What to eat and what to avoid to prevent kidney stones

It's easy to prevent the recurrence of kidney stones if you follow the correct diet

Woman peeping inside the frdige, wondering what to eat | Concept for preventing kidney stones

If you have been agonised by the pain of a kidney stone at any time, I bet you’ll do all it takes to never experience that again! Diet plays a big role in avoiding kidney stones. You need to prevent the concentration of the nutrients in urine that can lead to crystal formations and the recurrence of kidney stones.

11 tips to prevent kidney stones

The following tips will help you prevent formation or reformation of kidney stones:

1. Water

Consume plenty of plain water as it helps to dilute urine, especially if you sweat it out in hot climate either due to exercise / sport or recreation. Excessive sweating will lead to less urine formation and concentrated urine causes minerals to precipitate and form kidney stones. If you increase your activity or the weather gets warm and dry, increase your water consumption correspondingly. Aim to pass about 2 – 2.5 litres of urine each day. The colour of the urine is the best indicator of hydration. Light and clear urine is the sign of adequate water intake.

2. Oxalate

It is a myth that just by avoiding oxalate-rich foods, one can prevent kidney stone formation. It is best to eat oxalate rich foods together with calcium rich foods as the two nutrients combine in the gut instead of kidney while forming urine. This prevents the formation of the most common calcium oxalate stone. Consuming vitamin C supplements may also lead to stone formation as the body converts the vitamin C to oxalate.

The following foods are rich in oxalate:

  • Vegetables – rhubarb, spinach, beets, sweet potatoes, okra, Swiss chard, asparagus, parsley, celery, leeks, eggplant
  • Fruits – berries (strawberry, blackberry), dry figs
  • Nuts – peanuts, almonds, cashews
  • Chocolate
  • Seeds
  • Grains – oatmeal, whole wheat, wheat germ
  • Legumes including soya products
  • Tea – strong black tea

3. Calcium

Reducing calcium in the diet actually increases the risk of kidney stone formation by increasing the oxalate levels. Consume up to 1000mg calcium in daily diet. Food such as dairy – milk, curd, paneer, cheese, soya products, almonds, sesame (til), broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy are good sources of calcium. As noted above, combining calcium rich foods with oxalate rich foods can help to prevent kidney stones.

Consuming calcium supplements can increase the risk of kidney stones. Take the supplement with food in order to lower the risk of stone formation.

4. Phosphates

Carbonate drinks, especially colas, are rich in phosphates and combine with calcium rich foods to form calcium phosphate stones. So if you’re prone to kidney stones, avoid colas.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium plays an important role in the absorption of calcium. Green leafy vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds like sunflower, pumpkin, sesame are good sources of magnesium.

Sitting too long ups your risk of kidney stones

If you are not getting adequate physical activity and you spend too much time sitting you are increasing the risk of kidney stone. Sedentary lifestyle or being bed ridden leads to calcium re-absorption from the bones which may predispose you to kidney stones.

6. Salt

Reduce the intake of salt and cut back on salty foods like preserves, pickles, papads, sauces, processed foods such as soups, biscuits, cheese. Excess salt intake in the diet enhances the excretion of calcium in urine which, in turn, increases the risk of kidney stone. Limit salt intake, including table salt to not more than 3/4th to 1 tsp which is 1500 – 2300 mg of sodium.

7. Fibre

A diet high in fibre decreases the risk of stone formation as it cuts the absorption of calcium and oxalate. Therefore it is advisable to increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pulses with skin like chickpeas, moth beans, whole green gram, rajma and lobia.

8. Barley water

Drinking barley water increases urination and thereby prevents the build-up of toxins in the kidney that may lead to the formation of kidney stones.

9. Sugar

Cut back on sugar as high intake of sugar interferes with calcium and magnesium absorption, thereby increasing the risk of kidney stones.

10. Protein

Protein rich foods from animal source such as organ meats, fish like sardines, seafood such as lobster, shrimp, red meat (beef, veal, ham, poultry), chicken, eggs, and vegetables like cauliflower are rich in purines. Purines increase the production of uric acid leading to the formation of highly concentrated acid in the urine which aggravates the risk of kidney stones (uric acid stone). Eating too much protein also reduces citrate levels that prevents stone formation. Cut back and moderate on the quantity of protein in the diet. High protein intake also leads to calcium loss. Opt for plant protein such as legumes over non-vegetarian choices.

11. Juices

Fruit juices such as lemonade are rich in potassium citrate that helps in the prevention of kidney stone formation. Natural citrate prevents calcium from combining with other constituents and cuts the risk of stone formation. It even stops the stone from growing in size.

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Geetha G H
Geetha is a Bangalore based registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, one of the very few sports nutritionist from International Olympic Committee ( IOC ), with diverse experience of over 15 years in academia, nutritional counselling, lifestyle coaching, clinical nutrition, food safety, corporate workshops and seminars, clinical research, a nutrition columnist for well renowned health magazines and wellness websites, a university first ranker with several gold medals at both under-graduation and post-graduation, passionate about yoga, preventive and performance nutrition.


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