What Foods Help Repair Kidneys?

Medically Reviewed on 12/5/2022
If you have chronic kidney disease, it is crucial to track food and fluid intake because diseased kidneys can't remove waste products from the body like healthy kidneys can. Good foods that help repair your kidneys include apples, blueberries, fish, kale, spinach and sweet potatoes.
Good foods that help repair your kidneys include apples, blueberries, fish, kale, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

If you have chronic kidney disease, it is crucial to track food and fluid intake because diseased kidneys can’t remove waste products from the body as healthy kidneys can.

Here are the top kidney-friendly foods that can help repair your kidneys and help you stay healthier longer:

  • Apples: Apples are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber. It can lower cholesterol and glucose levels. It has high antioxidant levels. Fresh apples are also a good source of vitamin C.
  • Blueberries: Blueberries are a low-calorie source of fiber and vitamin C. Studies say it has the potential to protect against cancer and heart disease and provides brain health benefits. 
  • Fish: Certain fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is an essential nutrient to control blood clotting and build cell membranes in the brain. Studies say it may decrease the risk of an abnormal heartbeat, decrease triglyceride levels, and lower blood pressure slightly. They may potentially provide benefits in conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Kale: Kale is rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, and many minerals. It is also a source of carotenoids and flavonoids, which are beneficial for eye health and cancer protection. It also contains vitamin K, which is a natural blood thinner. It has a moderate potassium level. Therefore, people on dialysis must avoid it.
  • Spinach: Spinach is high in vitamins A, C, and K and folate. The beta-carotene found in spinach helps to boost your immunity and protect your vision. It is also a good source of magnesium.
  • Sweet potato: Sweet potato is low in sugar and high in soluble fiber. This helps you feel full.

Other 25 healthy foods that can fight kidney disease include:

  1. Cranberries
  2. Arugula 
  3. Raspberries 
  4. Strawberries
  5. Plums
  6. Pineapples
  7. Peaches
  8. Cabbage
  9. Cauliflower
  10. Asparagus
  11. Beans
  12. Celery
  13. Cucumber
  14. Onions
  15. Bell peppers
  16. Radishes
  17. Summer squash
  18. Garlic
  19. Egg whites without yolks
  20. Shiitake mushrooms
  21. Water
  22. Olive oil
  23. Skinless chicken has less potassium and sodium than the skin on
  24. Macadamia nuts
  25. Turnips are a great alternative to potatoes and winter squash

What does a kidney-friendly diet do?

Your kidneys' major function is to get rid of waste and extra fluid from your body through your urine. They also balance the body’s minerals and fluids and make a hormone that regulates your blood pressure.

A kidney-friendly diet will help protect your kidneys from further damage. You must limit some food and fluids, so other fluids and minerals such as electrolytes do not build up in your body. Also, you must ensure that you are getting the right intake of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals in your daily diet.

If you have early-stage kidney disease, there are a few food items you must limit. But as your disease worsens, you must be more careful about your daily food intake.

What are the ways to make a kidney-friendly and diabetic diet work together?

If you have diabetes along with kidney disease, you need to control your blood sugar to prevent more damage to your kidneys. A diabetic diet and a kidney-friendly diet share a lot of the same food items, but there are some important differences. There are some ways your kidney-friendly diet and diabetic diet can work together.

Below are a few food items that are good for you, if you’re diagnosed with both diabetes and kidney disease.

  • Fruits: Berries, papaya, cherries, apples, and plums
  • Vegetables: Cauliflower, onions, and spinach
  • Proteins: Lean meats (poultry, fish), eggs, and unsalted seafood
  • Carbohydrates: Whole-wheat bread, sandwich buns, unsalted crackers, and pasta
  • Fluids: Water, clear soups, and unsweetened tea 
    • If you drink orange juice to treat low blood sugar, switch to kidney-friendly apple juice. It will provide the same blood sugar boost with a lot less potassium.
  • Late-stage disease: Your blood sugar levels get better with late-stage kidney disease, possibly because of changes in how the body uses insulin
  • Dialysis: If you are on dialysis, your blood sugar can increase because the fluid used to filter your blood contains a high blood sugar level. Your doctor will monitor you closely and decide whether you will need insulin and other diabetes medicines. 

Your doctor and/or dietician will help you to create a meal plan that helps you control your blood sugar level while limiting sodium, phosphorus, potassium, and fluids in the body.


Kidney Stones: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment See Slideshow

What food items should you limit in kidney disease?

Many food items that are part of a typical healthy diet may not be right for you if you’re suffering from kidney disease.

