Back to Living Better

Be aware of kidney-damaging foods

"Take care of your heart," yes, but "Take care of your kidneys," is not something you typically hear your doctor say. The importance of these two amazing organs is often overlooked. They are a major powerhouse that keep your entire body healthy by filtering out toxins and extra fluid in your blood. They also make hormones that keep your bones strong and your blood healthy. If they start to fail, harmful wastes will build up in your system and lead to the demise of other organs.

"Damage to the kidneys is often irreversible, so people who don't take care of their kidneys could face significant health risks which result in dialysis or even a kidney transplant," says Sally Brozek, registered dietitian at Piedmont.

To avoid these extreme lifestyle changes, Brozek brings light to common pleasures in life that are actually harmful to these vital organs and should be minimized or even removed from your diet.

1.  Salt

Sodium overload leads to increased blood pressure, which puts a strain on your kidneys. The typical American diet has been estimated to contain about 3,300 mg of sodium per day, which is much higher than the 2,300 mg daily maximum (about a teaspoon of salt) recommended by the government for healthy adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 percent of the sodium Americans consume is found in processed food and restaurant meals.

Other common high-sodium foods that may be lurking in your pantry or refrigerator include:

  • Canned soups
  • Processed meats like lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages
  • Frozen pizza
  • Frozen dinners
  • Snack foods like chips, crackers, pretzels
  • Condiments like ketchup, BBQ sauce, soy sauce
  • Salad dressing
  • Pickled foods like pickles, olives, beets
  • Canned vegetables

2.  Sugar

It doesn't take having a sweet tooth to indulge in sugar. Sugar is found in most foods, natural and processed, so it's important to be aware of the fact that it is lurking in abundance. Fruits are a source of natural sugar, which offer many vitamins and minerals our bodies need. It’s foods with added sugars, however, that tend to be low on the nutritional value scale. It may surprise you that condiments, bread, and other snack foods contain added sugar too.

3.  Sodas

According to the American Kidney Fund, a recent study suggests that drinking two or more carbonated sodas, diet or regular, each day may increase your risk for chronic kidney disease. Carbonated and energy drinks have both been linked to the formation of kidney stones.

4. Meat & Dairy Products

Diets high in animal protein from meats and dairy products can cause kidney damage because they can be very hard to metabolize. This places a heavy burden on the kidneys, making it hard for them to eliminate waste products. A high-protein diet may cause or exacerbate existing kidney problems. In addition, studies show many health benefits to moving away from an animal-based diet towards one based on plants. Colorful plant foods are nutritional powerhouses and can prevent chronic disease.

5. Caffeine

Caffeine found in coffee, tea, soda, and foods can also place a strain on your kidneys. Caffeine is a stimulant, which can cause increased blood flow, blood pressure and stress on the kidneys. Excessive caffeine intake has also been linked to kidney stones.

6. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

A large percentage of our processed foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Unfortunately, the long-term health effects of GMO crops on humans remain unknown due to the lack of studies. However, studies on animals indicate that serious health effects are linked to GMOs. These include changes in major organs like the kidneys.

It's nearly impossible to avoid of all of these foods, but Brozek advises people to eat a wide variety of foods and eat processed foods in moderation.

"Once you lose kidney function, it becomes very involved and very costly to make up for damage to these important organs. They are vital to keeping your body toxin-free."

For more information on kidney disease, visit Living Better’s Liver, Kidney & Pancreas page.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online