Hi there! I’m here to talk about the Health Food For Kidney. We all know that healthy food is good for us, but maybe you’ve been struggling to make the right choices when it comes to what to eat. Maybe you don’t know where to start, or maybe you’re just looking for some new ideas to add variety and flavor to your meals. Either way, we’re here for you!
In this blog series, we’ll be exploring some of the best ways to incorporate healthier foods into your diet without sacrificing taste or variety. We’ll cover everything from how to get kids on board with eating healthier (and why it’s so important!) to how to find ways to incorporate fresh produce into your daily routine without having to do any extra work at all.
Health Food For Kidney
A DaVita Dietitian’s Top 15 Healthy Foods for People with Kidney Disease
By DaVita dietitian Sara Colman, RD, CSR, CDE
Researchers are discovering more and more links between chronic diseases, inflammation and certain whole foods that may prevent or protect against undesirable fatty acid oxidation, a condition that occurs when the oxygen in your body reacts with fats in your blood and your cells. Oxidation is a normal process for energy production and many chemical reactions in the body, but excessive oxidation of fats and cholesterol creates molecules known as “free radicals” that can damage your proteins, cell membranes and genes. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other chronic and degenerative conditions have been linked to oxidative damage.
Foods that contain antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and protect the body. Many of the foods that protect against oxidation are included in the kidney diet and make excellent choices for people on dialysis or people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Eating foods rich in antioxidants as part of your kidney diet and working with a kidney dietitian are important for people with kidney disease because they experience more inflammation and have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.
Want to learn more about the kidney diet? Download our free kidney-friendly cookbooks filled with kidney diet tips and recipes.
Top 15 Healthy Foods for People with Kidney Disease
1. Red bell peppers
1/2 cup serving red bell pepper = 1 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus
Red bell peppers are low in potassium and high in flavor, but that’s not the only reason they’re perfect for the kidney diet. These tasty vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamins C and A, as well as vitamin B6, folic acid and fiber. Red bell peppers are good for you because they contain lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protects against certain cancers.
Eat red bell peppers raw with dip as a snack or appetizer, or mix them into tuna or chicken salad. You can also roast peppers and use them as a topping on sandwiches or lettuce salads, chop them for an omelet, add them to kabobs on the grill or stuff peppers with ground turkey or beef and bake them for a main dish.
1/2 cup serving green cabbage = 6 mg sodium, 60 mg potassium, 9 mg phosphorus
A cruciferous vegetable, cabbage is packed full of phytochemicals, chemical compounds in fruit or vegetables that break up free radicals before they can do damage. Many phytochemicals are also known to help protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer, as well as foster cardiovascular health.
High in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, cabbage is also a good source of vitamin B6 and folic acid. Low in potassium and low in cost, it’s an affordable addition to the kidney diet.
Raw cabbage makes a great addition to the dialysis diet as coleslaw or a topping for fish tacos. You can steam, microwave or boil it, add butter or cream cheese plus pepper or caraway seeds and serve it as a side dish. Cabbage Rolls Made with Turkey are a great appetizer, and if you’re feeling fancy, you can stuff a cabbage with ground meat and bake it for a flavorful meal bursting with nutrients.
1/2 cup serving boiled cauliflower = 9 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 20 mg phosphorus
Another cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is high in vitamin C and a good source of folate and fiber. It’s also packed full of indoles, glucosinolates and thiocyanates—compounds that help the liver neutralize toxic substances that could damage cell membranes and DNA.
Serve it raw as crudités with dip, add it to a salad, or steam or boil it and season with spices such as turmeric, curry powder, pepper and herb seasonings. You can also make a nondairy white sauce, pour it over the cauliflower and bake until tender. You can pair cauliflower with pasta or even mash cauliflower as a dialysis diet replacement for mashed potatoes.
1 clove garlic = 1 mg sodium, 12 mg potassium, 4 mg phosphorus
Garlic has antimicrobial properties that help prevent plaque from forming on your teeth, lowers cholesterol and reduces inflammation.
Buy it fresh, bottled, minced or powdered, and add it to meat, vegetable or pasta dishes. You can also roast a head of garlic and spread it on bread. Garlic provides a delicious flavor and garlic powder is a great substitute for garlic salt in the dialysis diet.
