What to Eat on a Kidney Disease Diet

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People with chronic kidney disease are often advised to avoid certain foods and beverages to help keep their kidneys working properly. Certain nutrients are harder for your kidneys to filter out than others once the kidneys are damaged.

This article discusses foods that are good for people with kidney disease, as well as foods that should be limited or avoided.

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The kidneys are responsible for filtering toxins, waste, and extra water out of your blood, producing urine. In kidney disease, the kidneys are damaged and unable to properly filter the blood as they normally would. This can lead to a buildup of fluids and waste in the body, causing additional health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

The foods and beverages you consume directly impact your kidneys. Following a kidney-friendly diet is important when you have chronic kidney disease (CKD) to stay healthy and prevent additional damage to your kidneys.

Working with a nutrition expert, such as a registered dietitian or nutritionist, can help you learn which foods and beverages are safe to consume on a kidney disease diet.

Benefits of a Kidney Disease Diet

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 37 million American adults have chronic kidney disease. People with CKD often need to change what they eat to help avoid further damage to their kidneys.

Following a renal (kidney) disease diet can help preserve kidney function and prevent further decline in their ability to filter the blood of waste and fluids. This can help decrease some symptoms of kidney disease, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, problems with urination, and kidney pain.

In addition, following a healthy renal diet can help provide you with energy, maintain a healthy weight, decrease infections, and prevent loss of muscle mass. Continue reading to learn more about diet for people with kidney disease.

How It Works

Depending on the level of kidney damage, your dietitian may recommend differing levels of dietary restrictions. Some people in the early stages of kidney disease may not need to make any changes to their diet. 

The more severe the damage to your kidneys, the more strict you will need to be with your diet. Working with registered dietitians is important, as they can help educate you on the amounts of different foods and beverages allowed for your individual needs based on your blood tests.

Discuss Your Food Choices With Your Healthcare Provider

If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider will want to regularly check your blood to ensure certain nutrients are within a safe range. This might include sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, vitamin D, and albumin. Based on your blood test results, your doctor or dietitian may recommend you limit or avoid certain foods. 


To achieve and maintain healthy blood levels of these substances, it’s important to discuss your food choices with your healthcare team to ensure the best specific kidney-friendly diet, as the foods you eat can impact your kidney function.


A registered dietitian can help educate you on foods to limit and help you find food and beverages that are safe for you to eat.

What to Eat

The following foods are low in sodium, potassium and/or phosphorus, and are often allowed on a renal diet:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Cranberries
  • Grapes
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Arugula
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Radishes
  • Summer squash
  • Lettuce
  • Sourdough bread
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • Unsalted popcorn
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Egg whites
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Pork loin
  • Silken tofu
  • Olive oil

What Not to Eat

The following foods are high in sodium, potassium and/or phosphorus, and may be recommended to be limited or avoided on a renal diet:

  • Avocado
  • Apricots
  • Bananas
  • Dates
  • Melons
  • Oranges
  • Prunes
  • Raisins
  • Artichokes
  • Winter squash
  • Spinach (cooked)
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Bran cereal
  • Oats
  • Most nuts 
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Processed meats
  • Pickles and olives
  • Pretzels, chips, and crackers
  • Beans
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Dark-colored cola drinks
  • Packaged instant or premade meals
  • Canned and highly processed foods that contain extra salt

How Is a Kidney Disease Diet Different?

People following a kidney disease diet might need to change the amount of fluids and/or the following nutrients in their diet:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Protein

Eating the right amount of these nutrients may help control the buildup of fluid and waste in your body. This helps your kidneys to not work as hard to filter out the extra waste and fluids from your blood. 

You will most likely still be able to include small amounts of foods with these nutrients. If your kidney function worsens, however, you might need to be more strict or make additional dietary changes. Based on your blood test results, your healthcare team will let you know if you need to change anything in your diet.

Low Sodium

The amount of fluid in your body can affect your blood sodium levels. Additionally, your kidneys work to control the amount of sodium in your body. If the kidneys cannot do their job, fluid and sodium can build up in the body, causing health issues such as swelling, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and heart problems.

Foods high in sodium include many packaged instant or premade frozen or canned meals and other canned foods, salt, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, steak sauce, teriyaki sauce, salted snacks such as crackers and chips, cured or processed meats, cheese, bread, and pickled vegetables.

When shopping, read the nutrition facts label to look for foods low in sodium. Buying "no salt added" versions of canned items is a good way to reduce sodium intake, as well as unsalted nuts, seeds, and popcorn.

Using salt-free seasonings, spices, and herbs can help reduce sodium intake while still providing flavor for your meals. Be careful if you also need to restrict potassium, as some salt substitutes contain potassium.

Limit Potassium Intake

Potassium is a mineral that works to help coordinate muscle function, including the heart. Having the right amount, not too much or too little, in your body is important. Healthy kidneys regulate the amount of potassium in your body, so potassium levels can rise to dangerously high levels when they are damaged.

