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10 worst foods for your kidneys that you need avoid

Here we discuss ten of the top foods to shy away from to best protect your kidneys, including processed meats, soups, alcoholic drinks…

The kidneys are the warriors of the human body: balancing fluids, electrolytes, and solutes to filter water and waste out of our blood to make about 1,500 milliliters (50 fluid ounces) of urine daily. This is handled by the one million functioning units of each kidney called the “nephrons” which include tubules, limbs, and other structures, along with the glomeruli, which produce ultrafiltrate.

Two chronic diseases that increase the risk of kidney disease are diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). Kidney disease is ultimately classified into four conditions: kidney stones, acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease (CKD), or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Limiting sodium and saturated fat intake are primary ways to reduce risk and/or manage diabetes and hypertension, which could be protective against developing kidney disease.

All this to say that the kidneys are a force to be reckoned with, but they also can be prone to damage if we don’t take care of them with healthy behaviors, including what we eat. Here we discuss ten of the top foods to shy away from to best protect your kidneys.

1. Soda

Steer clear! Soda provides no nutritional benefit and is packed with sugars — either natural or chemically manufactured. This equates to extra calories in your diet and can ultimately result in unwanted weight gain. A typical 12 oz. cola has 152 calories, and in some places, this is considered a small serving of soda! There are stores in the United States that sell soda in 50 oz. servings!

Studies have linked sodas to conditions like osteoporosis, kidney disease, metabolic syndrome and dental problems. Diet sodas may be lower in calories, but still provide no nutritional value and often contain additives, including artificial sweeteners. Skip the soda and reach for water instead. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, add a slice or two of fresh fruit to add flavor.

2. Processed meats

Meats that have undergone processing, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meat, and burger patties are a double threat to kidney health: they are likely high in sodium and animal-derived protein. Excess sodium intake beyond 2300 milligrams (mg) per day, on a regular basis, is conducive to a diet that may increase blood pressure, and this creates extra stress on the kidneys. It is also suggested in recent literature that more animal protein than plant protein in the diet may increase the rate of kidney disease progression.

3. Butter

Skimp on the spread! Butter is made from animal fat and contains cholesterol, calories and high levels of saturated fat. Margarine is made from vegetable oil and is higher in the “good” fats, but may not be a better choice because it often contains trans fats. When possible, use canola or olive oil instead. If you opt for a spread, go for one that is lower in calories and saturated fat and contains no trans fats.

4. Soups

Often regarded as a light lunch side or a way to calm a sore throat if experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms, soups are unfortunately laden in salt. Even if soups are homemade, they will often use beef, chicken, or vegetable stocks which register at over 800 milligrams of sodium per cup. There are reduced sodium and low sodium versions on the market, but most consumers find that the flavor is off and, well, could use more salt. You can try your luck at making a sodium-free stock of vegetable scraps, herbs, and spices to impart flavor to a soup base; however, it may be best to just steer clear of soups altogether.

5. Fried potatoes

Potatoes are the nation’s number one consumed vegetable. And the number one form in which it’s consumed? Fried. Whether your preference is for French fries, hash browns, potato chips, or potato pancakes, these foods aren’t doing your kidneys any favors. Deep-fried foods are best avoided to protect your heart and kidneys. Potatoes are also high in potassium, which is a mineral usually advised to keep tabs on if your kidneys are compromised and reach CKD stage 3A or later stages of kidney failure.

6. Soy sauce

Soy sauce, as well as its cousin tamari, are some of the highest sodium sauces available at the supermarket. These products have a shocking 950 milligrams of sodium per one-tablespoon serving, which is nearly 50 percent of the daily value (DV) for sodium. Soy sauce is classically used to impart an “umami” or savory flavor. See if there is a way in your recipe to substitute low-sodium ingredients like mushrooms, tomato paste, nutritional yeast, or a flavored vinegar, in place of soy sauce.

7. Frozen meals

Studies have shown that processed foods may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes and frozen or pre-made meals like frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners are often heavily processed. Heavy processing can mean hidden sugar, sodium and fat; however, not all frozen meals are created equal!

It is always a good idea to prepare fresh and whole foods when you can, but if sometimes convenience is key, so if you opt for frozen meals, read the labels carefully.

Look for those that are “low sodium” or “no sodium added” and avoid frozen meals with added sugar, fillers or any other additives. Balance out the meal by adding in fresh fruit and vegetables if they are not included in the frozen meal.

8. Mayonnaise

One tablespoon of mayonnaise contains a whopping 103 calories! Not only is it high in calories, it also contains high levels of saturated fat. Lower calorie and fat-free mayonnaises are available on the market, but they are often higher in sodium and sugar, and may contain other additives. A healthier swap involves replacing your mayonnaise with plain non-fat Greek yogurt, which is high in protein and mixes nicely to bind salads.

9. Fruits and vegetables high in potassium

Potassium puts stress on your kidneys, so it must be limited in a kidney disease diet. Many fruits are high in potassium, such as melons, bananas, oranges, prunes and tomatoes, both eaten and in juices. The mineral is also higher in dairy products, avocados, bran, beans, lentils and nuts. You may be surprised to learn that dark-colored sodas are higher in potassium, as are fruit punches and prepared (canned and bottled) iced tea. Lower-potassium foods include apples, grapes, strawberries, cauliflower, white breads, pita, chicken and white rice.

10. Alcoholic drinks

Most people know alcohol can affect your liver, but did you know it also can affect your kidneys? Researchers have found if your liver is compromised or injured, your kidneys can become more damaged as they try to compensate for the injured liver when you drink alcohol. Alcohol is also dehydrating to your body and this can affect how well your kidneys filter out the toxins. In addition, high blood pressure is damaging to the kidneys and too much alcohol can raise blood pressure.

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