A healthy diet for kidney disease may not be the same as any regular meal plan. Kidney disease causes loss of renal function, which requires limiting certain nutrients.
For kidneys with weakened capacity, avoid foods high in sodium, potassium, phosphorus, sugar, unhealthy fats, calcium, and alcohol. These minerals and substances worsen kidney disease and bring about other health complications. Read on for an in-depth discussion of foods bad for kidneys.
Did You Know? Your kidney performs regular removal of waste products and excess fluids. Losing this function can jeopardize the performance of other vital organs. Monitor kidney functions through blood tests based on your family history, lifestyle, and symptoms.
What Foods Are Bad for Kidneys? 7 Food Types to Avoid
Foods leading to high blood pressure also increase blood sugar levels, promote weight gain, and cause direct damage to the kidneys. As a result, they aggravate chronic kidney disease and, thus, should be avoided or regulated.
CKD is closely linked to hypertension and diabetes, which are considered the leading cause of the condition in high and middle-income countries. So naturally, foods that trigger or contribute to these disorders include our list, along with other detrimental food types.
- Salty Foods
Sodium-rich foods cause high blood pressure, which makes the kidneys work twice as hard, causing damage to the tiny blood vessels of the organ. This leads to loss of function, specifically in filtering wastes from the blood.
Likewise, it is highly possible to develop hypertension if you’re diagnosed with kidney disease. But whichever comes first, managing blood pressure will prevent CKD from worsening and developing other complications.
Here are salty foods to avoid when you have kidney disease:
Canning is a convenient process for storing food. However, as impressive as its accessibility – not to mention affordability – most canned goods contain high sodium and phosphorus additives detrimental to patients with CKD. As a result, renal diets restrict the consumption of canned beans, tuna, vegetables, soup, etc.
Prolonging the shelf life of meat can be done through meat curing. The process involves removing moisture from the muscles and fats by adding salt (sometimes in copious amounts), herbs, and additives. Cured meats to avoid include ham, salami, bacon, beef jerky, and sausages.
Sodium consumption falls under 1,500 mg per day for people with hypertension and CKD. A single fast food meal can cover this limit easily in a single sitting. For example, according to the USDA, a hamburger patty typically has 440 mg of salt, 100 grams of fries has 210 mg, and a regular pizza with 298 mg.
Pickled Fruits and Vegetables
Pickling is a traditional way of preserving some fruits and vegetables through fermentation. Despite containing organic produce, it would be wise for those with kidney disease to avoid these foods since the method relies on using ample salt solution and vinegar.
Cheese-based Food Products
Most cheese contains high levels of sodium. For example, a piece of 100-gram cheddar cheese has sodium amounting to 654 mg. Combine it with food items like chips, fries, dips, and so on, and you could blow the sodium intake limit to the ceiling.
As savory as they are, sauces may contain plenty of salt. So, it’s best to regulate the consumption of ketchup, barbeque sauce, soy sauce, and marinades. These condiments also have high sugar concentrations, increasing your risk for hypertension and diabetes.
- Potassium-Rich Foods
Excess potassium is one of the electrolytes, along with sodium, removed by the kidneys to ensure normal levels in the bloodstream. Otherwise, you will be at risk of hyperkalemia (high potassium levels), which could lead to complications, such as cardiac arrest and heart attack.
Given that individuals with kidney disease have impaired nephrons (the functional unit of the kidney), it only makes sense to ease their function by limiting potassium-rich foods. Therefore, if you have CKD, check your potassium levels through a potassium blood test and have a low-potassium renal diet.
Due to their high potassium levels, bananas can be bad for damaged kidneys. A single banana (115 g) contains 375 mg of potassium. Therefore, they make the list of foods to avoid when adopting a renal diet. Otherwise, the potassium accumulates, leading to other complications of CKD.
With 975 mg of potassium for an avocado, it would be wise to avoid this fruit altogether if you have kidney disease. If not, limit your intake so you can take advantage of its nutrients without sacrificing your kidney health. The exclusion includes food items with avocado, such as guacamole and avocado toasts.
Potatoes contain 632 mg of potassium. Consuming large portions of potatoes, especially when fried, can further damage your kidneys if you have CKD. On the other hand, you can eat potatoes without worrying about potassium by cutting them into tiny pieces and boiling them to leach out the mineral.
