For patients with kidney health concerns, general wisdom about healthy eating doesn’t always apply. While many of the best and worst foods for your kidneys are fairly straightforward, some of the foods that are bad for your kidneys are those superfoods that are often touted as healthy options.
That’s because a kidney-friendly diet, called a renal diet, involves limiting three key nutrients that are often found in otherwise healthy foods. These are:
Sodium: Damaged kidneys can’t filter out excess sodium, leading to high blood levels. As a result, it’s best to limit sodium to less than 2,000 mg per day.
Potassium: Potassium plays many critical roles in the body, but people with kidney disease need to limit potassium to avoid dangerously high blood levels. It’s usually recommended to limit potassium to less than 2,000 mg per day.
Phosphorous: Damaged kidneys can’t remove excess phosphorus. High levels can cause damage to the body, so dietary phosphorus is usually restricted to less than 800–1,000 mg.
Read on to learn which foods are best for your kidneys and which are worst due to their high levels of these three nutrients.
The Best Foods for Your Kidneys
Blueberries: Blueberries are a low-calorie source of fiber and Vitamin C. They are packed full of antioxidants including anthocyanins, which may protect against heart disease, certain cancers, cognitive decline, and diabetes. They make a great addition to any kidney-friendly diet, as they are low in sodium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that have many important functions in the body, including controlling blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Salmon is a favorite “go-to” source of omega-3 fatty acids, but you can also consider mackerel, albacore tuna, herring, and sardines.
Arugula: Many healthy greens that are often included in healthy diets, like spinach and kale, are high in potassium and difficult to fit into a renal diet. Arugula, on the other hand, is a nutrient-dense green that is low in potassium, making it a good choice for kidney-friendly salads and side dishes. It is also a good source of vitamin K and the minerals manganese and calcium — all of which are important for bone health — as well as nitrates, which have been shown to lower blood pressure.
Other healthy foods for your kidneys are egg whites, bell peppers, strawberries, cauliflower, and cabbage.
The Worst Foods for Your Kidneys
Avocados: Avocados are often touted for their nutritious qualities, including their heart-healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, but one thing they aren’t good for is your kidneys. This is because avocados are a very rich source of potassium. One cup of avocado has double the amount of potassium of a medium banana.
Bananas: Like avocados, bananas are high in potassium — in fact, they’re famous for their potassium content. Though bananas are low in sodium, it is still best to avoid making them a daily staple if you’re concerned about kidney health.
Dairy: Dairy products are a natural source of phosphorus and potassium and a good source of protein — all things you need to be wary of when watching your kidney health. In fact, consuming too much dairy in conjunction with other phosphorus-rich foods can be detrimental to bone health for people with kidney disease. That’s because too much phosphorus consumption can cause a buildup of phosphorus in the blood, which can pull calcium from your bones. This can make your bones thin and weak over time.
Other foods to avoid if you’re worried about kidney health include canned foods of all kinds, processed meats, whole wheat bread, brown rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Keep Your Kidneys Healthy
If you are worried about your kidney health and want to learn more about how your diet can affect your kidney health, the specialists at Associates in Nephrology are here to help. At Associates in Nephrology, we can help you understand your kidneys and what lifestyle and diet choices can lead to better kidney health.