Your kidneys are organs that play several important roles in your health. They help filter your blood, remove waste products, produce hormones, keep your bones strong, regulate fluid balance, and regulate your blood pressure.
Various factors and health conditions, including diabetes, can raise your risk of kidney disease (2).
Prolonged high blood sugar levels may damage your blood vessels, including those in your kidneys. As a result, about 1 in 3 adults with diabetes also have kidney disease (2).
Dietary guidelines for kidney disease and diabetes vary based on the stage of kidney disease. The goal is to prevent the buildup of various chemicals, nutrients, and waste products in the blood to preserve kidney function.
People with kidney disease and diabetes should monitor their intake of sugar and the minerals sodium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Generally, people with kidney disease should consume no more than 2,300 mg each of sodium. They should also monitor their potassium and phosphorus intakes according to their doctor’s advice (3).
The National Kidney Foundation’s most recent Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (KDOQI) guidelines don’t set specific limits on potassium or phosphorus (3).
People with kidney disease should also monitor their protein intake, since the kidneys may struggle to filter waste products from protein metabolism. On the other hand, people with end stage kidney disease may need more protein (
Nutritional needs for people with kidney disease vary depending on how severe the disease is. Your healthcare professional and a registered dietitian can advise you on your individual needs for protein and other nutrients.
Here are 11 foods to avoid if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
Processed meats are made by drying, salting, curing, or smoking meats to enhance their flavor, 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. For example, a standard 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of bacon contains a whopping 1,430 mg of sodium, which is nearly 62% of your 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 your blood pressure and cause fluid buildup in places like your ankles and around your heart and lungs (
Instead of processed meats, 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.
Processed meats are high in sodium, which can significantly strain your kidneys. Instead, choose lean, skinless cuts of meat and enjoy them in moderation.
Sodas, especially dark-colored varieties, are not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes.
Dark-colored sodas contain phosphorus, which is used to prevent discoloration, prolong shelf life, and add flavor. Most dark-colored sodas contain 90–180 mg of phosphorus per 12-ounce (355-mL) serving (
Although this may not seem like much compared with the daily upper limit, sodas 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 (
Sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks are also high in added sugar. This isn’t ideal for people who have diabetes, since their bodies can’t regulate blood sugar levels properly.
Having high blood sugar levels over a long period can damage your nerves, further damage your kidneys, and raise your risk of heart disease (
Instead of soda, choose a beverage that’s low in sugar and phosphorus, such as water, unsweetened tea, or sparkling water infused with sliced fruits or vegetables.
Dark-colored sodas are high in added sugar and phosphorus, which can cause health problems if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
Generally, 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 can’t remove potassium properly, which can lead to increased blood potassium levels, also known as hyperkalemia. If left untreated, this condition can cause fatigue, muscle weakness, heart problems, and even death (
Fruits high in potassium include bananas, avocados, apricots, kiwi, and oranges.
For example, 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 nearly half the advised daily potassium intake for people with kidney disease (
Try reducing your portion size of these fruits to one-fourth of an avocado, one-fourth of a banana, and so on, if your doctor or dietitian permits. Everyone’s potassium needs and limits are different, so work with your doctor or dietitian to determine your safe limits.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy low potassium fruits you can add to your diet in moderation as long as you monitor your carb intake. Grapes, berries, pineapple, mango, and apples are a few examples.
High potassium fruits such as bananas and avocados aren’t ideal for those with kidney disease and diabetes. Instead, choose low potassium fruits such as grapes, berries, and pineapple, and eat them in moderation.
Dried fruits are made by removing water from fruit through various processes. This creates small, dense fruits rich in energy and nutrients.
Dried fruits aren’t 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 (
Also, dried fruits are high in fast-digesting sugar, which isn’t ideal if you have diabetes.
Dried fruits contain concentrated amounts of potassium and sugar, which means they aren’t ideal for people who have kidney disease and diabetes.
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 not ideal due to their relatively 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.
If you enjoy beans and lentils, 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. Also, older research suggests that draining and rinsing canned foods can reduce their sodium content by as much as 33–80%, depending on the product (
Another factor to consider is how much potassium your body absorbs from different food sources. Only about 40–50% of phosphorus is absorbed from plant sources, compared with up to 70% from animal sources (
Most beans and lentils are high in phosphorus and potassium, which means they’re not ideal for people who have kidney disease and diabetes. If you choose to eat them, opt for a smaller portion and choose low sodium versions.
Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food tend to be high in sodium, which is one reason they aren’t ideal 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 doesn’t provide significant amounts of beneficial nutrients (
Packaged foods, instant meals, and fast food are high in sodium and refined carbs but low in beneficial nutrients. Limit your intake of these foods if you have kidney disease and diabetes.
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. This is concerning because diabetes affects your body’s ability to absorb sugar properly, and prolonged high blood sugar levels can lead to various health complications (
Plus, certain fruit juices are high in minerals such as potassium. For example, a cup (240 mL) of orange juice contains around 443 mg of potassium (
Fruit juices like orange juice are high in potassium and added sugar, so they’re not ideal for people with kidney disease and diabetes.
Various leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, chard, and beet greens, contain high amounts of nutrients like potassium.
Keep in mind that when these leafy veggies are cooked, they shrink to a significantly smaller size but still contain the same amount of potassium.
So, if you have kidney disease, it’s better to eat them raw, as you’re likely to eat a smaller amount of them this way. That said, it’s OK to eat them cooked, as long as you manage your portion sizes.
Spinach, beet greens, chard, 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 susceptible people. Aside from being painful, kidney stones can further damage your kidneys and impair their functioning (
Various leafy green veggies, such as spinach, beet greens, and chard, are high in potassium and oxalic acid. Oxalic acid can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.
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 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. Instead, experiment with nutrient-dense diabetes-friendly snacks.
Snack foods such as chips, pretzels, and crackers are high in sodium and refined sugar and low in beneficial nutrients. Limit your intake of these foods.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes are high in potassium, which can be a concern for people with kidney disease, especially those with late stage kidney disease.
However, potatoes and sweet potatoes can be soaked or leached to significantly reduce their potassium content.
In one study, boiling small, thin pieces of potatoes for at least 10 minutes reduced their potassium content by about 50% (
In another study, soaking potatoes after cooking them reduced the potassium content by as much as 70%, resulting in potassium levels suitable for people with kidney disease (
While these methods may lower the potassium content, potatoes and sweet potatoes are still high in carbs, so it’s a good idea to eat them in moderation if you have diabetes.
If you have kidney disease and diabetes, limit your intake of potatoes and sweet potatoes, as they’re high in potassium and carbs. However, boiling them can significantly reduce their potassium content.
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 your stage of kidney disease. Still, limiting these nutrients can be helpful regardless, allowing you to better manage the condition and reduce the likelihood of it worsening over time.
Make sure to speak with a healthcare professional and renal dietitian for specialized recommendations based on your stage of kidney disease.