Foods To Avoid If You Have Kidney Disease

Your kidneys are in charge of filtering blood, removing waste, producing hormones, balancing minerals, and maintaining fluid balance in your body.

It is no doubt that the kidneys play a vital role in your overall health, so when the kidneys become damaged or are unable to function properly, fluid can build up in the body and waste can accumulate in the blood.

Safety precautions to protect your kidneys can be accomplished, by simply avoiding or limiting certain foods in your diet that may help decrease the accumulation of waste in the blood, and improve kidney function to prevent further damage.

Diet & Kidney Disease

Dietary restrictions can vary depending on the severity or stage of kidney health or disease. Individuals who are further along in the end-stages of renal disease require a much stricter diet than individuals who are at earlier stages of kidney disease.

A kidney-friendly diet, or “renal diet”, usually includes a limit of sodium and potassium intake as well as a limit to phosphorus. Damaged kidneys cannot adequately remove excess sodium, potassium, and phosphorus, and may also have trouble filtering protein.

Foods to avoid if you have bad kidneys

Here is a list of several foods you should avoid eating if you are starting a renal diet.

1. Dark Colored Sodas

Colas provide additives that contain phosphorous, especially dark sodas, and many food manufacturers add phosphorous during the processing of foods and drinks to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life.

This added phosphorous is much more absorbable by the human body than natural phosphorous, as it is found in the form of salt rather than bound to protein. In some cases, additive phosphorous can be found on the ingredient list, but manufacturers are not required to list the exact amount on their labels.

Dark colored colas should be avoided when on a renal diet, because they contain phosphorous in its additive form.

2. Avocados

Though avocados are praised for their many nutritious qualities, they are a very rich source of potassium, which is especially important to avoid in a renal diet.

One cup of avocado provides nearly 37% of the renal diet potassium restriction, almost double what a medium banana provides.

3. Canned Foods

Most canned foods are high in sodium, since salt is used as a preservative to increase shelf life. Because of the amount of sodium found in canned foods, it is often recommended that people with kidney disease avoid or limit their consumption.

Choosing foods labeled “no sodium added” or “low sodium” can provide better alternatives to canned foods.

4. Whole Wheat Bread

Whole-wheat bread is usually recommended for healthy individuals, over refined white flour bread. However, whole-wheat bread contains a higher amount of phosphorous and potassium than refined white breads, making it the less healthy choice for individuals with kidney disease.

Most bread and bread products do also contain a high amount of sodium, so being careful and reading your bread selection’s nutrition labels can help you monitor your portion sizes and steer clear from consuming too much sodium, phosphorous, and potassium.

5. Brown Rice

Similar to whole-wheat bread, brown rice is a whole grain that has a higher potassium and phosphorous content than its white rice counterpart. The amounts of phosphorous and potassium found in brown rice almost double the amounts in found in white rice.

As long as you are controlling your portions and monitoring your phosphorous and potassium intake, you may be able to fit small portions of brown rice into your daily diet.

Alternatives or substitutes for brown rice could include bulgur, buckwheat, pearled barley, and couscous.

6. Bananas

As mentioned earlier, bananas are rich in potassium, as are many other tropical fruits. Being a rich source of potassium, banana intake should be limited while on a renal diet.

Other fruits such as pineapple contain much less potassium and can serve as a kidney-friendly fruit in the renal diet.

7. Dairy

Diary products are rich in vitamins and nutrients, but are also a natural source of potassium, phosphorous, and protein.

When the kidneys are damaged, too much phosphorous consumption can cause a buildup of phosphorous in the blood, and cause the bones to thin and weaken over time, increasing the risk of bone breakage.

Today, there are many dairy alternative options available, and these can be found at any grocery store you would normally purchase your dairy from. Rice milk and almond milk are much lower in potassium, phosphorous, and protein than cow milk, and these make great and delicious alternatives while on a renal diet.

8. Oranges

Known for their Vitamin C, oranges are actually also rich in potassium. In one large orange alone, there are 333 mg of potassium and even more in one cup of orange juice.

Oranges and orange juice should be avoided or limited on a renal diet, due to the high potassium content they carry. Some tasty substitutes or alternatives to oranges include grapes, apples, and cranberries, as they have a much lower potassium content amount.

9. Processed Meats

Processed meats are meats that have been salted, dried, cured, and/or canned. These meats have been associated with chronic diseases due to their content of preservatives. Typically containing large amounts of salt, some examples of processed meats include hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, jerky, and sausage.

Because of the large amounts of sodium used in processed meats, it is wise to limit or restrict your consumption of processed meats, eating only in moderation while on a renal diet

10. Pickles, Olives, and Relish

These three foods are examples of cured or pickled foods, and usually require a large amount of salt during the curing or pickling process.

Many grocery stores carry ‘reduced-sodium’ varieties of pickles, olives, and relish, however, even low sodium options can still be higher in sodium than your recommended daily intake.

Because of the high sodium content in these foods, you’ll want to be sure to limit pickles, processed olives, and relish while on a renal diet.

11. Apricots

Similar to oranges, apricots are rich in Vitamin C, as well as Vitamin A and fiber. Additionally, apricots are also rich in potassium, and this amount is even more concentrated in dried apricots.

Just one cup of dried apricots provides 75% of the low-potassium restriction in a renal diet. Because of this high content, it is best to avoid apricots and especially dried apricots while on a renal diet.

12. Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes are very potassium rich vegetables. Though they contain over 500mg of potassium in a single medium-sized baked potato, these can also be soaked or leached to reduce their potassium concentration.

Cutting potatoes into small and thin pieces and boiling them can reduce their potassium content by 50%. This method is known as “potassium leaching.”

Although it is possible to lower the potassium content in potatoes, it is important to remember that their potassium content isn’t completely eliminated, and therefore should be monitored or limited for individuals on a renal diet.

13. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are another surprising food that are high in potassium, and should be limited on a renal diet.

Though tomatoes or tomato sauce is used on may dishes, finding alternatives that are lower in potassium content such as roasted red pepper sauce can serve as an equally delicious alternative.

14. Packaged, Instant and Pre-Made Meals

Processed foods, as mentioned earlier, can provide a major amount of sodium in the diet. Among processed foods, pre-made meals or packaged/instant meals are usually the most heavily processed, and thus contain the highest amounts of sodium.

Not only do heavily processed foods contain large amounts of sodium, but they are commonly lacking in nutrients as well. It is best to limit or avoid these foods on a renal diet, and find other foods that provide more nutrients and less sodium for your renal diet.

15. Pretzels, Chips, and Crackers

As mentioned, potatoes are rich in potassium, and chips made from potatoes carry that amount of potassium into their creation as well. Similar ready to eat snacks like pretzels and crackers all share the same qualities: they may be delicious but they lack nutrients and are relatively high in salt.

Snacking on these foods can easily lead to over-consuming large portions, leading to a higher intake of salt than intended. When eating these foods, its important to stay aware of your portion sizes and monitor your intake of salts and potassium.

The Bottom Line

If you have kidney disease or are on a renal diet due to kidney issues, reducing your potassium, phosphorous, and sodium intake is vital in managing the disease. These foods listed above are best to be either avoided or limited while on a renal diet, to ensure that you are not consuming too much potassium, phosphorous, or sodium, which could be harmful to your kidney and overall health.

Following a renal diet can seem daunting but working with your healthcare provider and a renal dietitian can help you design a specific diet that fits your individual needs.

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