If you have kidney disease and diabetes, it’s important to watch your intake of sugar and certain nutrients, such as sodium and potassium. Limit or avoid items that contain large amounts, such as processed meats, fruit juice, and potatoes.

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Your kidneys are involved in many aspects of health, including filtering your blood, removing waste products, producing hormones, strengthening your bones, and regulating fluid balance and blood pressure (1).

Various factors and health conditions, including diabetes, can raise your risk of kidney disease (2).

Prolonged high blood sugar levels may also damage your blood vessels, including those in your kidneys. As a result, about 1 in 3 adults with diabetes have kidney disease (2).

Dietary guidelines for kidney disease and diabetes vary based on the stage of kidney disease but generally involve monitoring your intake of sugar, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus (3).

People with kidney disease should also monitor their protein intake since the kidneys may have difficulty filtering waste products from protein metabolism. However, people with end stage kidney disease may need more protein (4).

A healthcare professional and a registered dietitian can advise you on your individual needs for protein and other nutrients, depending on your stage of kidney disease.

Here are 5 foods to limit or avoid if you have kidney disease and diabetes.

High sodium foods are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes because excess sodium can strain your kidneys, leading to high blood pressure and fluid buildup (5, 6).

Processed meats — such as bacon, sausage, and jerky — are made by drying, salting, curing, or smoking meats to enhance their flavor, texture, and shelf life.

Because these products are typically salted, they have a high sodium content, and you should limit your consumption of them if you have kidney disease and diabetes.

Other examples of high sodium processed foods to limit are instant noodles, frozen pizza, fast food, and frozen meals.

Healthy kidneys can easily remove excess phosphorus from your 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 (7).

Dark-colored sodas contain phosphorus, which is used to prevent discoloration, prolong shelf life, and add flavor. However, they contain a different type of phosphorus than is naturally found in foods, and this type is absorbed into your blood more easily (8, 9).

Beans and lentils are also relatively high in phosphorus, but if you enjoy them, you can consume them in small amounts.

In fact, some research 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 (CKD) (10).

Additionally, phosphorus absorption can vary for different food sources. Only 40%–50% of phosphorus is absorbed from plant sources, compared with up to 70% from animal sources (11, 12).

If you have kidney disease, your body can’t remove potassium properly, and this can lead to increased blood potassium levels. If left untreated, it can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, heart problems, and even death (13).

If you have kidney disease, a doctor may recommend limiting your intake of fruits high in potassium, such as bananas, avocados, apricots, kiwis, and oranges (14).

Many varieties of leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, chard, and beet greens, also contain large amounts of potassium and may need to be enjoyed in moderation on a kidney-friendly diet (14).

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in potassium as well. However, they can be soaked or leached to significantly reduce their potassium content (14).

One study found that soaking potatoes after cooking them reduced the potassium content by as much as 70%, resulting in potassium levels suitable for people with kidney disease (15).

If you have kidney disease and diabetes, it’s best to limit your intake of fruit juices and other sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda.

These drinks tend to be high in added sugar, which can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar. This is concerning because diabetes affects your body’s ability to absorb sugar properly (16, 17).

Having high blood sugar levels over a long period can damage your nerves, further damage your kidneys, and raise your risk of heart disease (18).

Other foods high in added sugar include baked goods, candies, cookies, and doughnuts.

Consuming large amounts of alcohol can negatively affect kidney function (19).

Alcohol can also interfere with certain medications used to treat diabetes, increasing the risk of issues such as low blood sugar (20).

Therefore, it’s best to moderate your alcohol intake if you have kidney disease and diabetes.

A healthcare professional can provide guidance on whether alcohol is safe to include in your diet plan and how much you can consume.

Many foods can fit into a healthy, well-rounded diet if you have kidney disease and diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are a few examples of foods and drinks suitable for people with kidney disease and diabetes (9):

  • Vegetables: eggplants, turnips, cauliflower, onions
  • Fruits: apples, plums, berries, cherries, grapes
  • Proteins: lean poultry and fish, eggs, low sodium seafood
  • Carbs: pasta, sandwich buns, unsalted crackers, white bread, bagels
  • Beverages: water, unsweetened tea, clear diet sodas

A doctor or dietitian can also provide recommendations for nutritious foods to include in your meal plan.

What fruits should people living with diabetes and kidney disease avoid?

If you have kidney disease, you may need to limit your intake of fruits high in potassium, including apricots, bananas, cantaloupes, and dates. Dried fruits are also often high in potassium and carbohydrates, which can increase blood sugar levels if consumed in large amounts (14).

What is the best bread for kidney disease and diabetes?

Because whole grain breads are high in phosphorus, people with kidney disease and diabetes should opt for white bread instead (9).

What makes kidneys worse?

According to the National Kidney Foundation, eating large amounts of sodium, sugar, and phosphorus can negatively affect kidney health. Physical inactivity, heavy alcohol consumption, and insufficient water intake can also be harmful (21).

If you have kidney disease and diabetes, it’s best to moderate your intake of added sugar and certain nutrients, including sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Your dietary restrictions for kidney disease and diabetes will depend on your stage of kidney disease. Still, limiting these nutrients can be helpful regardless, allowing you to better manage kidney disease and reduce the likelihood that it will worsen over time.

Make sure to speak with a healthcare professional and renal dietitian for specialized recommendations based on your stage of kidney disease.