Plenty of low-caloric meals use tomatoes. However, while this fruit remains packed with good nutrients, it may get overridden by its elevated potassium, making it less ideal for those with kidney disease.
Chocolates can be bad for your kidneys if you have CKD since it has high potassium levels. For every 100 grams, it contains 429 mg of potassium. Also, chocolate combined with other food and beverages rich in sugar spells aggravated disaster for kidney disease.
Fitness diets often include brown rice in lieu of white rice for its nutrients and low glycemic index. However, you may have to rethink its inclusion in your renal diet as a cup of brown rice has potassium amounting to 174 mg.
- Sugary Foods
Multiple studies showcase the damaging effects of sugar, such as increasing your risk for kidney disease, obesity, and diabetes. Also, high sugar levels push the kidneys to work beyond capacity, worsening the disruption in your blood vessels.
The recommended sugar intake for those diagnosed with CKD may vary. Hence, it’s best to consult your doctor and take the necessary lab tests to assess your blood sugar levels, such as the glucose serum blood test and hemoglobin a1c blood test.
After confirming the elevated glucose levels in your blood, ensure that you limit the following sugary foods in your kidney-friendly diet.
Prunes, dates, raisins, figs, and apricots are common dried fruits high in sugar and potassium. These are added to remove moisture which stiffens and preserves the fruits. As a result, doctors and dietitians recommend regulating said foods if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
Sweetened and Flavored Drinks
Beverages such as sodas, fruit juices, and other flavored drinks contain sweeteners that exacerbate kidney damage. Dark-colored soda, in particular, also has increased potassium amounting to 90 to 180 mg per 12 ounces of serving, worsening CKD.
Cakes, Pastries, and Sweets
It comes as no surprise that desserts ranging from cakes to candies are often removed from renal diets considering their high sugar content. However, occasionally, you can have a slice of cake or pastry, provided they have low sugar and potassium.
- Foods High in Phosphorus
Chronic kidney disease can lead to cardiovascular and bone complications due to the diminished ability of the kidneys to remove phosphorus in the blood. This can also be associated with the existing damage in the nephrons.
As phosphorus builds up in the blood vessels, it removes calcium in the bones, leaving deposits in the vascular walls and various body parts.
In recognizing this functional impairment, avoid the following phosphorus-rich foods.
Various nuts promote heart health and supply antioxidants to the body. However, these benefits might be tipped over, with the fact that it’s also rich in phosphorus. For individuals with robust kidney health, this is quite good news. But for those with CKD, intake of nuts can lead to unfavorable consequences, like worsening kidney disease and calcification of the blood vessels.
Bran cereals often contain an average of 150 mg of phosphorus. While it remains a favorite breakfast meal, you may want to skip it for your kidneys and overall health.
Beans and Lentils
Whether they’re soaked or fermented, beans and lentils bring about 250 mg of phosphorus per cup. Said amount could be proven excessive for damaged kidneys. Hence, they should be limited when following a renal diet.
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread often comes across as a healthy choice, especially for those who plan to increase their fiber intake. But it could have a different tune if you consider the amount of phosphorus when having kidney disease.
A slice of whole wheat bread contains 67.8 mg of phosphorus. On top of that, it also has other minerals detrimental to CKD patients, like potassium.
- High-Calcium Foods
Like other minerals, excess calcium in the bloodstream forces the kidneys to do extra work – a task proven to be difficult and further detrimental to the kidneys of CKD patients. On the other hand, the condition itself could trigger hypercalcemia with potassium not filtered entirely.
Nonetheless, foods high in calcium and those that contain substances interacting with the mineral should be regulated if you have kidney disease.
Milk and other dairy products can be bad for unhealthy kidneys as they are packed with high amounts of calcium. For example, a cup of whole milk contains 306 mg of calcium, while plain yogurt has 127 mg per 100 grams.
Canned fish such as mackerel and salmon have high calcium as the meat processing includes bits of bones. There is about 220 mg of calcium in a single can. This is ideal for people with healthy kidneys but can be overwhelming if eaten regularly for those with kidney disease.
