Foods to Avoid With Kidney Failure: How to Control the Risks of Kidney Failure and Improve Quality of Life

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High-Potassium Fruits and Vegetables

When the kidneys do not work properly, they do not regulate the amount of potassium in the bloodstream. As potassium levels increase—a condition known as hyperkalemia—several serious effects occur. If potassium levels get too high, hyperkalemia could lead to paralysis, breathing difficulty or even death, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Patients with kidney failure need to control their potassium consumption to avoid these effects. This means avoiding high-potassium foods or eating very small servings of these foods. Fruits and vegetables with high levels of potassium include bananas, oranges, raisin, nectarines, prunes, kiwifruit, honeydew melon, apricots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, artichokes, spinach, beets, potatoes, spinach and pumpkin.

Meats, Nuts and Seeds

Normal kidneys get rid of the waste products of protein metabolism by excreting them in the urine. Damaged kidneys do not perform this function as well as they should, so these waste products build up and cause nausea, fatigue, itchy skin and other symptoms. Avoiding large quantities of meats, nuts and seeds reduces daily protein intake and prevents the buildup of waste products in the blood. High-protein foods to limit include beef, chicken, fish, almonds, walnuts, cashews and sunflower seeds. Nuts also contain a considerable amount of potassium, so avoiding nuts will also help control potassium levels.

Fast Food and Salty Snacks

Aside from the calories, fat and cholesterol found in many fast food meals, sodium is a major concern for those with kidney failure. Normal kidneys control the amount of sodium in the blood, but damaged kidneys cannot carry out this function. As a result, sodium builds up in the bloodstream and causes the body to retain more fluid. This fluid retention leads to swelling of the feet, ankles, eyelids, legs and face. To control these effects, patients with kidney failure should avoid high-sodium foods like fast food and salted popcorn, chips and pretzels. Other high-sodium foods to avoid include processed cheeses, canned soups and vegetables, soy sauce and ketchup.

High-Phosphorus Foods

The body needs phosphorus to help control the amount of potassium in the bloodstream. Too much phosphorus, however, causes problems. High phosphorus levels cause calcification of the kidneys and other tissues. Patients with kidney failure often experience abnormal levels of phosphorus in the blood, so every list of foods to avoid with kidney failure instructs these patients to limit phosphorus intake. Foods to avoid include eggs, bread, dairy products, turkey, lentils, chicken, almonds, halibut, peanuts, corn and potatoes.

What Can I Eat?

At first glance, the renal diet looks so restrictive that it’s hard to imagine what you will eat while you follow this diet. People with kidney failure actually have several options that are low in sodium, protein, phosphorus and potassium.


  • Apples
  • Watermelon
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Green Beans
  • Summer squash
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Lemons


  • Sodium-free seasonings
  • Low-sodium cooked cereals
  • Pasta
  • Gelatin
  • Ready-to-eat cereals
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables


  • Smaller cuts of meat and fish
  • Kidney beans
  • Black beans
  • Navy beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Fresh vegetables


  • Non-dairy creamers
  • Sour cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Lemon-lime soda
  • Sherbet/sorbet
  • Gumdrops
  • Hard candy
  • Angel food cake
  • White rice


University of Maryland Medical Center: Hyperkalemia

University of Michigan Health System: High-Potassium Foods List

Linus Pauling Institute: Phosphorus

DaVita: Phosphorus and Chronic Kidney Disease