Best Foods for Kidney Health – Cleveland Clinic

When you eat and drink, your body absorbs the nutrients your body needs to function properly. Most of the nutrients and minerals that your body doesn’t need are transported through the blood to your kidneys. The kidneys filter those extra nutrients and form urine. But if you have kidney disease, some nutrients may build up and damage your kidneys, leading to more kidney failure.

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A renal diet is a diet that becomes increasingly restrictive as kidney function deteriorates. It starts with making you limit your salt and protein intake. A complete kidney diet is designed for people with advanced or end-stage kidney disease who need dialysis or when their kidneys are temporarily damaged and may recover over time.

In general, eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and moderate amounts of protein while exercising regularly and addressing underlying medical conditions are the best ways to keep your kidneys working properly. But if you have kidney disease, a renal diet can help slow the disease before it develops and worsens.

Registered dietitian Susan Meyer, MS, RD, shares foods that are good for you in your kidney diet and foods that you should completely avoid.

What is a renal diet?

Kidney disease is a progressive disease that gets worse over time.

“Don’t start with your kidneys failing,” Mayer says. “Your kidneys fail over time, so in order to prolong that time as much as possible, you need to start adjusting your diet to try to preserve your kidney function.”

The renal diet is often combined with a diabetic diet and/or a heart-healthy diet to help manage blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and to help reduce cholesterol. Kidney disease does not always occur within the space; Alternatively, it can occur alongside other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. By focusing on a diet that helps treat each condition, you increase your chances of prolonging kidney function. A registered dietitian can help you coordinate diet decisions to meet the condition you’re trying to improve or prolong.

Early on in the kidney diet, you’ll want to focus on reducing servings and reducing the amount you eat. This can help with diabetes and heart disease if you have them.

“You stop eating three pork chops and instead maybe eat one,” Mayer says. “Instead of half a dozen eggs per week, you only have two or three eggs.”

And as things progress, you start cutting out some foods that directly affect kidney function.

“The kidney diet is for someone whose kidneys are working 5% or not at all,” Mayer says. “It can be kind of hard because people don’t like to hear that they can’t eat all the things they like to eat.”

Best foods for kidney health

The kidney diet is very much about cutting out foods that don’t serve your kidneys well. But there are some foods like vegetables, fruits and proteins that are good for you when eaten in small doses. The main thing you want to focus on is the foods that contribute to your overall healthy diet.

Red pepper

Red peppers are a good source of many vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. They are low in potassium, phosphorous and sodium, so you can continue to take them even as your kidney disease develops.

“Have a half a cup a day and try eating it with marinated meats, pasta dishes, and heat-resistant dishes or eating it raw in green salads, tuna or chicken salad, cold pasta salads or as snacks with dips,” Meyer suggests.


Berries are low in calories and sugar and rich in fiber. They also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties while being naturally low in sodium, phosphorous, and potassium. Mayer suggests including one-half to one cup daily in your diet.

“Berries can be eaten as snacks, as part of salads, in cereals, or added to pancakes, pancakes, or waffles,” says Meyer. “It can be easily frozen and used later to make smoothies, too.”


“Fish are good sources of high-quality protein and have healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids,” Mayer says.

Although they can contain moderate amounts of potassium and phosphorous, salmon, cod, halibut, and tuna are naturally low in sodium. Meyer suggests eating fish two to three times a week in 2- to 3-ounce servings.

Foods to avoid for kidney health

If you have kidney disease, you will need to control the amount of sodium, potassium, and phosphorous in your diet. Everyone’s bodies handle food differently, so you’ll want to discuss your specific and individual nutritional needs with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian at your dialysis center. In the meantime, here are some general tips to follow for a kidney diet.

Foods that are high in sodium

Sodium is a mineral found in salt (sodium chloride). And it’s one of the things that many of us rely on as a seasoning for most foods. Unfortunately, it is one of the first minerals to be reduced in the kidney diet because it directly affects your body’s ability to retain water.

