actually achieving those goals is quite challenging enough. Habitually falling short on any of them is much more likely to bring most people undone than hyperkalemia.

If you don't already have a good idea of what a healthy diet looks like for you, then rather than using resources like AskMe to research every specific condition you might seek to prevent, I think you'd be better advised to get some face to face advice from a dietitian. Start from a sound foundation of basic policy and then elaborate only as required.

More is not better. Less is not better. Enough is best, and the range of enough is quite unintuitively wide.
posted by flabdablet at 9:48 PM on March 18, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For most nutrients, unless you have a disorder you're looking at a lower end (recommended daily value as a floor) or a very wide range (recommended daily again as a floor - say for vitamin A you have 700-900 mcg recommended minimum and they don't recommend you exceed 3000 mcg/day).

Hyperkalemia is a strange example because it isn't a description of a diet, it's a description of your blood and is basically a symptom of kidney failure; you may be able to control it with diet, but it's like cutting out lactose because you're lactose intolerant. It's not something that causes harm in folks who can process it normally.
posted by Lady Li at 1:37 AM on March 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Being careful about potassium-containing foods is something that only people at true risk of hyperkalaemia need to worry about. You don't say if you have reason to fear hyperkalaemia (most people don't, it's not something otherwise healthy people have to worry about) but if you're physically healthy I would gently suggest that this may be anxiety talking.
posted by altolinguistic at 8:55 AM on March 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all. This Q is not about anyone.
posted by amfgf at 5:39 PM on March 22, 2023

Response by poster: I was going to give most answers favorite but it only let me give it just one. I didn't really examine which one is the best one.
posted by amfgf at 5:54 PM on March 22, 2023

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