Foods that are harmful to your kidneys


Medical reviewed by Donna Schwontkowski, DC (retired), MS and BS Nutrition, Herbology

Master Herbalist certification in herbs from the School of Natural Healing BS Nutrition

You cannot fix kidney damage in most cases. So, you’d better take preventive measures before it’s too late. Do you know that your everyday meals could silently and slowly destroy your kidneys? Heads up, everyone, the list might surprise you!

1. Spinach

Spinach has been effectively marketed as a super-healthy option, but the truth is, it’s high in oxalate—a known kidney killer.

100 grams of spinach can contain up to 1260 mg of oxalate, which is higher than what you’d get from many other leafy greens.

If your body takes too much oxalate in a short period of time—even one meal—you could die from this compound.

There has been an instance where someone ate sorrel soup, which is packed with oxalate, and a few hours later, their kidneys shut down, and they passed away. (1)

Even with a moderate daily intake, you can accumulate oxalates in your body, causing kidney stones, bladder stones, kidney nephropathy, joint issues, and affecting every organ, including the brain.

They are also linked to conditions like interstitial cystitis. Cassava root, chard, and rhubarb are also notable for their high oxalate content, so it’s best to avoid them. (2 , 3)

2. Rice

Rice is the dependable sidekick to countless meals worldwide.

That innocent plate of rice might carry a toxic surprise!

It’s loaded with arsenic, the heavy metal that directly damages your kidneys. (4) Arsenic poisoning can lead to problems like acute renal failure and chronic renal insufficiency. (5)

In raw rice, the more harmful form of arsenic, called inorganic arsenic, is about 0.1–0.4 mg/kg. For other grains like wheat and barley, the inorganic arsenic is often undetectable, and their total arsenic content is only 0.03 to 0.08 mg/kg. (6)

Rice also tends to absorb more cadmium and other heavy metals than other crops. (7)

3. Soda

Consuming sugar in liquid form is way more harmful than in solid form. And soda is nothing but sugar!

When your blood sugar is too high, your kidneys start to spill sugar into the urine.

If your kidneys are healthy, this usually isn’t a problem, but if you have diabetes, too much sugar can cause kidney damage. (8) This is because kidneys have tiny filters called nephrons.

High blood sugar from diabetes can damage these filters and blood vessels, making the kidneys struggle. (9) People often go for diet soda, thinking it contains a lesser amount of sugar.

But what they do not know is that drinking diet soda every day is linked to a 67% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Diet soda still contains additives and artificial sweeteners that actually damage your kidneys. (10)

Read more: Why Is Soda Bad for You: 18 Side Effects on Health and More

4. Butter

Butter is composed of saturated fat, and it contains cholesterol.

These compounds are linked to high blood pressure and plaque formation, which can strain your kidney’s blood vessels and impair kidney function over time.

If it was not harmful enough, we have salted butter, too! 100 grams of unsalted butter contains about 643 milligrams of salt. And that is a lot.

A high-sodium diet will increase blood pressure, which may result in kidney damage in the long run. This is because salt can raise your blood pressure, increasing the risk of chronic kidney disease.

5. Mayonnaise

Your favorite thick creamy sauce can be harmful for your renal health.

Mayonnaise is packed with saturated fat; even the fat-free mayonnaise contains a considerable amount of calories and a high ratio of sodium and sugar. These components will add more stress to your kidneys as they filter the blood.

If you consume this sauce daily, you may overwork your kidneys.

More foods that aren’t good for your kidneys include canned or frozen items, G.M.O.s, tomato sauce, and concentrated juice. They are full of salt and added sugar.

Your kidneys deserve some T.L.C., and by avoiding the foods we’ve just mentioned, you will be taking the first step toward a healthier, kidney-friendly lifestyle!

Read more: Does Eating Meat Cause Cancer?


Spinach, rice, soda, butter, and mayonnaise are flagged as harmful to kidney health due to their high oxalate, arsenic, sugar, saturated fat, or sodium levels. Opt for kidney-friendly dietary choices for better overall health.

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Medical reviewed by Donna Schwontkowski, DC (retired), MS and BS Nutrition, Herbology

Master Herbalist certification in herbs from the School of Natural Healing BS Nutrition

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