Foods to Avoid for Kidney Health

There are certain foods to avoid for kidney health because they can put undue pressure on your kidneys and lead to kidney dysfunction or disease. These may include processed foods, sugary drinks, and red meat.

Processed foods are high in sodium and can lead to fluid retention, which can increase blood pressure and put a strain on the kidneys. Sugary drinks can also cause weight gain, leading to diabetes – a major risk factor for kidney disease. Red meat on the other hand is high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can clog the arteries and lead to kidney problems.

See Also Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease and What are the 5 Stages of Kidney Failure.

Let’s dive deeper into what you should and should not eat for kidney health.

Why is Kidney Health Important?

There are many reasons why kidney health is important. For one, the kidneys are vital in filtering waste from the blood and excreting it from the body. 

They also help regulate blood pressure and balance the body’s fluid levels.

They also produce hormones essential for bone health and red blood cell production.

Kidney disease can lead to a number of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, anemia, and even heart failure. 

That’s why it’s important to do everything you can to keep your kidneys healthy. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly can all help to keep your kidneys in good shape. 

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, it’s especially important to control these conditions to reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.

Foods to Avoid for Kidney Health

1. Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats

Processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats can cause kidney damage. In fact, a study found that consuming red and processed meats increased the risk of developing chronic kidney disease by 27%.

The kidneys filter out toxins and waste from the blood, and processed meats are full of unhealthy chemicals that can strain and damage the kidneys.

For one, these foods are high in saturated fats, sodium, and Nitrates, which can increase your blood pressure and cause your kidneys to work harder. This can increase your risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) or kidney failure.

Eating processed meats is also linked to an increased risk of developing other health problems like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. 

If you regularly eat processed meats, it’s important to cut back your intake, especially if you have high blood pressure or any other underlying chronic conditions.

And even if you consider yourself to be in the fullness of health, processed meats have been linked to inflammation which is the root cause of most conditions. They are also major carcinogens. 

2. High-sodium foods like fast food, chips, and canned soup

Sodium is an essential nutrient that helps regulate blood pressure and fluid levels in the body. 

However, consuming too much sodium can lead to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

Unfortunately, most people consume too much sodium without even realizing it. That’s because it’s found in so many common foods, like fast food, chips, and canned soup. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average American consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium per day. That’s more than the recommended amount of less than 2300mg daily.

Regularly eating such foods will increase your intake, cause your body to retain fluid, and raise your blood pressure. Over time, this can damage your kidneys and lead to kidney disease.

If you have chronic kidney disease, you should maintain a very low intake, but even if you don’t have kidney problems, limiting your sodium intake is still a good idea.

3. Excessive amounts of protein from sources like red meat and full-fat dairy

Protein is an essential part of the diet, but too much protein can be harmful to the kidneys. Excessive amounts of protein from sources like red meat and full-fat dairy can cause kidney damage.

Compared to plant protein, animal protein has been shown to increase kidney damage which, with time, can lead to chronic kidney disease.

When you consume more protein than your body needs, your kidneys have to work overtime to filter it all out. This can lead to kidney damage over time.

In addition to causing kidney damage, eating excessive amounts of protein can lead to other health problems, such as osteoporosis and cancer. 

So, while protein is important for your health, you need to make sure that you are not consuming too much of it and that you’re getting your share from healthy sources like legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables like broccoli.

4. Sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice

When it comes to sugary drinks, it’s not just soda that can be harmful to your kidneys. Fruit juices can also be problematic, as they often contain high levels of sugar.

The sugar can cause the kidneys to become inflamed and make them less able to filter out waste products. This can lead to a build-up of toxins in the body and, eventually, kidney issues. 

Drinking sugary drinks can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which can also damage the kidneys. 

If you have diabetes, it is important to control your blood sugar levels to help prevent damage to your kidneys.

Sugary drinks are also a major contributor to obesity, which is a leading cause of kidney disease. Obesity can damage the kidneys in multiple ways, including by increasing inflammation and causing changes in blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

If you’re concerned about your kidney health, it’s important to limit your intake of sugary drinks. Choose water or unsweetened beverages instead,

5. Foods high in phosphorus, like jarred processed cheese spread, cheese products, and convenience foods

Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods and is essential for good health. It helps build strong bones and teeth, and it’s needed for the proper functioning of all your cells, tissues, and organs.

However, Excess phosphorus in the diet can cause kidney damage. That’s because when there’s too much phosphorus in your blood, it can bind to calcium and form deposits in your kidneys. These deposits can damage the kidney tissue leading to kidney disease over time.

