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Diet and Nutrition


Your kidneys have many life sustaining functions. They are involved in blood pressure control, maintaining electrolyte balance (sodium, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, etc.), removing excess fluid from your body and clearing acids and medications from your blood. The kidneys have important hormonal functions as well, and are involved in the control of red blood cell and vitamin D production.

Patients with chronic kidney disease often do not feel badly until their kidneys have almost completely failed.

Your primary care doctor will determine if you have kidney disease based on blood work, urine studies and/or imaging of the abdomen. You may be referred to a kidney doctor (nephrologist) for any of the above issues or to help care for kidney stones, rare autoimmune or genetic diseases of the kidney.


Patients with chronic kidney disease, kidney stones and/or high blood pressure have special dietary needs.

As the kidneys begin to fail, the body has more difficulty balancing potassium, phosphorous, sodium (salt) and water.


Potassium is a mineral found in almost all foods. Your body needs some potassium to make your muscles work, but too much potassium can be dangerous. When your kidneys are not working well, your potassium level may be too high or too low. Having too much or too little potassium can cause muscle cramps, irregular heartbeat and muscle weakness.

Many people with kidney disease will need to limit potassium. Ask your doctor or dietitian if you need to limit potassium.

Use the table below to learn which foods are low or high in potassium. Your dietitian can also help you work in small amounts of your favorite foods that are high in potassium.
Eat this … (lower-potassium foods) Rather than … (higher-potassium foods)
Apples, cranberries, grapes, pineapples and strawberries Avocados, bananas, melons, oranges, prunes and raisins
Cauliflower, onions, peppers, radishes, summer and zucchini squash, lettuce Artichokes, kale, plantains, spinach, potatoes and tomatoes
Pita, tortillas and white breads Bran products and granola
Beef and chicken, white rice Beans (baked, black, pinto, etc.), brown or wild rice

Low potassium diet: Click here


Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods. It works with calcium and vitamin D to keep bones healthy. Healthy kidneys keep the right balance of phosphorus in your body. When your kidneys are not working well, phosphorus can build up in your blood. High phosphorous levels can lead to bone loss and calcification of the arteries which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Many people with kidney disease need to limit phosphorus. Ask your dietitian if you need to limit phosphorus.

Eat this … (lower-phosphorous foods) Rather than … (higher-phosphorous foods)
Italian, French or sourdough bread Whole-grain bread
Corn or rice cereals and cream of wheat Bran cereals and oatmeal
Unsalted popcorn Nuts and sunflower seeds
Some light-colored sodas and lemonade Dark-colored colas

A high sodium (salt) diet can worsen high blood pressure and lead to fluid overload. Patients with chronic kidney disease, swelling, congestive heart failure and cirrhosis should limit their fluid intake.

Low sodium diet: Click here

Please consult your physician prior to starting a new diet.

Download Kidney Cooking, A Family Recipe Book for Kidney Patients compliments of kidney.org

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