10 Kinds of Food Not Suitable for Your Kidneys

Food for Dialysis Patients | MedLine Dialysis Center

Your kidneys are organs shaped like beans and perform a multitude of functions: they filter your blood, remove waste via urine, produce hormones, balance minerals, and maintain fluid balance. All it takes to upset this balance is one wrong move (emphasis: abuse), leading to kidney damage, with high-risk factors including heart problems and diabetes. Now, when they become damaged and can’t function properly, fluids will build up in the body, allowing wastes to accumulate in the blood.

Can anything be done to limit waste products from gathering?

Thankfully, there is something that can be done in order to prevent the accumulation of waste products in one’s bloodstream. Though it sounds easy, it’s actually much harder than one would normally think. Avoiding or limiting certain types of food can definitely help decrease the chances of this happening, which would greatly improve kidney function, and in the long run, prevent further damage. 

These restrictions, however, depend greatly on the stage of kidney disease. For example, people in the early stages of chronic renal disease will have different restrictions than those suffering from kidney failure. And this doesn’t end here at all, as those with end-stage renal disease who require dialysis will also have varying dietary restrictions, as they will need to follow a kidney-friendly diet to prevent a buildup of certain chemicals and/or nutrients in the blood.

How does a renal diet work?

A kidney-friendly diet, or renal diet, usually involves limiting the amount of salt and potassium intake to 2,000 mg, as well as limiting phosphorus to 800-1,000 mg, on a daily basis. There are also cases where damaged kidneys have a hard time filtering the waste products of protein metabolism, possibly requiring people with stage 1-4 chronic kidney disease to limit the amount of protein in their respective diets.

That said, here is a list of 10 kinds of food that dialysis patients should avoid:

  1. Processed Foods
    Processed foods are convenient, easy to prepare, taste amazing, and are definitely affordable. But what most, if not all, don’t know is that these contain high amounts of sodium and phosphorus, which people suffering from kidney diseases are compelled to limit in terms of intake as this may be potentially harmful – not just to their kidneys but also to their bones, as well. 
  2. Too Much Meat
    Pinoys are definitely quite the carnivorous bunch, having an insatiable love for meat. On normal days, one would see unli-samgyupsal joints at full capacity day in and day out, not realizing that animal protein generates high amounts of acid in the blood, which can be harmful to the kidneys, and cause a condition known as acidosis – a condition where kidneys are unable to eliminate acids fast enough.

    Processed meats are also no exception to this. Known to have links to chronic diseases, these can be deemed unhealthy because they have either been salted, dried, cured, or canned – for flavoring and preservation purposes – resulting in high amounts of salt. Some examples of this include luncheon meat, corned meat, hotdogs, and yes, even your favorite canned tuna.
  3. Foods with High Sugar Content
    Sugar is a contributing factor to obesity, increasing your chances of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes, both of which could lead to kidney disease. In addition to desserts, sugar is also added to foods and drinks you might not consider “sweet.” You’ll be surprised to find out that even rice is being digested as sugar, so you’ll also want to monitor your rice intake. And of course, who could possibly forget those 3-in-1 coffee mixes you take every morning? Those things are loaded with sugar, as well, so if you can’t avoid it completely, do keep a limit to it.
  4. Dark-colored Sodas
    Family gatherings cannot be complete without the customary handaan which includes copious amounts of food and drink. The staple beverage of choice: softdrinks. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of carbonated liquid running down one’s throat; it’s such a satisfying feeling. But aside from the calories and sugar it contains, additives that contain phosphorus can also be found in sodas, especially the dark-colored ones. This is added during processing to enhance their flavor, prolong their shelf life, and even prevent coloration. Your body absorbs all the phosphorus these softdrinks contain, but since it’s artificial, it’s not bound to protein unlike natural phosphorus, and found in the form of salt.
  5. Avocados
    Surprisingly, even certain kinds of fruits have to be excluded from a renal diet due to certain reasons, and avocados are part of this category, as well. While they are highly recommended for consumption due to their many nutritional qualities, which include heart-healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants – making it a very healthy addition to the diet -, you will need to avoid them if you have any renal disease as avocados are a rich source of potassium, with one cup providing an astounding 727 mg; that’s double the amount of potassium found in a medium banana! If you have been told to look after your potassium intake, then avocados, including guacamole, should be avoided. 
  1. Whole Wheat Bread
    Choosing the right kind of bread can become a source of confusion for individuals with kidney disease, as whole wheat bread is usually recommended over white bread. Make no mistake, however; the recommendation for consuming whole wheat bread is often only for healthy individuals; though it’s a more nutritious choice due to its fiber content, it contains amounts of phosphorus and potassium which is detrimental to patients afflicted with kidney disease.
  2. Brown Rice
    Just like whole wheat bread, brown rice contains higher potassium and phosphorus content than white rice. However, it can still be considered fit for a renal diet provided that servings are controlled and balanced together with other foods in order to avoid an excessive daily potassium and phosphorus intake.

    Suggested substitutes for brown rice include bulgur, buckwheat, pearled barley, and couscous, as these are all low-phosphorus grains.
  3. Bananas
    Another fruit to be excluded from renal diets would be the venerable banana. This particular tropical fruit is known for its high potassium content. In fact, its levels are so high, a single medium banana provides 422 mg of potassium, which makes it unfit for inclusion in diets for individuals with kidney disease despite its low sodium content. If it’s a daily staple, keeping your daily potassium rate to 2,000 mg might prove to be a challenge.

    Pineapples may be considered a viable substitute, however; they contain substantially less amounts of potassium than other tropical fruits, and can be a more suitable – and tasty – alternative.
  4. Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes
    Both potatoes and sweet potatoes (kamote) are known for being rich in potassium. They can, however, be either soaked or leached, as well as cut into small, thin pieces, and then boiled afterwards for at least 10 minutes. If cut, their potassium content is reduced up to about 50%; when soaked in water, this is reduced in comparison to the levels of those not soaked prior to cooking, also known as the “double cook method.”

    You need to bear in mind that while double-cooking potatoes lowers their potassium levels, it’s imperative to remember that it doesn’t eliminate everything, as traces of potassium can still be present. This is why it’s best to exercise portion control.
  5. Instant Noodles/Chips/Crackers
    Most ready-to-eat snacks such as chips, instant noodles, and crackers have a tendency to lack nutrients, often compensated by relatively high levels of salt. Compared to other sodium-laced foods, it’s no Herculean feat to eat more than the recommended amounts for these, which often lead to intake of even greater amounts of salt than what is normally intended. Furthermore, if chips are made from potatoes, then they’ll contain a significant amount of potassium, as well.

So, what’s the bottom line?

If you’re a dialysis patient, have a family history of kidney disease, or simply have the desire to make sure your kidneys are always at the pink of health, then limiting – or if possible, avoiding altogether – your intake of potassium, phosphorus, and sodium will go a long way. Do remember, though, that your restrictions will depend on the damage your presently have, which means that recommendations for nutrient intake will vary on a case-to-case basis.

At the end of the day, observing a dialysis patient diet can seem like a daunting task, even sometimes to the point where it feels restrictive, but your individual needs can still be met via a personalized renal diet, but you will need to work closely with your doctor, and if possible, with a renal dietitian to give you guidance, 

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