10 Foods to Eat or Avoid If You Have Kidney Disease

foods for kidney disease

Chronic kidney disease can be either long-term or chronic, but it is possible to live a normal life with the disease. One of the best things you can do to help manage your disease and keep it from progressing is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

For those with chronic kidney disease, a low-protein diet is recommended, but for someone on dialysis, a high-protein diet is best. Depending on your individual needs, your physician may also recommend limiting additional fluids, minerals or electrolytes. Here are 10 foods to eat or avoid if you have kidney disease:

Foods to Eat

  • Red bell peppers: Red bell peppers are low in potassium and high in flavor, making them a really versatile food option for those with kidney disease. They are also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, folic acid and fiber. They can be eaten raw with dip as a snack, roasted and added to your favorite salad or sandwich, or chopped and sauteed into a stir fry. The options are endless. Other vegetables to promote kidney health include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, spinach and sweet potatoes.
  • Blueberries are considered a “superfood” and for good reason. Rich in antioxidants, blueberries are also a low-calorie source of fiber and vitamin C. When they’re in season, pick them up at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. You can also purchase frozen berries in the off-season or if that makes them more convenient to throw into a smoothie. For some variety, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are also foods that are good to eat if you have kidney disease.
  • Garlic: If your body is used to consuming foods plagued with additives such as salt, you might think of switching to a kidney-friendly diet is bland, but it doesn’t have to be. Garlic is a great way to give your food an extra boost of flavor. It also helps fight plaque, lowers cholesterol and reduces inflammation. Of course, it’s always best to buy fresh, but garlic powder is okay too. Just make sure you steer clear of garlic salt.
  • Eggs whites: Proteins are the building blocks of the body. But for kidney disease patients, it should be consumed thoughtfully and in moderation. Egg whites have less phosphorus than other sources of protein and offer all of the essential amino acids. If you prefer to get your protein from meat, opt for a fish like salmon which is high in omega-3 fatty acids or lean cuts of red meat such as a loin or round.
  • Onions: Another great way to add flavor to any food, onions have health benefits, too. They are low in potassium and rich in flavonoids–a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce heart disease and protect against cancer. Onions are also a good source of chromium–a mineral proven to improves the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Foods to Avoid

  • Soda: Not only are they high in sugar and calories, but additives to extend shelf life and prevent discoloration. Dark-colored soft drinks especially are loaded with phosphorus, an additive that is easily absorbed by the body.
  • Avocados: Often touted for their health benefits, you may be surprised to find avocados on our list of foods you may need to avoid. In addition to being rich in healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants, they are also rich in potassium–a mineral many kidney patients may need to limit.
  • Canned foods: From vegetables to soups and beans, the convenience of canned foods are hard to deny. But, the extended shelf life that these products offer come at a cost. Salt is commonly used to preserve these products, making them high in sodium. If you must purchase canned foods, opt for those that are labeled “no salt added.”
  • Dairy: While dairy products such as milk and yogurt are great sources of vitamins and nutrients, over-consumption can be detrimental to those with kidney disease. Dairy products are rich in phosphorus, potassium and are a good source of protein. On their own, they may be fine but combined with other phosphorus-rich foods the effects can be detrimental. Research shows that when the kidneys are damaged, too much phosphorus consumption can cause a buildup of phosphorus in the blood. This can make your bones thin and weak over time and increase the risk of bone breakage or fracture.
  • Processed meats: If you’re noticing a trend here, that’s because there is. Foods that have been processed or created to remain shelf-stable for extended periods of time that otherwise would expire in their natural state should be avoided as much as possible. In the case of processed meats, these products have typically been salted, dried, cured or even canned, making foods such as hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, jerky and sausage high in sodium. These foods are also high in protein–another area of your diet that those with kidney disease are advised to monitor closely.

Kidney disease or not, what you eat and drink affects your health. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet is key to controlling your blood pressure and blood sugar. High blood pressure and diabetes are two of the leading causes of kidney disease, as well as many other conditions including heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

A kidney-healthy diet isn’t so much about eliminating a ton of foods entirely, but more about portion control and finding the right balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates to ensure you are consuming enough calories and nutrients.

Additional Recommendations

For more recommendations about treatments and other ways to manage your kidney disease, call (919) 477–3005 to schedule an appointment with Durham Nephrology Associates. With two convenient locations in Durham and Oxford, North Carolina, our dedicated team of healthcare professionals has more than 30 years of experience providing care for people with kidney diseases and high blood pressure.


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