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What Foods Are Good for Kidney Function?

By Leigh A. Zaykoski ; Updated August 14, 2017

A balanced diet that contains plenty of nutrients is important for everyone. However, people with decreased kidney function need to pay special attention to their diets. Some foods are better for people with kidney disease than others. Making good food choices can reduce the workload on the kidneys and prevent the progression of kidney disease.

Protein

Too much protein increases the strain on the kidneys because protein breakdown results in a buildup of urea in the bloodstream. Eating foods that are lower in protein can help to decrease levels of urea and improve how kidney patients feel. Replace high-protein foods like meat, eggs and milk products with lower-protein options like grains and vegetables.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates should make up the bulk of a kidney patient's diet. While many people follow low-carbohydrate diets to lose weight, carbohydrates provide energy the body needs to function properly. People with kidney disease or kidney damage need to keep up their energy levels with simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include whole-grain breads, brown rice and some vegetables. Good, simple carbohydrates are found in fruits. Avoid products that contain refined sugar, such as cakes, pies, cookies, candies and pastries.

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Sodium

Monitoring sodium intake is very important for people with kidney dysfunction. When the kidneys do not work function well, sodium is not excreted properly in the urine. This leads to fluid retention and swelling. Avoid foods that are high in sodium, including potato chips, bacon, luncheon meats, cheese, canned vegetables, canned soups, frozen dinners, bouillon cubes and table salt. Spices and herbs that do not contain sodium can be used to add flavor to food without increasing sodium intake.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral that is necessary for healthy teeth, bones, muscles and nerves. However, a decline in kidney function makes it difficult for the body to balance the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. When phosphorus levels are high, calcium levels decrease, causing the body to leech calcium from the bones. This can lead to brittle bones and bone and joint pain. Avoid high-phosphorus foods such as cheese, sardines, cola soft drinks and peanut butter. Replace them with lower-phosphorus foods such as broccoli, non-cola soft drinks, sherbet and zucchini.

Potassium

Kidneys that function normally keep the level of potassium in the body at a normal level. When the kidneys do not work properly, potassium levels can increase and cause irregular heartbeat and other serious medical conditions. Avoid bananas, broccoli, chocolate, tomatoes, cantaloupe, prunes and mushrooms, as they contain high levels of pot assium. Low-potassium alternatives include apples, watermelon, pears, cucumbers, grapes, cranberries, cherries and carrots.

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