Worst Foods For Your Kidney

  • Jennifer Grace Biomedical Sciences, The University of Manchester, UK


Kidney health is frequently overlooked until problems arise. These extraordinary organs are essential for maintaining general health as they filter waste and extra fluid from the blood, help to control blood pressure, and maintain a healthy, balanced level of electrolytes. While some medical conditions and genetic factors can have an impact on kidney function, our dietary choices also have a big impact on this. The worst foods for your kidneys and why you should pay attention to they are discussed in this article, which delves into the world of kidney health and the dietary culprits that may wreak havoc on these vital organs.

Importance of kidney health

Our kidneys are unsung heroes who silently keep the body’s internal balance. Every day, they filter between 120 and 150 quarts of blood, eliminating waste and extra fluid through urine. In addition to waste removal, the kidneys are essential for managing blood pressure by altering blood volume and monitoring the concentration of electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. Additionally, they support the synthesis of hormones that promote the development of red blood cells and support bone health. Given that the kidneys’ function is crucial to overall health and well-being, their value cannot be overstated.

Role of diet in kidney health

Our kidney’s health is significantly influenced by diet. The foods we eat can either help these important organs in their work or put too much stress on them, which may cause kidney damage and dysfunction. It is crucial to know which foods to eat and which to avoid if you want to promote kidney health and prevent chronic renal disease. The worst foods for your kidneys are highlighted in this article, along with helpful advice on how to make better dietary decisions to safeguard these unsung heroes of the body.

The kidneys and their function 

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that are located on either side of the spine in the lower back. These organs are extremely important for maintaining our general health despite being quite small 1. Understanding the complex duties that these extraordinary organs carry out is crucial to fully appreciating the relevance of knowing the worst foods for your kidneys.

The kidney’s primary role is being the body’s natural filtration system. They process a large volume of blood each day, eliminating waste materials, extra fluid, and electrolytes that are no longer required. Urine is produced as a result of this purification process, which helps keep these waste products from building up inside our bodies by carrying them away 2. In essence, the kidneys control the stability and absence of dangerous compounds in our body’s environment.

Kidneys maintain the balance of minerals such as calcium and potassium, ensuring that they stay within a safe range1. A variety of health concerns, such as bone difficulties, irregular heartbeat, and muscle weakness, can be brought on by imbalances2.

Foods to avoid for kidney health

Making informed dietary choices is essential for maintaining kidney health. Our kidneys diligently filter and purify our blood every day to keep our bodies functioning properly. However, some meals may put an unnecessary strain on these important organs, which may result in chronic renal disease and kidney damage. They include:

High-sodium foods: 

The primary cause of kidney problems is a high sodium intake. Sodium, which is frequently included in table salt and processed meals, can make the body retain water, which raises blood pressure and eventually puts stress on the kidneys’ delicate blood capillaries. This can lead to renal dysfunction and damage over time.3

Canned soups, processed meats, fast food, and restaurant dishes are examples of foods that are high in salt and should be avoided. Kidney health can be greatly improved by consuming less salt, choosing low-sodium options, and cooking at home with fresh foods.

Processed and fast foods

Fast food and processed foods frequently contain harmful fats, high sodium levels, and a variety of chemicals and preservatives. The health of the kidneys may be negatively impacted by these substances. Since obesity and related diseases like diabetes are known risk factors for kidney damage, excessive fat content can result in these conditions. In addition, over time, the chemicals and preservatives in processed foods may harm the kidneys.4

Limiting your consumption of processed and quick foods will help protect your kidneys. Whenever possible, choose homemade meals made with fresh ingredients. This decision promotes renal health while also enhancing general well-being.

Red meat

Red meat, which includes beef, lamb, and pork, is a good source of protein, but it also has certain risks for the kidneys. Large amounts of red meat consumption can add to the body’s load of nitrogenous waste products, placing additional stress on the kidneys. High amounts of acid in the blood generated by animal protein can damage kidneys and result in acidosis, a condition when the kidneys are unable to remove acid fast enough. Additionally, red meat frequently has high levels of saturated fat, which can lead to obesity and heart disease, both of which are associated with kidney problems.4

Although you don’t have to completely cut red meat from your diet, moderation is crucial. Think about replacing part of your servings of red meat with leaner protein sources like poultry, fish, or vegan substitutes such as tofu and beans.

Sugary foods and beverages

Several foods high in sugar include cereals, white bread, desserts, etc. Sugary drinks with a high sugar content include soda, fruit juices, etc. Consuming too much sugar can lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes, which both raise the risk of kidney damage. In addition, some people may develop kidney stones as a result of the phosphoric acid present in many sodas.4 Choosing water, herbal teas, or unsweetened alternatives instead of sugary foods and drinks can be a big first step towards better kidney health.

Caffeine and energy drinks

Coffee, tea, and energy drinks frequently include caffeine, which can have both beneficial and detrimental effects on kidney health. While most people can normally get away with a reasonable amount of caffeine use, too much caffeine might dehydrate you and put stress on your kidneys. Energy drinks, which frequently have high caffeine and sugar content, might also be particularly bad for renal health5

The dangers associated with caffeine consumption can be reduced, and healthy kidneys can be promoted by drinking a lot of water.

High-potassium foods

Although potassium is an important mineral that is involved in the health of muscles and nerves, having too much of it in the blood (hyperkalemia) can have negative effects, especially for those who have kidney disease. Foods high in potassium, such as bananas, oranges, and potatoes, can raise potassium levels, which may cause dangerous heart rhythm irregularities.6

Working closely with a healthcare professional or nutritionist to monitor potassium intake and make wise dietary decisions is crucial for those with renal disease or known impaired kidney function.

