Important Minerals for Kidney Health

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Important Minerals in your Diet

The following information provides a general overview of why certain minerals are important to your overall kidney health. Always talk with your nephrologist before making any significant changes to your diet.


What is sodium?

Sodium is a mineral that occurs naturally in food. Your body uses sodium for several functions including:

  • Maintaining fluid balance
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Muscle contraction
  • Nerve activity

How do sodium and salt differ?

The words sodium and salt do not mean the same thing. Sodium is a part of salt. Table salt is a common name for “sodium chloride”, which is made up 40% sodium and 60% chloride. You can decrease your sodium intake by not using salt and by watching the kinds of foods you eat.

Why is sodium restricted in the diet?

When your kidneys aren’t functioning properly, they lose the ability to get rid of excess dietary sodium. Elevated levels of sodium in the blood can cause:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Enlarged heart
  • Edema (swelling of the feet, legs, fingers)

How do you avoid getting too much sodium?

  • Avoid foods high in sodium.
  • Avoid the salt shaker while cooking or at the table.
  • Limit processed and commercially prepared foods such as:
    • American Cheese
    • Canned Soups
    • T.V. Dinners
    • Deli Foods
  • Read food labels for sodium content. Look for the words salt, soda or sodium on the list of ingredients. If these words are among the first five listed, the food is high in sodium.
  • Limit seasonings and condiments that are high in sodium such as:
    • Garlic Salt
    • Hot Sauce
    • Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
    • Morton’s Lite Salt 1tsp = 1110 mg of sodium
    • Nature’s Seasons 1tsp = 1300mg of sodium
    • Onion Salt
    • Salt 1 tsp = 2325 mg of sodium
    • Soy Sauce
    • Steak Sauce
    • Worcestershire Sauce


What is potassium?

Potassium is a mineral needed in the body for moving your muscles and sending messages to your nerves. It also helps control your heartbeat and maintains your normal body fluids.

Why is potassium restricted in the diet?

When your kidneys are not working properly, they lose the ability to get rid of excess potassium. High levels of potassium in the blood can be dangerous to your health and can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Death!
  • Heart attack
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Muscle weakness (especially in legs)
  • Stomach cramping
  • Tingling or numbness in toes and fingers

How do you avoid getting too much potassium?

  • Avoid foods high in potassium.
  • Do not use salt substitutes. (Examples: NuSalt; No Salt; Morton’s Salt Substitute; Morton’s Lite Salt; Adolph’s Salt Substitute; Papa Dash Salt Lover’s Blend; Low Sodium Bouillon)
  • The potassium content of potatoes and some other vegetables can be reduced by a process called leaching. Ask your dietitian if this will work for you.
    Also, watch portion sizes of low potassium foods. Too many servings of low potassium foods can add up.


What is phosphorus?

Phosphorus is a mineral that has many functions in your body. Most importantly, it helps build and maintain bones.

Why is phosphorus restricted in the diet?

When your kidneys are not functioning properly, they lose the ability to get rid of excess phosphorus from your diet. High phosphorus levels can cause severe itching. Elevated levels of phosphorus in the blood also cause your blood calcium level to drop.

The body tries to maintain adequate calcium in the blood by pulling calcium from the bones. Over time, if untreated, bones deteriorate, and joints may become enlarged or painful.

How do you avoid getting too much phosphorus?

  • Avoid high phosphorus foods.
  • Take your phosphate binders if prescribed. A few examples are: Renagel, Tums, and PhosLo. Binders will help your body from absorbing some of the phosphorus in foods.
  • Take the amount of binders that are instructed by your health care team.
  • Take binders: No more than five minutes before meals and snacks OR during mealtime OR no more than 15 minutes after meals and snacks. Otherwise, binders don’t work.
  • Also, watch the portion size of low phosphorus foods. Too many servings of a low phosphorus food can add up.


Why is protein restricted in the diet?

When protein is broken down in the body, it produces nitrogen wastes. When your kidneys are not functioning properly, they lose the ability to get rid of these waste products. As the level of nitrogen wastes in the blood goes up, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Hiccups
  • Loss of Appetite

A low protein diet is designed to lower the amount of wastes in the blood and lessen the work load of the kidney.

What does a low protein diet mean?

There are two types of protein in the diet, high quality protein and low quality protein. The physician will work with the dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of protein restriction. The physician will consult the dietitian for an appointment to discuss this type of diet restriction.


This diet is for patients who have kidney stones or are prone to developing kidney stones.

Why are oxalates restricted in the diet?

Evidence suggests that restriction of oxalate containing foods may help prevent the growth of some types of kidney stones.

Where are oxalates found?

Oxalates are found primarily in foods of plant origin.

How do you avoid getting too many oxalates?

  • Limit foods that are high in oxalates.
  • Consume at least 2 liters (8 cups or 64 ounces) of liquid every day, if approved by your physician. Water is the preferred liquid for you to consume since coffee, tea, juice, and cola all contain a fair amount of oxalates

Consistent, Controlled Carbohydrates: A Guide for Healthy Blood Sugars

PURPOSE: Make a difference in your blood sugars by eating

  • At the right time
  • The right kind of foods
  • The right amount of foods

1. Eat at the right time:

  • Eat (at least) 3 meals/day
  • Meals should be about 4-5 hours apart

2. Eat the right kind of foods:

  • Food provides calories from protein, carbohydrate and fat
  • Protein & Fats: Eat moderate amounts of meats, meat substitutes, and fats. They have little effect on your blood sugar, but add to your calorie intake
  • Carbohydrates or “Carb” foods increase blood sugar. It is important for you to eat the same amount of carbohydrates from day to day at each meal and snack
  • Foods high in Carbohydrates are:
    • Starches (grains, cereal, and foods made with flour)
    • Fruits and fruit juices
    • Milk and yogurt
    • Sweets

How do you avoid getting too many carbohydrates?

A dietitian can work with you to determine the appropriate amount of carbohydrates you need to consume in a day and which should be consumed to help keep your blood sugar in a controlled state.


This diet is for patients who have symptoms of Gout.

Why is purine restricted in the diet?

To decrease blood and urinary uric acid levels.

Where is purine found?

Purine is primarily found in foods from animal origin.

How do you avoid getting too much purine and reduce Gout?

  • Avoid foods that are high in purine.
  • Drink fluids, but remember to stay within your fluid limits recommended.
  • Limit fat and fatty foods (fried or greasy foods and fatty meats especially sausage, bacon, bologna, and hot dogs).
  • Avoid or limit Alcohol.
  • If you are overweight, moderate weight loss (be careful-quick weight loss may trigger an attack of gout).

Low Fat/Low Cholesterol

Why is fat/cholesterol restricted?

High blood cholesterol is one of the three modifiable risk factors of coronary artery disease. Because high blood cholesterol is a risk to your health, you need to take steps to lower your blood cholesterol level. The best way to do this is to make sure you eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol.

What are the types of fat?

Saturated Fat: Contained primarily in animal foods like meat and dairy products, it encourages your body to produce more cholesterol. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature.

Unsaturated Fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated): May lower blood cholesterol. They are usually of vegetable origin, and they are liquid at room temperature.

Dietary Cholesterol: Is found in the food you eat. It is found only in foods of animal origin, not plant origin.

Hydrogenation: A chemical process that changes liquid vegetable oils (unsaturated fats) into a more solid saturated fat.

What are some simple steps to cut back on fat/cholesterol?