Symptoms of high potassium levels include feeling weak, having numbness or tingling, or having an irregular heartbeat.

Potassium is found in many foods, so it would be difficult to eliminate it from your diet completely. However, limiting foods high in potassium can help prevent a buildup of potassium in your body. 

Foods high in potassium include winter squash, apricots, avocado, artichoke, dates, cantaloupe, dried fruits, melons, oranges, carrots, prunes, raisins, potatoes, bananas, tomatoes, spinach, kiwi, mango, pomegranate, bran, granola, beans, nuts, seeds, milk, yogurt, lite salt/salt substitute, and chocolate.

Limit Foods High in Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods that helps keep your bodily tissues, muscles, and other cells healthy. Phosphorus also works with calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong. 

Damaged kidneys are unable to filter out extra phosphorus in the blood. Too much phosphorus in the body can cause calcium to be removed from your bones, leading to weak bones, as well as calcium deposits in the blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and heart. Over time, this increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Phosphorus is naturally found in protein-rich foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, beans and dairy products. Phosphorus from animal sources is more easily absorbed than from plant sources.

Foods high in phosphorus include chocolate, milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, pudding, organ meats, oysters, sardines, processed meats, bran, whole wheat bread, nuts, seeds, beans, beer, and dark-colored cola drinks.

Manage Protein Intake

When you eat foods with protein, the protein gets broken down and digested. As part of protein digestion, waste is created that your kidneys then work to remove from your body. Eating more protein than you need can create extra work for your kidneys, especially if you have advanced kidney disease.

Depending on the stage of CKD you have, you may need to change the type and/or amount of protein you eat. Your doctor or dietitian will let you know if you need to change your portion sizes of protein foods.

Protein comes from both plant and animal sources. Animal sources of protein include red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods. Plant-based sources of protein include beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, soy foods, and whole grains.

If you have kidney disease and are not on dialysis, a diet lower in protein may be recommended. Research suggests that limiting the amount of protein and eating more plant-based foods may help slow kidney disease and preserve kidney function. However, if you are on dialysis (treatment using machines to help filter extra fluids and waste from your body), you will most likely need to increase the amount of protein you eat.

Limit Fluids in Advanced Kidney Disease

Water is necessary for life. However, if you have advanced kidney disease you might need to limit the amount of fluids you take in each day. This is because kidneys that are damaged aren’t able to efficiently eliminate extra fluid as they normally would.

This causes an accumulation of excess fluid in your body, which can lead to high blood pressure, swelling (especially in extremities like feet, ankles, fingers, and hands), difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, and heart failure (the heart is unable to pump enough blood).

Like all nutrients on a renal diet, your level of water restriction will depend on the severity of kidney disease you have. People with stages 1 and 2 kidney disease often do not need to limit water intake, and might actually be encouraged to drink enough water each day to keep their kidneys hydrated and working well.

Fluids not only include the water and other beverages you drink throughout the day, but also foods that contain a lot of water. This includes soups, stews, broths, gelatin, pudding, ice cream, popsicles, sherbet, and some fruits and vegetables.

Summary

Healthy kidneys work to filter excess fluid and waste from your blood. In people with chronic kidney disease, the kidneys have decreased function and aren’t able to properly get rid of this extra waste and fluid. This causes a buildup of fluid, waste, and certain nutrients in the blood, which can lead to many health problems if not addressed. 

Nutrients that are advised to be limited on a renal diet include sodium, potassium, phosphate, and protein (as well as fluids, if advanced kidney disease is present). Following a kidney-friendly diet can help preserve kidney function and prevent further damage to your kidneys.

A Word From Verywell 

Kidney disease can be treated, and the earlier treatment is started the better. The dietary restrictions on a kidney disease diet vary from person to person depending on their disease progression.

While a kidney-friendly diet may seem daunting at first, know there are many foods you can safely eat if you have kidney disease. Following the diet recommendations set out by your healthcare team will help prevent your kidney damage from worsening, preserving your kidney function and allowing them to do their job and keep you healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can I eat for breakfast with kidney disease?

    There are many options for breakfast if you are following a diet for kidney disease. This includes a kidney-friendly cereal and rice or almond milk, an egg white scramble with onion and bell peppers, sourdough toast with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and sliced strawberry, or a berry smoothie made with almond or rice milk.

  • Which diet will help me repair my kidneys naturally?

    Following a renal diet or kidney disease diet can help preserve the function of your kidneys and prevent further damage to them. Nutrient intake that may need to be changed in your diet, depending on your stage of kidney disease, include sodium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein, as well as fluids.

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9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. National Kidney Foundation. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) symptoms and causes.

  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating right for chronic kidney disease.

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  5. National Kidney Foundation. Potassium and your CKD diet.

  6. National Kidney Foundation. Phosphorus and your diet

  7. National Kidney Foundation. CKD diet: how much protein is the right amount?

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Nutrition for advanced chronic kidney disease in adults.

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