Phosphorus-rich foods

Another mineral that may have an impact on kidney health is phosphorus, particularly in people who already have kidney problems. Foods high in phosphorus, such as dairy products, nuts, and some processed foods, can increase blood phosphorus levels, which can exacerbate kidney problems and sufferers’ bone and heart problems.6 For individuals with kidney disease, controlling phosphorus intake is essential. A healthcare professional or nutritionist can offer advice on phosphorus limitation.


Alcohol abuse can have negative effects on the body’s organs, particularly the kidneys. Alcohol can cause electrolyte imbalance problems, dehydrate you, and stress your kidneys out even more. Alcoholic renal disease, a dangerous disorder that can result in kidney failure, can also be brought on by prolonged alcohol consumption5. When drinking alcohol, it is best to consume it in moderation, if at all, and to get help from a professional if you struggle with alcohol dependence.

It is crucial to keep our diets in check if we want to keep our kidneys healthy. Adopting a healthy diet that is kidney-friendly and avoiding or limiting these foods can go a long way towards protecting your kidneys and promoting overall well-being.

The importance of hydration

In order to maintain the kidneys’ health, proper hydration is crucial. For the kidneys to effectively filter waste and maintain a healthy internal environment, enough water intake is crucial. These essential organs are put under undue strain by dehydration, which impairs their performance and raises the risk of kidney stones, infections, and chronic renal disease. Although the daily recommended amount of water varies, it is typically 8 to 10 cups (64 to 80 ounces) for most individuals7. Dehydration symptoms include weariness, dark urine, and a dry mouth8. As water is the basis for kidney function and a crucial component of urine generation, individuals can protect their kidneys and improve general well-being by maintaining appropriate hydration.


In order to preserve kidney health, proper hydration is crucial. For the kidneys to effectively filter waste and maintain a healthy internal environment, enough water intake is crucial. These essential organs are put under undue strain by dehydration, which impairs their performance and raises the risk of kidney stones, infections, and chronic renal disease. Although the daily recommended amount of water varies, it is typically 8 to 10 cups (64 to 80 ounces) for most persons. Dehydration symptoms include weariness, dark urine, and a dry mouth. As water is the basis for kidney function and a crucial component of urine generation, individuals can protect their kidneys and improve general well-being by maintaining appropriate hydration.

Items such as high-sodium foods, processed and fast foods, red meat, sugary foods and drinks, caffeine, high-potassium foods, phosphorus-rich foods, and alcohol abuse are several things to avoid for kidney health. These diets have been linked to a number of kidney-related problems, such as hypertension, obesity, kidney stones, and chronic kidney disease. The article also stresses the significance of being hydrated for kidney health and suggests that the average person drinks 8 to 10 cups of water every day. For the kidneys to effectively filter waste and maintain a healthy internal environment, proper hydration is essential. This lowers the risk of kidney-related problems. Overall, eating a kidney-friendly diet and drinking enough water are crucial steps to safeguarding these important organs and enhancing general well-being.


  1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Your Kidneys & How They Work | NIDDK [Internet]. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2018. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work#:~:text=The%20kidneys%20are%20two%20bean 
  2. National Kidney Foundation. How Your Kidneys Work [Internet]. National Kidney Foundation. 2017. Available from: https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/howkidneyswrk
  3. Kidney disease and kidney stones - Action on Salt [Internet]. www.actiononsalt.org.uk. Available from: https://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/salthealth/factsheets/kidney/#:~:text=A%20high%20salt%20intake%20has
  4. 10 Common Habits That May Harm Your Kidneys [Internet]. National Kidney Foundation. 2016 [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.kidney.org/content/10-common-habits-that-may-harm-your-kidneys#:~:text=Eating%20Processed%20Foods
  5. Does Coffee Lead to Kidney Disease [Internet]. Campbell County Health. [cited 2023 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.cchwyo.org/news/2022/october/does-coffee-lead-to-kidney-disease/#:~:text=Research%20has%20not%20shown%20that
  6. What is Hyperkalemia? [Internet]. National Kidney Foundation. 2016. Available from: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/what-hyperkalemia#:~:text=In%20the%20early%20stages%20of
  7. Hydration for kidney health [Internet]. Kidney Research UK. Available from: https://www.kidneyresearchuk.org/kidney-health-information/living-with-kidney-disease/how-can-i-help-myself/hydration-for-kidney-health/#:~:text=Whilst%20all%20fluid%20counts%20towards
  8. NHS Inform. Dehydration symptoms and treatments [Internet]. NHS inform. 2019. Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/nutritional/dehydration
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Jennifer Grace

Biomedical Sciences, The University of Manchester

My name is Jennifer Grace, and this September marks the beginning of my final year pursuing BSc. (Hons) Biomedical Science studies at the University of Manchester. Born in Indonesia, I embarked on a journey fueled by curiosity. From a young age, my passion for Biology and healthcare framework emerged, propelling my achievements of biological science. Driven by my ardour for scientific exploration, I have actively engaged with various organizations dedicated to environmental and healthcare frameworks. My commitment to advancing science found expression through my participation in the Klarity internship program as an article writer to improve my writing skills, especially scientific writing skills. With each step, I'm unflinchingly dedicated to blending my affection for science with a significant feeling of direction for my career.

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