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Foods to Avoid with Kidney Disease and Diabetes

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Our kidneys help filter our blood, remove waste products, produce hormones, keep our bones strong, regulate fluid balance, and regulate our blood pressure.   Unfortunately, our kidneys can get damaged and become less efficient over time.    A number of factors and health conditions, including diabetes, can raise your risk of kidney disease.   High blood sugar levels may damage your blood vessels, including those in our kidneys, as a result, about 1 in 3 adults with diabetes also have kidney disease.

Dietary guidelines for kidney disease and diabetes vary based on the stage of kidney disease the and aim is to prevent build-up of various chemicals, nutrients, and waste products in the blood to keep our kidneys healthy.   People with kidney disease and diabetes should monitor their intake of sugar and the minerals sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Generally speaking, if you have kidney disease you should limit your intake of sodium to around 2,300 mg per day and monitor your protein intake as your kidneys may struggle to filter waste products from protein metabolism.   Nutritional needs for people with kidney disease and diabetes vary depending on how severe the diseases are and our Health Care Practitioners are available to help you regarding your individual needs.

If you have kidney disease and diabetes, avoid these foods  

Processed Meats

Processed meats are made by drying, salting, curing, or smoking meats to enhance their flavour, texture, and shelf life. Bacon, deli meats, sausage, and jerky are some common types of processed meats.   Because processed meats are typically salted, they have a high sodium content, eg,. a standard 85-gram serving of bacon contains a staggering 1,430 mg of sodium, which is nearly 62% of our daily sodium allowance with kidney disease. High sodium foods are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes because excess sodium can significantly strain the kidneys. This may raise blood pressure and cause fluid build-up in places like ankles and around the heart and lungs.  Choose lean, skinless cuts of meat like chicken breast fillets, which contain less sodium, however, as with all protein-rich foods, eat them in moderation based on your stage of kidney disease.

Dark-coloured soft drinks

Soft drinks, especially dark-coloured varieties, are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes because they contain phosphorus, which is used to prevent discoloration, prolong shelf life, and add flavour. Most dark-coloured soft drinks contain 90–180 mg of phosphorus per 355-ml serving, and while this may not seem like much compared with the daily upper limit, soft drinks contain a different type of phosphorus than is naturally found in foods.    It isn’t bound to protein but instead appears in salt form, meaning it’s absorbed into your blood more easily.

Healthy kidneys can easily remove excess phosphorus from the blood, but this isn’t the case when you have kidney disease.  Having high blood phosphorus levels for an extended period can raise your heart disease risk, weaken your bones, and increase your risk of early death.  Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened drinks are definitely not desirable for people who have diabetes or kidney issues, since they are unable to regulate blood sugar levels properly.    Having high blood sugar levels over a long period can also damage nerves, damage kidneys, and raise the risk of heart disease.  Drink water, unsweetened tea, or sparkling water infused with sliced fruits or vegetables.

High potassium fruits

Generally speaking, fruits are healthy and packed with vitamins and minerals, however, people with kidney disease and diabetes may need to limit their intake of certain fruits — mainly those high in sugar and potassium.   If you have kidney disease, your body is unable to remove potassium properly which can lead to increased blood potassium levels, also known as hyperkalemia.    Left untreated, this condition can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, heart problems, and even death.  Fruit high in potassium include bananas, avocados, apricots, kiwi, and oranges.

A standard avocado (201 grams) contains 975 mg of potassium, which is more than twice the potassium content of a medium banana (118 grams) and is almost half the daily potassium intake recommended for people with kidney disease. Reduce the portion size of these fruits to a quarter of an avocado, a quarter of a banana, and so on. Everyone’s potassium needs and limits are different, so remember to consult with your Health Care Practitioner about your safe limits.

There are plenty of healthy low potassium fruits available just remember moderation and monitor your carb intake. Some examples are grapes, berries, pineapple, mango, and apples to name a few.

Dried fruits

Dried fruits are made by removing water from fruit through various processes which creates small, dense fruits rich in energy and nutrients.   However they are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes because they’re high in sugar and minerals like potassium, in fact just one-half cup (65 grams) of dried apricots contains around 755 mg of potassium.   Dried fruits are also high in fast-digesting sugar, which is definitely ideal for diabetics.

