by Danny Feldman at Lewis & Feldman

Good kidney function is critical to good health. Kidneys filter blood, remove waste products, produce hormones, strengthen bones and regulate fluid balance and blood pressure.

Various factors, like diabetes and high blood pressure, can raise your risk of kidney disease. It is essential to know your GFR (glomerular filtration rate—which shows how well the kidneys are filtering) number because, once it goes below 60, you are in the first stage of kidney failure. There are five stages to kidney failure; stage 5 requires dialysis or a new kidney. About one-third of American adults with diabetes also have kidney disease.

Foods high in sodium should be avoided because excess sodium strains kidneys and leads to high blood pressure and fluid build-up. Foods high in sodium included processed meats—think bacon and sausage. Other foods high in sodium are processed foods like frozen pizza, fast food, canned foods and instant noodles.

Healthy kidneys remove phosphorus from your blood, but diseased kidneys struggle. High phosphorus levels raise the risk of heart disease and early death. Dark-colored sodas, beans and rice are high in phosphorus. Since the latter two have nutritional value, you can consume them in limited amounts without doing much damage.

Potassium also is difficult for diseased kidneys to remove. Excess potassium can cause fatigue, muscle weakness and heart disease. Fruits high in potassium, like bananas, avocados, apricots and oranges, should all be limited.

Added sugar is not healthy for the kidneys. So, sweetened fruit juices, sodas, baked goods, candies, cookies and doughnuts should be limited.

Unsurprisingly, alcohol is not healthy for the kidneys and consumption of alcohol should be limited.

Finally, long-term use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Aleve, Naproxen, Advil, Ibuprofen) can harm kidney function, as can cigarette smoking. Obviously, if you have kidney disease, then along with a nephrologist, you will want to consult with a dietician who has specialized knowledge about renal diets.