1/2 cup serving onion = 3 mg sodium, 116 mg potassium, 3 mg phosphorus
Onion, a member of the Allium family and a basic flavoring in many cooked dishes, contains sulfur compounds which give it its pungent smell. But in addition to making some people cry, onions are also rich in flavonoids, especially quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that may reduce heart disease and protect against many cancers. Onions are low in potassium and a good source of chromium, a mineral that helps with carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.
Try using a variety of onions including white, brown, red and others. Eat onions raw on burgers, sandwiches and in salads, or cook them and use as a caramelized topping. If you have an air fryer, you can also try making homemade onion rings. Include onions in recipes such as Italian Beef with Peppers and Onions.
1 medium apple with skin = 0 sodium, 158 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus
Apples may help reduce cholesterol, prevent constipation, protect against heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. High in fiber and anti-inflammatory compounds, an apple a day may really help keep the doctor away—good news for people with kidney disease who already have their share of doctor visits.
This kidney diet winner can be paired with the previous good-for-you food, onions, to make a unique Apple Onion Omelet. Apples are versatile. You can eat them raw, make baked apples, stew apples, make them into apple sauce, or drink them as apple juice or apple cider.
1/2 cup serving cranberry juice cocktail = 3 mg sodium, 22 mg potassium, 3 mg phosphorus
1/4 cup serving cranberry sauce = 35 mg sodium, 17 mg potassium, 6 mg phosphorus
1/2 cup serving dried cranberries = 2 mg sodium, 24 mg potassium and 5 mg phosphorus
These tangy, tasty berries may protect against bladder infections by preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. In a similar way, cranberries may also protect the stomach from ulcer-causing bacteria and improve overall healthy gut bacteria, promoting GI health. Cranberries have also been shown to help protect against cancer and heart disease.
Cranberry juice and cranberry sauce are the most frequently consumed cranberry products. You can also add dried cranberries to salads or have them as a snack.
1/2 cup serving fresh blueberries = 4 mg sodium, 65 mg potassium, 7 mg phosphorus
Blueberries are high in antioxidant phytonutrients called “anthocyanidins,” which give them their blue color, and they are bursting with natural compounds that help reduce inflammation. Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C, manganese (a compound that keeps your bones healthy) and fiber. They may also help protect the brain from some of the effects of aging. Antioxidants in blueberries and other berries may help slow down bone loss.
Buy blueberries fresh, frozen or dried, and try them in cereal, or topped with whipped topping in a fruit smoothie. You can also drink blueberry juice.
1/2 cup serving raspberries = 0 mg sodium, 93 mg potassium, 7 mg phosphorus
Raspberries contain a phytonutrient called “ellagic acid” which helps neutralize free radicals in the body to prevent cell damage. They also contain flavonoids called “anthocyanins,” antioxidants which give them their red color. An excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, fiber and folate, a B vitamin, raspberries may have properties that inhibit cancer cell growth and tumor formation.
1/2 cup serving (5 medium) fresh strawberries = 1 mg sodium, 120 mg potassium, 13 mg phosphorus
Strawberries are rich in two types of phenols: anthocyanins and ellagitannins. Anthocyananins are what give strawberries their red color and are powerful antioxidants that help protect body cell structures and prevent oxidative damage. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese, and a very good source of fiber. They may provide heart protection, as well as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory components.
Eat strawberries with cereal, smoothies and salads, or slice and serve them fresh or top them with whipped topping. If you’d like a more elaborate dessert, you can make strawberry pudding or sorbet, or puree and sweeten them to serve as a dessert.
1/2 cup serving fresh sweet cherries = 0 mg sodium, 160 mg potassium, 15 mg phosphorus
Cherries have been shown to reduce inflammation when eaten daily. They are also packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that help protect the heart.
12. Red grapes
1/2 cup serving red grapes = 1 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 4 mg phosphorus
Red grapes contain several flavonoids that give them their reddish color. Flavonoids help protect against heart disease by preventing oxidation and reducing the formation of blood clots. Resveratrol, a flavonoid found in grapes, may also stimulate production of nitric oxide which helps relax muscle cells in the blood vessels to increase blood flow. These flavonoids also provide protection against cancer and help prevent inflammation.