Aside from high-calcium foods, CKD patients should also limit their consumption of green leafy vegetables. These vegetables contain oxalic acid, which can cause harm when combined with calcium. Oxalic acid plus calcium produce oxalates, resulting in the formation of kidney stones. These hard deposits can further damage the kidney if you already have kidney disease.
Wondering if you have high calcium levels in your blood? Get an accurate answer when you take the calcium blood test, which indicates high or low amounts of the mineral in your system.
- Foods High in Fats
Fatty food consumption leads to cholesterol buildup, which increases your risk for high blood pressure. While not all fats are harmful to your kidneys, and your health as a whole, certain types can clog the blood vessels and trigger the cardiovascular complications of CKD.
This type of fat tends to solidify at room temperature, as opposed to unsaturated fats, which remain in liquid form. Saturated fat is unwanted in renal diets because it increases LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol, which gets deposited in the arterial walls.
Foods and meal ingredients with saturated fats include butter, palm oil, coconut oil, fatty meat, lard, full-dairy products, and baked goods.
Trans fats have the same impact as saturated fats as far as LDL cholesterol goes since they both increase the cholesterol level. But trans fats can do more harm as they also decrease HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or good cholesterol. HDL removes cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels, promoting good heart health.
To avoid trans fats, exclude edibles such as shortening, fried foods, frozen pizza, baked goods, and refrigerated doughs from your diet.
Monitoring your LDL and HDL cholesterol helps prevent cardiovascular disorders and hypertension that impact kidney health. Check your cholesterol levels through the lipid panel with LDL/HDL ratio blood test.
- Alcoholic Beverages
If you have kidney disease, make sure to limit or remove alcoholic drinks from your diet. Consuming large amounts of alcohol spells terrible news for your kidneys as it diminishes the functions of the organs.
Aside from inhibiting its filtering system, alcohol also causes dehydration, making it twice as hard for kidneys to retain water in the body. Plus, too much alcohol triggers high blood pressure and remains a leading cause of liver disease.
4 Tips for Preparing a Kidney-Friendly Eating Plan
With about 37 million American adults diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, taking the necessary steps to help your kidney function is highly imperative. To do this, nephrologists recommend renal diets or kidney-friendly eating plans.
Renal diets consist mainly of foods low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. There are also limits for sugar, calcium, lipids, and alcohol. Dietitians design renal diets to keep the kidneys from doubling their work due to overwhelming toxins and waste products.
To successfully adopt a renal diet, here are some tips to consider.
- Replace Food That Is Bad for Kidneys From With Kidney-friendly Alternatives
When following a renal diet, the general rule of thumb is avoiding foods (listed above) that cause further damage to your kidneys. Instead, favor kidney-friendly food alternatives for your renal diet menu, such as asparagus, mushrooms, skinless chicken, cabbage, olive garlic, oil, radish, bell peppers, buckwheat, cauliflower, blueberries, cranberries, turnips, and pineapples.
- Adapt a Healthier Portions of Food Sizes
Occasionally, you can still enjoy comfort food tagged as bad for kidneys, provided they come in tiny portions. But of course, when eating said foods, consult your doctor or dietitian first.
Food size ensures that you have an optimal and balanced meal which translates to holistic health and not just for your kidneys. A diet chart for kidney patients divides food portions based on nutritional content like minerals that should be limited and boosted nutrients. Refer to this chart when portioning your meals.
- Read Food Labels Regularly
The labels indicate how much sodium, potassium, and phosphorus food items are contained in edible products. Go for those with low levels of these minerals. Also, be conscious of how much salt or sugar you put when cooking or preparing a meal.
- Control Your Water and Fluid Intake
It can be dangerous for patients with kidney disease to experience regular dehydration as it will worsen the condition quickly. Therefore, keeping up with the recommended water intake should be a crucial part of your renal diet. If you have CKD, consume 3 liters of water (for men) or 2.2 liters (for women) a day.
Read more about highly recommended tips to keep your kidneys healthy to find out about other actionable steps in improving your renal functions.
The Bottom Line
Taking control of your health when you have kidney disease translates to regulating foods bad for the kidneys. Adopt a renal diet that supplements your treatment and monitor your kidney functions through proper testing and regular consultation. Doing so ensures lower risks for complications brought about by CKD.