7 Foods That Are Actually Damaging Your Kidneys

Kidneys are an unsung hero of the human body. Their most notable job is probably the filtering of waste product from the bloodstream, but they also perform a whole other range of essential tasks such as releasing hormones, producing red blood cells, regulating blood pressure, enhancing bone health, and maintaining the body’s overall fluid balance.

Our kidneys go through a lot, whether we put them through it intentionally or unintentionally. Luckily, kidneys are resilient and are naturally equipped to handle a lot of what is thrown at them. But at a certain point, even they can find some things a little too much to handle. When they are overburdened, they can become damaged, and as a result become afflicted with kidney stones, polycystic kidney disease, kidney cancer, or even kidney failure.

One of the best ways to make sure that this doesn’t happen is by eating foods good for your kidney, and perhaps more importantly, avoiding foods that aren’t. You might be surprised to hear that even certain healthy foods can be damaging them! So, here are 7 foods that are actually damaging your kidneys, that you might not have known about:

1. Nuts

For those with a history of kidney stones, it’s better to stay away from nuts completely. This because of a mineral found in them called oxalates, the same kind found in the most common type of kidney stone. Even healthy people need to be careful about having an over-abundance of oxalate-rich foods. These include the likes of spinach, beets, potato chips, French fried, bran flakes, and etc.

2. Avocados

These creamy millennial-loving fruits are full of healthy fats, and definitely good for you. But they are also high in potassium, which is responsible for control fluids, electrolyte balance, and pH levels. Since kidney’s require the right balance of potassium and sodium to function properly, an abnormal increase in either can spell trouble.

Hyperkalemia, the condition of having too much potassium in the blood, occurs in people with advanced kidney disease and leads to several side effects like nausea, weakness, numbness, and slowed heart rate. Luckily, though, those of us without a pre-existing kidney disease need not worry about potassium imbalance. In fact, most of us could use a bit more of it in our diets anyway!

3. Caffeine

If you are someone who can’t function until they’ve had their morning cuppa, this can be rough to hear. Coffee, energy drinks, soda, and other caffeine-heavy beverages are especially dangerous if you have history with kidney issues. Research has found that long-term caffeine consumption can worsen kidney disease and increase your risk of kidney stones.

Furthermore, caffeine is mild diuretic, which means it can affect your kidneys’ ability to absorb water. While moderate consumption of caffeine shouldn’t cause any problems, excess consumption is definitely a no-no. Caffeine also stimulates blood flow, increasing blood pressure. This is, again, only a problem if you have issues with blood pressure already.

4. Dairy Products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter are rich in calcium. As such, they can cause an increase in calcium levels of the urine, which can lead to higher risk of kidney stones. People with pre-existing kidney disease have found their kidneys to function better with a reduced consumption of dairy. Even those with a need for dialysis have found they can put it off for a while!

Butter is a dairy product especially high in saturated fat, which increases the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is a major risk factor of kidney disease, so it’s better to switch to alternatives like olive oil instead of butter.

5. Salt

As we mentioned earlier, the key to proper kidney function is a combo of sodium and potassium. Which is why it’s shocking how much sodium ends up in our bodies daily! Even if you are careful about over-salting your food, you wouldn’t believe the amount of sodium that is in the processed foods we all love so much.

Excess sodium can cause the kidneys to retain water in order to dilute the salt in your bloodstream, putting undue pressure pressure on them. Long-term excess salt intake can increase blood pressure and even damage the kidneys’ nephrons, the microscopic structures that filter waste. The best thing you can do is stick to fresh, whole foods and hold back on the salt when you’re cooking.

6. Meat

Meat is a rich source of protein, something that is essential to the health of our muscles and growth. But one of the toughest jobs our kidneys have is metabolizing this protein, and a diet high in animal-based protein can place undue pressure on them as well as increase your risk of kidney stones.

Organ meats like liver are also high in purine, a stimulant of production of uric acid, a waste product that is processed out by the kidneys. Excess of this can pressurize the kidneys as well. For these reasons, people with kidney disease would be better off sticking to a low-protein diet.

7. Artificial Sweeteners

If you are skipping the sugar in place for artificial sweeteners, you’re not actually getting what you bargained for. While there are plenty of mixed opinions about how safe sugar substitutes are, it is a proven fact that 2 diet sodas a day will cause a decline in kidney function.

Some research even indicates that people who use artificial sweeteners in their beverages don’t actually have an overall sugar intake than those that do not. But if you still want to go for a sugar substitute, Stevia is the best choice. Not only is Stevia a natural herbal extract, it has been used in South America for over hundreds of years without any known adverse side effects.