Buy grapes with red or purple skin since their anthocyanin content is higher. Freeze them to eat as a snack or to quench thirst for those on a fluid restriction for the dialysis diet. Add grapes to a fruit salad or chicken salad. Try a unique kidney diet recipe for Turkey Kabobs that features grapes. You can also drink them as grape juice.
13. Egg whites
2 egg whites = 7 grams protein, 110 mg sodium, 108 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus
Egg whites are pure protein and provide high-quality protein with all the essential amino acids. For the kidney diet, egg whites provide protein with less phosphorus than other protein sources such as egg yolk or meats.
Buy powdered, fresh or pasteurized egg whites. Make an omelet or egg white sandwich, add pasteurized egg whites to smoothies or shakes, make deviled egg snacks, or add whites of hard-boiled eggs to tuna salad or garden salad to add extra protein.
3 ounces wild salmon = 50 mg sodium, 368 mg potassium, 274 mg phosphorus
Fish provides high-quality protein and contains anti-inflammatory fats called “omega-3s.” The healthy fats in fish can help fight diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Omega-3s also help lower low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol, and raise high-density lipoprotein or HDL cholesterol, which is good cholesterol.
The American Heart Association1 and American Diabetes Association2 recommend eating fish at least two times a week. The fish highest in omega-3s include white fish, striped bass, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout and salmon.
1American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
2American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Superstar Foods
15. Olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil = less than 1 mg sodium, less than 1 mg potassium, 0 mg phosphorus
Olive oil is a great source of oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil helps protect against oxidation. Olive oil is rich in polyphenols and antioxidant compounds that prevent inflammation and oxidation.
Studies show that populations that use large amounts of olive oil instead of other oils have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.
Buy virgin or extra virgin olive oil because they are higher in antioxidants. Use olive oil in cooking, to make salad dressing, for dipping bread in, or for marinating vegetables.
Talk to your kidney dietitian about incorporating these top 15 foods for a kidney diet into your healthy eating plan. Keep in mind that these foods are healthy for everyone—including family members and friends who do not have kidney disease or are not on dialysis. When you stock your kitchen with delicious, healthy, kidney-friendly foods, that’s one big step to helping you do well on your kidney diet.
foods bad for kidneys
Your kidneys are organs that play several important roles in your health. They help filter your blood, remove waste products, produce hormones, keep your bones strong, regulate fluid balance, and regulate your blood pressure.
Unfortunately, your kidneys can get damaged and become less efficient over time. This is commonly called kidney disease, and it affects around 10% of adults globally (1Trusted Source).
Various factors and health conditions, including diabetes, can raise your risk of kidney disease (2Trusted Source).
Prolonged high blood sugar levels may damage your blood vessels, including those in your kidneys. As a result, about 1 in 3 adults with diabetes also have kidney disease (2Trusted Source).
Dietary guidelines for kidney disease and diabetes vary based on the stage of kidney disease. The goal is to prevent the buildup of various chemicals, nutrients, and waste products in the blood to preserve kidney function.
People with kidney disease and diabetes should monitor their intake of sugar and the minerals sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Generally, people with kidney disease should consume no more than 2,300 mg each of sodium. They should also monitor their potassium and phosphorus intakes according to their doctor’s advice (3).
The National Kidney Foundation’s most recent Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (KDOQI) guidelines don’t set specific limits on potassium or phosphorus (3).
People with kidney disease should also monitor their protein intake, since the kidneys may struggle to filter waste products from protein metabolism. On the other hand, people with end stage kidney disease may need more protein.
Nutritional needs for people with kidney disease vary depending on how severe the disease is. Your healthcare professional and a registered dietitian can advise you on your individual needs for protein and other nutrients.
Here are 11 foods to avoid if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
1. Processed meats
Processed meats are made by drying, salting, curing, or smoking meats to enhance their flavor, texture, and shelf life. Bacon, deli meats, sausage, and jerky are some common types of processed meats.
Because processed meats are typically salted, they have a high sodium content. For example, a standard 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of bacon contains a whopping 1,430 mg of sodium, which is nearly 62% of your daily sodium allowance with kidney disease (6Trusted Source).
High sodium foods are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes because excess sodium can significantly strain the kidneys. This may raise your blood pressure and cause fluid buildup in places like your ankles and around your heart and lungs.
Instead of processed meats, choose lean, skinless cuts of meat like chicken breast fillets, which contain less sodium. However, as with all protein-rich foods, eat them in moderation based on your stage of kidney disease.