Too much phosphorus can also cause calcium to be pulled from your bones, which can lead to osteoporosis. High phosphorus levels in the blood can also lead to the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and heart disease.

6. Caffeinated drinks like coffee and soft drinks

When it comes to caffeine, consuming too much can lead to a number of health problems, including kidney damage.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase blood flow and put extra strain on the kidneys. This can lead to damage to the tiny filters in the kidneys called glomeruli. Glomeruli are responsible for filtering waste from the blood and sending it to the urinary tract to be excreted from the body. 

When they become damaged, they lose their ability to effectively filter waste, which can lead to a build-up of toxins in the blood and eventual kidney failure.

Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production. This can lead to dehydration, which can put additional strain on the kidneys and exacerbate any existing damage.

If you consume caffeine regularly, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. You should also limit your intake of caffeinated beverages and foods and avoid consuming them late in the day so that you don’t have trouble sleeping. 

7. Alcohol

person refusing an alcoholic drink

When most people think of alcohol-related diseases, liver damage is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, alcohol can also cause damage to other organs, including the kidneys.

Kidney damage from alcohol is typically caused by chronic (long-term) drinking. When someone drinks excessively over a long period of time, it can lead to a build-up of toxins in the body, including in the kidneys. These toxins can damage kidney cells and lead to kidney disease.

There are two main types of kidney damage that can be caused by chronic alcohol consumption: alcoholic nephropathy and alcoholic polyneuropathy. Alcoholic nephropathy is a type of kidney disease that is caused by the direct effects of alcohol on the kidneys. Alcoholic polyneuropathy is a type of nerve damage (including nerves supplying the kidneys) that can be caused by chronic alcohol use.

If you drink alcohol excessively, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks to your health, including risks to your kidneys. If you think you may have a problem with alcoholism, please seek professional help.

Foods to Eat to Protect Your Kidneys

Now that you know the foods to avoid for kidney health, there are certain foods that are especially good for kidney health. These include:


Blueberries and other dark berries are rich in antioxidants, which protect the kidneys by reducing oxidative stress. 

Oxidative stress is a condition in which the body produces too many free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). These ROS can damage cells, leading to inflammation and tissue damage. 

The antioxidants in blueberries help scavenge these ROS, preventing them from causing cell damage. 

This protection is especially important for the kidneys because they are constantly filtering blood and removing toxins from the body. This process produces free radicals, which can damage kidney cells.


When it comes to cleansing and detoxifying organs, cauliflower is a true powerhouse. This cruciferous vegetable contains sulfur-containing compounds that help to protect the liver and kidneys from damage. 

These compounds also stimulate the production of enzymes that help to break down and eliminate toxins from the body. 

In addition, cauliflower is a good source of fiber, which helps keep the digestive system functioning properly and efficiently eliminates waste from the body.


Garlic is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, both of which are thought to play a role in protecting the kidneys from damage.

Studies have shown that garlic can help protect the kidneys from various forms of damage, including oxidative stress, inflammation, and even heavy metal toxicity.

Dark green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as folate and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals play important roles in maintaining the health of your kidneys.

Some of the best dark green leafy vegetables for kidney health include spinach, kale, collard greens, and Swiss chard. 

Olive oil

Olive oil has many benefits, including its ability to improve kidney function. It’s rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the kidneys from damage. 

It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the kidneys. 

Additionally, olive oil can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for kidney disease.


Cabbage is a rich source of fiber, folic acid, and phytochemicals, which are all essential for kidney health. Fiber helps to keep the digestive system clean and functioning properly. Folic acid prevents anemia, which can lead to kidney disease, and phytochemicals protect the kidneys from damage and disease.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium. Potassium is a mineral that is essential for proper kidney function, as it helps regulate blood pressure and maintain fluid balance in the body.

Sweet potatoes are also a good source of magnesium, another essential mineral for kidney health. It helps regulate blood pressure and prevent calcium from building up in the arteries. It also controls blood sugar levels and maintains normal nerve and muscle function. 

Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that can help to protect the kidneys from damage caused by free radicals. 

Additionally, they are a low-glycemic food, which means they do not cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This is important for people with diabetes, as high blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys over time.

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Final Thoughts

Kidney health is important for overall health and well-being, so it’s important to be mindful of the foods you eat and how they may affect your kidney function. 

By avoiding processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of animal protein, you can help keep your kidneys healthy and functioning properly. 

If you have any concerns about your kidney health, be sure to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can give you tailored advice for maintaining optimal kidney function.u

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