“The more fluid there is in the body, the harder your heart has to work to move that fluid around, and the harder your kidneys will have to work to excrete this fluid if it’s above the level your body needs,” Meyer explains. “We don’t hold onto liquids. We bring it in and get rid of it.”

It will take time to get used to reducing salt in your diet. However, reducing salt/sodium is an important tool in controlling kidney disease.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Do not use salt when cooking food.
  • Don’t put salt on food when you eat.
  • Learn to read food labels. Avoid foods with more than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving (or 600 milligrams for a full frozen dinner). Avoid foods with salt in the first four or five items on the ingredients list.
  • Don’t eat ham, bacon, hot dogs, hot dogs, luncheon meats, chicken nuggets, or regular canned soup. Instead, try low-sodium soup that doesn’t have potassium chloride as an ingredient (check the food label). Also, only take one cup, not the whole can.
  • Choose only canned vegetables that say “no salt added” on the label.
  • Do not use flavoring salts such as garlic salt, onion salt, or seasoning salt. Do not use sea salt or kosher.
  • Be sure to look for low-salt or no-salt options for your favorite foods, such as peanut butter or mix packets.
  • Don’t buy refrigerated or frozen meat packed in brine or pre-flavored or flavored ones. These items can include boneless chicken and chicken breast pieces, turkey breast, whole turkey, steaks, roasts, burgers, pork tenderloin, and pork chops.

Foods that are high in potassium

When the kidneys are not working properly, potassium builds up in the blood. This can cause changes in how your heart beats and possibly lead to a heart attack.

Potassium is found mainly in fruits and vegetables, as well as milk and meat. You will need to avoid certain fruits and vegetables and reduce the amount of others.

Potassium-rich foods to avoid include:

  • Melons like cantaloupe and aphids. (Watermelon is fine.)
  • banana.
  • Orange and orange juice.
  • avocado.
  • Plum juice.
  • Tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato juice.
  • dried beans;
  • Pumpkin and winter squash.
  • Cooked vegetables, spinach, cabbage, cabbage and swiss chard.
  • Broccoli and Brussels.
  • Nuts and nut butter.
  • Bran cereal and granola.
  • Salt substitutes or “light” salt.
  • molasses.

canned fruits

Canned fruits usually contain less potassium than fresh fruits. Make sure to pour the juice before eating the fruit.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes need special processing to allow you to eat them in small amounts. Peel and cut them into small slices or cubes and soak them in a large amount of water for several hours.

When you’re ready to cook it, pour in the soaking water and use as much water in the pan. Strain this water before you prepare it to eat.

Foods high in phosphorous

“Phosphorous is usually the last mineral we start to have problems with,” Mayer says. “When you reach stage 4 kidney disease and you’re about to have dialysis, that’s when your kidneys are no longer filtering this mineral effectively.”

Phosphorous is another mineral that can build up in the blood when the kidneys are not working properly. When this happens, calcium can be pulled from your bones and can collect in the skin or blood vessels. Bone disease can become a problem, making you more likely to break a bone.

Dairy products are the main source of phosphorous in the diet, so limit your milk intake to one cup per day. If you use yogurt or cottage cheese instead of liquid milk, eat only one package of yogurt or 1.5 ounces of cheese per day.

Some vegetables also contain phosphorous. Limit that to one cup per week:

  • dried beans;
  • greens;
  • Broccoli.
  • mushrooms;
  • Football.

Some types of cereal should be limited to one serving per week. here they are:

  • bran.
  • Wheat grain.
  • oatmeal.
  • grooves

White or Italian bread and low-salt crackers made with white flour have less phosphorous than whole-grain bread and crackers.

Soft drinks contain phosphorous, so drink only clear drinks. Do not drink Mountain Dew® (any kind), cola, root beer, Dr. Pepper® (any kind). Also, avoid Hawaiian Punch®, Fruitworks®, and Cool® iced tea. Beer also contains phosphorous, so you need to avoid all types.

“Everyone’s kidneys are designed to fail if you live long enough,” Mayer says. “But for those people whose kidney function fails much faster than they used to live normally, the renal diet can help.”

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