Processed meats are high in sodium, which can significantly strain your kidneys. Instead, choose lean, skinless cuts of meat and enjoy them in moderation.
2. Dark-colored sodas
Sodas, especially dark-colored varieties, are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes.
Dark-colored sodas contain phosphorus, which is used to prevent discoloration, prolong shelf life, and add flavor. Most dark-colored sodas contain 90–180 mg of phosphorus per 12-ounce (355-mL) serving.
Although this may not seem like much compared with the daily upper limit, sodas contain a different type of phosphorus than is naturally found in foods. It isn’t bound to protein but instead appears in salt form, meaning it’s absorbed into your blood more easily.
Healthy kidneys can easily remove excess phosphorus from the blood, but this isn’t the case when you have kidney disease.
Having high blood phosphorus levels for an extended period can raise your heart disease risk, weaken your bones, and increase your risk of early death (12Trusted Source).
Sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks are also high in added sugar. This isn’t ideal for people who have diabetes, since their bodies can’t regulate blood sugar levels properly.
Having high blood sugar levels over a long period can damage your nerves, further damage your kidneys, and raise your risk of heart disease (13Trusted Source).
Instead of soda, choose a beverage that’s low in sugar and phosphorus, such as water, unsweetened tea, or sparkling water infused with sliced fruits or vegetables.
Dark-colored sodas are high in added sugar and phosphorus, which can cause health problems if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
3. High potassium fruits
Generally, fruits are healthy and packed with vitamins and minerals. However, people with kidney disease and diabetes may need to limit their intake of certain fruits — mainly those high in sugar and potassium.
If you have kidney disease, your body can’t remove potassium properly, which can lead to increased blood potassium levels, also known as hyperkalemia. If left untreated, this condition can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, heart problems, and even death (14Trusted Source).
Fruits high in potassium include bananas, avocados, apricots, kiwi, and oranges.
For example, a standard avocado (201 grams) contains 975 mg of potassium, which is more than twice the potassium content of a medium banana (118 grams) and nearly half the advised daily potassium intake for people with kidney disease.
Try reducing your portion size of these fruits to one-fourth of an avocado, one-fourth of a banana, and so on, if your doctor or dietitian permits. Everyone’s potassium needs and limits are different, so work with your doctor or dietitian to determine your safe limits.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy low potassium fruits you can add to your diet in moderation as long as you monitor your carb intake. Grapes, berries, pineapple, mango, and apples are a few examples.
High potassium fruits such as bananas and avocados aren’t ideal for those with kidney disease and diabetes. Instead, choose low potassium fruits such as grapes, berries, and pineapple, and eat them in moderation.
4. Dried fruits
Dried fruits are made by removing water from fruit through various processes. This creates small, dense fruits rich in energy and nutrients.
Dried fruits aren’t ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes because they’re high in sugar and minerals like potassium.
In fact, just one-half cup (65 grams) of dried apricots contains around 755 mg of potassium.
Also, dried fruits are high in fast-digesting sugar, which isn’t ideal if you have diabetes.
Dried fruits contain concentrated amounts of potassium and sugar, which means they aren’t ideal for people who have kidney disease and diabetes.
5. Most beans and lentils
In most cases, beans and lentils are considered healthy and convenient.
However, for people with kidney disease and diabetes, beans and lentils — both canned and fresh — are not ideal due to their relatively high phosphorus content. Canned versions are typically also high in sodium.
For example, 1 cup (185 grams) of canned lentils contains 633 mg of potassium and 309 mg of phosphorus.
If you enjoy beans and lentils, you can still eat them in small amounts but not as a standard carb component of your meal.
If you choose canned beans and lentils, opt for a low sodium or “no salt added” version. Also, older research suggests that draining and rinsing canned foods can reduce their sodium content by as much as 33–80%, depending on the product (18Trusted Source).
Another factor to consider is how much potassium your body absorbs from different food sources. Only about 40–50% of phosphorus is absorbed from plant sources, compared with up to 70% from animal sources (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
There’s also evidence that plant-based diets, which rely more on legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds for protein, may slow the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Most beans and lentils are high in phosphorus and potassium, which means they’re not ideal for people who have kidney disease and diabetes. If you choose to eat them, opt for a smaller portion and choose low sodium versions.
6. Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food
Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food tend to be high in sodium, which is one reason they aren’t ideal for someone with kidney disease and diabetes.
Some examples of these foods are instant noodles, frozen pizza, frozen boxed meals, and other types of microwavable meals.
For example, a slice (102 grams) of frozen pepperoni pizza contains 568 mg of sodium, one-quarter of the advised sodium intake if you have kidney disease, and doesn’t provide significant amounts of beneficial nutrients.
These foods are also heavily processed and often high in refined carbs. This isn’t ideal if you have diabetes, as refined carbs are digested quickly and tend to spike blood sugar levels (23Trusted Source).
Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food are high in sodium and refined carbs but low in beneficial nutrients. Limit your intake of these foods if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
7. Fruit juices
Avoid fruit juices and other sugar-sweetened beverages if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
These drinks tend to be high in added sugar that can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. This is concerning because diabetes affects your body’s ability to absorb sugar properly, and prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to various health complications.
Plus, certain fruit juices are high in minerals such as potassium. For example, a cup (240 mL) of orange juice contains around 443 mg of potassium.
Fruit juices like orange juice are high in potassium and added sugar, so they’re not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes.
8. Spinach, beet greens, chard, and certain other leafy green vegetables
Various leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, chard, and beet greens, contain high amounts of nutrients like potassium.
Just 1 cup (30–38 grams) of raw veggies contains 136–290 mg of potassium.
Keep in mind that when these leafy veggies are cooked, they shrink to a significantly smaller size but still contain the same amount of potassium.
So, if you have kidney disease, it’s better to eat them raw, as you’re likely to eat a smaller amount of them this way. That said, it’s OK to eat them cooked, as long as you manage your portion sizes.
Spinach, beet greens, chard, and other leafy veggies are also high in oxalic acid, an organic compound that can form oxalates once bound to minerals such as calcium.
Oxalates may form kidney stones in susceptible people. Aside from being painful, kidney stones can further damage your kidneys and impair their functioning (30Trusted Source).
Various leafy green veggies, such as spinach, beet greens, and chard, are high in potassium and oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
9. Snack foods
Snack foods such as chips, crackers, and pretzels are typically high in salt and refined carbs, which makes them unsuitable for those with kidney disease and diabetes.
Some snack foods, such as potato chips, are also high in other minerals, such as potassium or phosphorus, either naturally or as a result of additives.
For example, a medium (57-gram) single-serving bag of potato chips contains 682 mg of potassium, 300 mg of sodium, and 87 mg of phosphorus.
Snack foods should be limited or avoided as part of any healthy diet, especially if you have health conditions such as kidney disease and diabetes. Instead, experiment with nutrient-dense diabetes-friendly snacks.
Snack foods such as chips, pretzels, and crackers are high in sodium and refined sugar and low in beneficial nutrients. Limit your intake of these foods.
10. Potatoes and sweet potatoes
Potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in potassium, which can be a concern for people with kidney disease, especially those with late stage kidney disease.
For example, a medium baked potato (156 grams) contains 610 mg of potassium, and a standard baked sweet potato (114 grams) contains 541 mg of potassium.
However, potatoes and sweet potatoes can be soaked or leached to significantly reduce their potassium content.
In one study, boiling small, thin pieces of potatoes for at least 10 minutes reduced their potassium content by about 50% (34Trusted Source).
In another study, soaking potatoes after cooking them reduced the potassium content by as much as 70%, resulting in potassium levels suitable for people with kidney disease (35Trusted Source).
While these methods may lower the potassium content, potatoes and sweet potatoes are still high in carbs, so it’s a good idea to eat them in moderation if you have diabetes.
If you have kidney disease and diabetes, limit your intake of potatoes and sweet potatoes, as they’re high in potassium and carbs. However, boiling them can significantly reduce their potassium content.
The bottom line
If you have kidney disease and diabetes, it’s best to limit your intake of certain nutrients, including carbs, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Your dietary restrictions for kidney disease and diabetes depend on your stage of kidney disease. Still, limiting these nutrients can be helpful regardless, allowing you to better manage the condition and reduce the likelihood of it worsening over time.
Make sure to speak with a healthcare professional and renal dietitian for specialized recommendations based on your stage of kidney disease.