Which Foods Are Bad for Kidney Disease and Diabetes? 18 Foods

Medically Reviewed on 7/22/2022
Which Foods Are Bad for Kidney Disease and Diabetes
Here are 18 foods to avoid with kidney disease and diabetes

Kidney disease is often caused by diabetes and other health conditions. If you have bad kidneys or diabetes, it is important to manage your condition with a healthy diet.

Low-protein, low-sodium, low-sugar, and low-fat diets can help you control your blood sugar levels and slow kidney damage, although dietary guidelines may vary depending on the stage of kidney disease.

Here are 18 foods to avoid with kidney disease and diabetes.

18 foods to avoid with kidney disease and diabetes

1. Processed meats

Processed meats are those that have been cured by drying, smoking, fermenting, and salting in order to extend shelf life and add taste and texture. Processed meats are extremely high in salt, however, and should be avoided because excess sodium can strain your kidneys and raise your blood pressure. Examples of processed meats include deli meats, bacon, jerky, sausage, corned beef, pepperoni, and hot dogs.

2. Red meat

Red meat has a high concentration of protein and fat. Although your body requires protein to function properly, excess intake of protein can cause microscopic damage to the kidney’s filtering cells.

3. Canned foods

Canned goods such as vegetables and soups are convenient but tend to be very high in sodium and potassium, which can harm people with diabetes and kidney disease.

4. Instant meals

Processed foods such as packaged or premade meals are typically high in sodium and refined carbs. Refined carbs break down quickly in the body and can cause blood sugar spikes.

5. Chips and other snack foods

Snack foods such as chips and crackers are also high in salt and refined carbs. They may also contain potassium or phosphorus, which should be avoided or limited in people with kidney disease and diabetes.

6. Dark-colored sodas

Dark-colored sodas are not only high in sugar and calories but are also high in phosphorus, which is often added to prolong shelf life and enhance flavor. In contrast to the naturally occurring protein-bound form, phosphorus in these types of soda is in the form of inorganic phosphates that are more easily absorbed by the body and can worsen kidney damage.

7. Fruit juices

Most fruit juices and beverages are packed with preservatives, added sugars, and even potassium, which increase blood sugar levels and cause damage to the kidneys. 

8. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been linked in studies to kidney cell damage and other health issues such as disruption in the satiety signals in the brain.

9. Dried fruits

Dried fruits such as dates, raisins, and prunes are high in potassium and sugar, making them unsuitable for people with diabetes and kidney disease because they can increase blood sugar levels and worsen kidney damage.

10. High-potassium fruits

Although most fruits are good for most healthy people, they can be dangerous for people with uncontrolled diabetes and renal disease. People with these conditions should avoid fruits that are high in sugar or potassium, which include:

  • Avocado
  • Apricot
  • Kiwi
  • Orange
  • Banana

11. Some green, leafy vegetables

People with kidney disease and diabetes should avoid certain green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, beet greens, and chard because they are high in potassium as well as oxalates. Oxalates can cause kidney stones in susceptible individuals and can cause even more harm to your kidneys. 

12. Most beans and lentils

Almost all beans and lentils are high in phosphorus and salt, which may be especially harmful if they come in cans.

13. Dairy products

Dairy products are high in protein, phosphate, and potassium, which need to be limited or avoided if you are monitoring your kidney health and trying to manage diabetes. Excessive dairy consumption can be harmful to bone health because it can lead to phosphorus accumulation in the blood, which can remove calcium from your bones. Over time, this can cause your bones to become weak and lose density.

14. Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in potassium and carbohydrates, which can be problematic for people with kidney disease and diabetes.

15. Whole wheat bread

Whole wheat bread is usually recommended as a healthier alternative to white bread. However, one ounce of whole wheat bread contains 57 grams of phosphorus and 69 mg of potassium. Therefore, this type of bread should be avoided with kidney disease.

16. Pickles and olives

Pickles and olives are similar to processed meats in that they are cured with large amounts of salt. According to one study, one pickle spear contains 300 mg of sodium. Therefore, pickles and other high-sodium fermented foods should be avoided on a renal diet.

17. Alcohol

Alcohol disrupts hormones that prevent your kidneys from producing too much urine, which can cause frequent urination and dehydration. Excessive alcohol consumption can wear down your kidneys because they have to work harder to generate more urine.

18. Certain herbal supplements and vitamins

Some herbal supplements and vitamins are not advised if you have diabetes or kidney disease, since they can worsen your condition or interact with your medications. For example, you may need to avoid vitamins A, E, and K as well as herbal supplements that contain parsley root, astragalus, creatine, licorice root, and stinging nettle. Talk to your doctor about supplements and vitamins that should be avoided if you have diabetes or kidney disease.

Which diets are recommended for people with diabetes and kidney disease?

Low-protein diet

Protein is typically good for you if you have healthy kidneys. However, if your kidneys are not functioning properly, eating too much protein can cause urea to accumulate in the blood instead of being filtered out. Therefore, following a low-protein diet can reduce the strain on the kidneys. 

Low-potassium diet

Potassium can be dangerous if you have kidney disease. Your kidneys are responsible for flushing out excess potassium from the body. However, if you have diabetes or bad kidneys, potassium can build up in your body and further cause damage to your renal health.

Low-phosphorus diet

When your kidneys are healthy and functioning normally, they filter excess phosphorus from the blood. However, diabetes and kidney disease can cause phosphorus to build up and draw calcium from your bones. It can also lead to calcium deposits in the lungs, eyes, heart, and blood vessels, which can increase the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or even death.

Low-carb diet

Existing and emerging scientific evidence suggests that low-carb diets can improve key health indicators such as triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels and possibly reverse kidney disease. A low-carb diet restricts foods such as grains, bread, pasta, and sugary foods. Before beginning a low-carb diet, however, people with diabetes and kidney diseases should consult with a dietitian or physician since carb restriction can lead to nutritional deficiencies.


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Medically Reviewed on 7/22/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Diabetes and Kidney Disease: What to Eat? https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/what-to-eat.html

Kidney-friendly eating plan: https://www.kidneyfund.org/living-kidney-disease/healthy-eating-activity/kidney-friendly-eating-plan

Diabetic Renal Diet: What is Left to Eat? https://www.thekidneydietitian.org/diabetic-renal-diet/

Intended Audience: CKD Diabetic Patients, Renal Dietitians: https://www.jrnjournal.org/article/S1051-2276(19)30262-6/fulltext

Nutritional Challenges of a Dual Diagnosis: Chronic Kidney Disease and Diabetes: https://diabetesjournals.org/spectrum/article/21/1/26/2177/Nutritional-Challenges-of-a-Dual-Diagnosis-Chronic

Eating guidelines for diabetes and chronic kidney disease: https://www.waterloowellingtondiabetes.ca/userContent/documents/Professional-Resources/nutrition%20guidelines%20diabetes%20and%20kidney%20disease.pdf