Kidney-friendly Diet

When your kidneys are not working as well as they should, waste and fluid build up in your body. Over time, the waste and extra fluid can cause heart, bone and other health problems.

A kidney-friendly meal plan limits how much of certain minerals and fluid you eat and drink. This can help keep the waste and fluid from building up and causing problems.

How strict your meal plan should be depends on your stage of kidney disease. In the early stages of kidney disease, you may have little or no limits on what you eat and drink. As your kidney disease gets worse, your doctor may recommend that you limit:

  • Potassium

  • Phosphorus

  • Fluids  

Potassium

Potassium is a mineral found in almost all foods. Your body needs some potassium to make your muscles work, but too much potassium can be dangerous. When your kidneys are not working well, your potassium level may be too high or too low. Having too much or too little potassium can cause muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat and muscle weakness.

Many people with kidney disease will need to limit potassium. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you need to limit potassium.

Use the table below to learn which foods are low or high in potassium. Your dietitian can also help you work in small amounts of your favorite foods that are high in potassium.

 

 Eat this... (lower-potassium foods)   Rather than... (higher-potassium foods)

 Apples
Cranberries
Grapes
Pineapples
Strawberries

 FRUITS

 Avocados
Bananas
Melons
Oranges
Prunes
Raisins

Cauliflower
Onions
Peppers
Radishes
Summer Squash
Zucchini Squash
Lettuce

   VEGETABLES   

Artichokes
Kale
Plantains
Spinach
Potatoes
Tomatoes

Pita
Tortillas
White Breads

GRAINS

Bran
Granola

Beef
Chicken
White Rice

 PROTEINS

Beans
Brown Rice
Wild Rice

 

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods. It works with calcium and vitamin D to keep bones healthy. Healthy kidneys keep the right balance of phosphorus in your body.

When your kidneys are not working well, phosphorus can build up in your blood. Too much phosphorus in your blood can lead to weak bones that break easily.

Many people with kidney disease need to limit phosphorus. Ask your dietitian if you need to limit phosphorus.

Depending on your stage of kidney disease, your doctor may also prescribe a medicine called a phosphate binder. This helps to keep phosphorus from building up in your blood. A phosphate binder can be helpful, but you will still need to watch how much phosphorus you eat. Ask your doctor if a phosphate binder is right for you. 

 

 Eat this... (lower-phosphorous foods)     Rather than... (higher-phosphorous foods)

Italian Bread
French Bread
Sourdough Bread

BREADS

Whole-grain Bread

Corn Cereals
Rice Cereals
Cream of Wheat

  HOT & COLD 
CEREALS

Bran Cereals
Oatmeal

Unsalted Popcorn

SNACKS

Nuts
Sunflower Seeds

Some light-colored Sodas
Lemonade

  BEVERAGES

Dark-colored Colas

 

Fluids

You need water to live, but when you have kidney disease, you may not need as much. This is because damaged kidneys do not get rid of extra fluid as well as they should.

Too much fluid in your body can be dangerous. It can cause high blood pressure, swelling and heart failure. Extra fluid can also build up around your lungs and make it hard to breathe.

Depending on your stage of kidney disease and your treatment, your doctor may tell you to limit fluid. If your doctor tells you this, you will need to cut back on how much you drink.

You may also need to cut back on some foods that contain a lot of water. Soups or foods that melt, like ice, ice cream and gelatin, have a lot of water. Many fruits and vegetables are high in water, too.

Limit sodium to help cut down on thirst. At times, you may still feel thirsty. To help quench your thirst, you might try to:

  • Chew gum

  • Rinse your mouth

  • Suck on a piece of ice, mints or hard candy; choose sugar-free candy if you have diabetes