Kidney stones are a painful and often persistent ailment that can interfere with your life on many levels. Kidney stone causes are numerous and not always easy to identify. However, health experts recommend certain dietary and lifestyle changes to manage symptoms, allow stones to pass more quickly, and reduce the likelihood of them returning.
List of Foods That Cause Kidney Stones
Certain foods and beverages can stimulate the growth of kidney stones, especially if you’ve had them before or have significant risk factors such as a family history or being overweight. The foods to avoid depend on whether you have calcium oxalate stones, uric acid stones, or another variety.
For calcium oxalate stones, which are the most common type, you mainly need to avoid foods that are high in oxalates. There’s a fairly long list of vegetables to avoid for kidney stones (calcium oxalate stones), which include spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard, potatoes, beets, and leeks. Soy products, as well as many legumes and nuts, are also high in oxalates.
Another common kidney stone types is uric acid atones. If you have uric acid stones, you should avoid high purine foods such as meat, seafood, and alcoholic beverages. These are foods that stimulate the production of uric acid.
Although meat and other animal proteins are especially harmful if you have uric acid stones, it’s best to reduce these foods even if you have calcium oxalate stones. Studies suggest that eating large quantities of meat increases the risk of all types of kidney stones.
7 Top Foods to Manage and Prevent Kidney Stones
1. Water — While water is not, strictly speaking, a food, it’s still the single most important substance to consume if you want to prevent all types of kidney stones. Drink from six to eight glasses of pure water every day. You can substitute other healthy beverages (see below), but soda, alcoholic beverages, or energy drinks are not good substitutes as they have ingredients that can promote kidney stones as well as dehydration.
2. Lemons — Citrate is helpful for preventing calcium oxalate stones, which is why lemons are so beneficial. Lemons increase urine citrate. They are also high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C. Squeezing lemon into water is a great way to stay hydrated as well as stimulate the production of citrate. Be wary of commercial lemonade mixes that are high in sugar. If you want to drink lemonade, look for low-sugar or sugar-free mixes or make it yourself using a natural sweetener such as honey or Stevia.
3. Low-Fat Yogurt — It’s a misconception that you should eat a low calcium diet to prevent calcium oxalate stones. In fact, studies indicate that eating more dietary calcium reduces the risk of kidney stones. Calcium supplements, however, should be avoided unless recommended by your doctor. All types of dairy can be helpful, but low-fat yogurt is a good choice if you want to minimize fat. It’s best to buy plain yogurt and add small amounts of low-oxalate fruit or another sweetener.
4. Oats — Whole grains are essential for a healthy diet. Many grains, however, including brown rice, quinoa, cornmeal, and buckwheat, are high in oxalates. Oats are healthy whole grains that are low in oxalate. It’s also quite versatile. You can consume oatmeal or make your own bread and other foods using oat flour.
5. Kale — While certain leafy greens such as spinach and Swiss chard are high in oxalates, kale is a healthy low oxalate alternative. Kale is a good source of calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K. In addition to being a great food to prevent kidney stones, it is heart-healthy, supports bone health, and may even prevent certain cancers.
6. Oranges — In addition to lemons, oranges are one of the best fruits good for kidney stones. While lemonade requires sweetener, orange juice is delicious on its own. Some studies have found that drinking a glass of orange juice daily helps to prevent kidney stones from recurring.
7. Cabbage — Another very healthy low oxalate vegetable is cabbage. This vegetable, which belongs to the same family as kale, broccoli, and cauliflower, is rich in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, and potassium. It’s also heart-healthy and helps to maintain normal blood pressure. Cabbage is very easy to include in your diet as it can be eaten on its own, made into soups, juiced, or made into sauerkraut.
Your Diet Can Help to Prevent Kidney Stones
There can be many kidney stone reasons, including genetics, lifestyle, and a history of certain medical conditions such as obesity, urinary tract infections, or hyperparathyroidism. Regardless of kidney stone causes, making dietary adjustments can help stones to pass more quickly and to reduce the chances of them coming back. In addition to the foods recommended above, here are some additional guidelines to keep in mind.
- Reduce your intake of salt.
- Get regular moderate exercise. If you have a severe case of kidney stones or have had surgery recently, ask your doctor what type of exercise is safe.
- If you are overweight, make an effort to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- If you take supplements for kidney stones, do your research. Certain common supplements, such as Vitamin C and calcium, may cause kidney stones to form. This is different from dietary calcium and Vitamin C, which are beneficial. Other supplements that can be helpful include CoQ10, magnesium, and potassium citrate.