About 37 million Americans suffer from kidney disease, according to the American Kidney Fund, and as many as 90% of people don’t even know they have the disease. That's because kidney disease often causes few or subtle symptoms in its early stages, only becoming noticeable once kidney damage starts to take a toll on your health.
Serving as filters for your blood, your kidneys work hard to remove excess fluids, toxins, and byproducts. Foods and beverages can have a big effect on this filtering process and on the way your kidneys work.
One of the best ways to protect your kidneys and reduce your risk for kidney disease and its complications is to watch your diet. Focusing on foods that promote kidney health while limiting or avoiding foods that can cause damage can go a long way toward keeping your kidneys healthy.
At Houston Kidney Specialists Center, with multiple locations in Houston and Cypress, Texas, our team helps patients do all they can to maintain healthy kidneys, including offering ways to eat well. In this post, learn which foods and drinks can support kidney health and which can cause problems.
Foods high in salt (sodium)
Sodium raises your blood pressure, putting extra strain on your kidneys. Limiting sodium intake is very important for keeping your kidneys healthy. Unfortunately, lots of foods contain high levels of sodium, including foods that don’t necessarily taste salty. Some examples of foods typically high in sodium include:
- Processed meats
- Deli meats
- Premade and prepackaged meals
- Canned foods and soups
- Many pickled or cured foods
When possible, opt for fresh foods, and use salt-free seasoning substitutes to add flavor to dishes.
Foods high in potassium
We need some potassium for muscle and nerve function, but too much of this important mineral can be harmful, especially if you have kidney problems to begin with. Many healthy foods contain potassium, including:
- Spinach and other leafy green vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
- Dried fruits
While you don’t necessarily have to avoid these foods entirely, if you have kidney problems, your doctor can help you learn how to limit them to protect your health.
Foods high in phosphorus
Phosphorus is another mineral we need to stay healthy, but again, moderate intake is key. High-phosphorus foods include:
- Brown rice
- Many whole grains, including whole-grain breads
- Dried fruits
- Colas and other dark-colored sodas
As with potassium, your doctor can provide you with guidelines to help ensure you get enough — but not too much — of this mineral.
Dairy and other calcium-rich foods
Dairy products contain plenty of calcium, which is important for bone health and other functions. But calcium can contribute to the development of kidney stones, especially in people who are prone to them in the first place. When you choose calcium-rich foods, follow dietary guidelines to ensure you’re not consuming too much.
Dairy products can also contain high amounts of protein, potassium, and phosphorus, all of which can contribute to kidney problems if you consume too much.
Consuming too much sugar increases your risk for diabetes, which is a chronic disease that can take a major toll on your kidneys. If you do indulge, choose only natural sweeteners and strictly limit your intake.
Foods high in oxalates
Oxalates are chemical compounds that bind to calcium. If you’re prone to kidney stones or your kidneys are compromised, limit your consumption of foods high in oxalates, such as potatoes, spinach, and beets.
Water and fluids
Staying hydrated with plenty of fresh water can help flush out your kidneys so they work properly. Drinking plenty of water can also help reduce the risks for kidney stones and urinary tract infections, including potentially serious kidney infections.
At the same time, drinking too much water can put a strain on your kidneys, especially if you already have kidney disease. Bottom line: Drink when you feel thirsty and throughout the day to stay hydrated, and if you have a kidney problem, ask your doctor for your recommended fluid intake.
Know your dietary needs
If you have kidney disease, your specific dietary restrictions will depend on the stage of your disease and other factors that are unique to you. To learn what else you can do to protect your kidneys and how our team can help, call 281-429-8780 or request an appointment online with Houston Kidney Specialists Center today.