Beans and lentils

In most cases, beans and lentils are considered healthy and convenient however, for people with kidney disease and diabetes, beans and lentils — both canned and fresh — are an issue because of their high phosphorus content. Canned versions are typically also high in sodium.   For example, 1 cup (185 grams) of canned lentils contains 633 mg of potassium and 309 mg of phosphorus.   You can still eat them in small amounts but not as a standard carb component of your meal.   If you choose canned beans and lentils, opt for a low sodium or “no salt added” version or as older research suggests, drain and rinse canned foods, this can reduce the sodium content by as much as 80%, depending on the product.   Another factor to consider is how much potassium your body absorbs from different food sources. Only about half of phosphorus is absorbed from plant sources, compared with up to 70% from animal sources. Evidence suggests that plant-based diets, which rely more on legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds for protein, may slow the progression of chronic kidney disease.

Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food

Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food tend to be high in sodium, which is one reason they are not on the ideal list for someone with kidney disease and diabetes.  Some examples of these foods are instant noodles, frozen pizza, frozen boxed meals, and other types of microwavable meals.   For example, a slice (102 grams) of frozen pepperoni pizza contains 568 mg of sodium, one-quarter of the advised sodium intake if you have kidney disease, and does not provide significant amounts of beneficial nutrients.   These foods are heavily processed and often high in refined carbs. Which is also not ideal if you have diabetes, as refined carbs are digested quickly and tend to spike blood sugar levels.

Fruit juices

Avoid fruit juices and other sugar-sweetened beverages if you have kidney disease and diabetes.   These drinks tend to be high in added sugar that can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar which causes diabetes affects the body’s ability to absorb sugar properly, and prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to various health complications, plus, many fruit juices are high in minerals such as potassium. A 240ml cup of orange juice for example contains around 443 mg of potassium.

Spinach, beet greens, silverbeet, and certain other leafy green vegetables

Various leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, silverbeet, and beet greens, contain high amounts of nutrients like potassium.   Just 1 cup (30–38 grams) of raw veggies contains 136–290 mg of potassium, and keep in mind that when these leafy veggies are cooked and shrink in size they still contain the same amount of potassium.   So, if you have kidney disease, it may be better to eat them raw, as you are likely to eat a smaller amount.  If however you like them cooked, you must manage your portion sizes.   Spinach, beet greens, silverbeet, and other leafy veggies are also high in oxalic acid, an organic compound that can form oxalates once bound to minerals such as calcium.    Oxalates may form kidney stones in some people. These are not only painful, they can also cause further damage to your kidneys and impair their function.

Snack foods

Snack foods such as chips, crackers, and pretzels are typically high in salt and refined carbs, which makes them unsuitable for those with kidney disease and diabetes.  Some snack foods, such as potato chips, are also high in other minerals, such as potassium or phosphorus, either naturally or as a result of additives. For example, a medium (57-gram) single-serving bag of potato chips generally contains 682 mg of potassium, 300 mg of sodium, and 87 mg of phosphorus.   Snack foods should be limited or avoided as part of any healthy diet, especially if you have health conditions such as kidney disease and diabetes.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in potassium, for example, a medium baked potato (156 grams) on average contains 610 mg of potassium, and a standard baked sweet potato (114 grams) contains 541 mg of potassium.   However, potatoes and sweet potatoes can be soaked or leached to significantly reduce their potassium content.   Boiling small, thin pieces of potatoes for at least 10 minutes usually reduces their potassium content by around 50% and soaking potatoes after cooking them may also reduce the potassium content by as much as 70%, which will make them more acceptable to those who have kidney disease and diabetics.   Please remember, potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in carbs, so it’s a good idea to always eat them in moderation.

So What does all this mean?

If you have kidney disease and diabetes, it’s best to limit your intake of certain nutrients, including carbs, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.   Your dietary restrictions for kidney disease and diabetes depend on where you are at, however, limiting these nutrients may be helpful, allowing you to better manage your condition.  This article is intended to be general information only and because every individuals needs may differ, ALWAYS speak with your Health Care Practitioner before making any major changes and follow their advice and recommendations.

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