If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, your doctor may recommend limiting certain food items such as:

  • Salt: Avoid table salt and high-sodium seasoning food items. Sodium affects your blood pressure and helps maintain the water level in your body. If you have ankle swelling, high blood pressure, breathing difficulty, and fluid build-up around your heart and lungs, you must avoid salt. You must aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of salt in your daily diet. Use spices or herbs instead of salt. Stay away from packaged food and read labels while shopping. Focus on fresh, home-cooked food. You will get used to food with less salt or no salt within a week or two.
  • Potassium: In kidney disease, high potassium levels can build up in your blood and cause serious heart problems. The right level of this mineral keeps your nerves and muscles working well. Avoid tomatoes, oranges, bananas, potatoes, avocados, broccoli, and whole-grain bread, as they are high in potassium. Eat apples, carrots, and salads. Your doctor may recommend a potassium binder to help your body get rid of extra potassium. The doctor may recommend eating foods such as apples, cranberries, strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower, and cucumber.
  • Protein: Though protein is important for your body, more protein makes your kidneys work harder and may worsen kidney disease. Consult your dietitian to determine the right combination and amount of protein for you. You may need to cut foods such as meat, seafood, and dairy products.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus is a mineral that keeps your bones strong and healthy. In kidney disease, your kidneys can’t remove extra phosphorus from your blood very well. It may weaken the bone and may damage your blood vessels, eyes, and heart further. You may even get heart disease. Avoid high phosphorus-containing food items such as meat, fish, dairy, beans, nuts, whole-grain bread, packaged foods, and dark-colored sodas. If you have late-stage kidney disease, your doctor may advise you to have less than 1000 milligrams of phosphorus-rich foods in your diet daily. Choose low-level phosphorus foods such as fresh fruits, veggies, corn, rice, and cereal.
  • Calcium: Your doctor may also advise you to avoid over-the-counter calcium supplements and to cut back on calcium-rich foods such as dairy foods. Foods that are high in calcium also tend to be high in phosphorus.
  • Fluids: Generally, you need to maintain the water level in your body. However, in early-stage kidney disease, you must limit your fluid levels. Because damaged kidneys do not get rid of extra fluid, too much fluid can be dangerous for you. It can even cause high blood pressure, swelling, and heart failure. It can also build up extra fluid around your lungs and you may have difficulty breathing. You must also need to cut back on some foods that contain a lot of water such as ice cream, gelatin, watermelon, and grapes. 

Depending upon the stage of your kidney disease, your doctor will advise you to reduce the potassium, phosphorus, and protein levels in your diet.

What fruit is bad for kidneys?

are bananas bad for kidneys?
People suffering from kidney disease should avoid potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, avocados, apricots, and more.

Most fruits are not harmful in individuals with healthy kidneys. When the kidneys are damaged or people suffer from renal disease, the filtration process is disrupted and waste products are retained in the body. Accumulation of waste or toxic substances in the blood may further damage the kidneys.

  • Foods heavy in minerals, such as salt, potassium, and phosphorus, stress the kidneys and may cause further renal damage.
  • Among these compounds, avoiding potassium-rich foods and high sodium diet is highly essential in situations, especially kidney damage. 
  • Dietary modifications are recommended to avoid these substances that increase stress in the kidneys.

The kidneys are essential organs of the body that perform multiple functions, such as:

  • Filtration of toxic and waste substances from the body through the urine
  • Production of hormone that stimulates red blood cells production
  • Maintenance of the body’s mineral balance

Although fruits are typically quite beneficial to have in the diet, certain fruits are high in potassium and should be avoided by patients with renal disease, which include:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruit
  • Prunes and prune juice
  • Apricots
  • Dried fruits, such as dates and raisins
  • Melons, such as honeydew and cantaloupe

The citric acid in oranges may increase the risk of developing kidney stones in patients with kidney damage. Salt and salt substitutes that are made with potassium are to be avoided. If levels of potassium or other toxic substances increase in the body, the patient may undergo dialysis.

Dialysis is a procedure used to eliminate waste products and excess fluid from the blood when kidneys do not function properly. This procedure is usually performed by redirecting the blood into a machine for cleaning.

How to extract potassium from fruits

If possible, substitute fresh or frozen fruits with canned fruits. The potassium in canned products leaches into the water or juice, thus reducing potassium levels in the fruits. If a person includes this juice in their meal or consumes it, their potassium levels may rise.

The juice often has a high salt content, which causes the body to retain water. This can result in kidney issues. So, before consuming canned fruits, they must drain the juice and rinse the fruits thoroughly to reduce the salt and potassium content.

Soaking in water and rinsing the fresh fruits thoroughly before consuming helps eliminate unwanted compounds.

What are the effects of high potassium in the body?

Patients with kidney damage or diseases may have high potassium levels in the body even after they consume the daily recommended dose.

Healthy people aged 19 years and older should take at least between 3,400 mg and 2,600 mg of potassium per day, respectively. However, if the kidneys malfunction, the dose should be reduced.

Hyperkalemia (high potassium levels in the body) may lead to:

Consult a doctor if the symptoms worsen.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/5/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Medscape Medical Reference

American Kidney Fund https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/kidney-friendly-diet-for-ckd.html

CDC https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/eat-well/what-to-eat.html

National Kidney Foundation https://www.kidney.org/content/7-kidney-friendly-superfoods

NIDDK https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidney-failure/eating-right

Cleveland Clinic. Hyperkalemia (High Potassium). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15184-hyperkalemia-high-blood-potassium

WebMD. Potassium Rich Foods. https://www.webmd.com/diet/foods-rich-in-potassium#1