Doctor's Search

Checklist of Food Causing Kidney Stones

March 28, 2018

We all have heard about kidney stones that usually develop in one or both kidneys. It is formed when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances — such as calcium, cystine, oxalate and uric acid — than the fluid in your urine can dilute.


Kidney stones often have no definite, single cause, although several factors may increase your risk. Certain medical conditions can lead to an unusually high level of these substances in your urine. You’re also more likely to develop kidney stones if you don’t drink enough fluids.

Types of kidney stones

Knowing the type of kidney stone helps determine the cause and may give clues on how to reduce your risk of getting more kidney stones. Types of kidney stones include:

  • Calcium stones: Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone formed due to excess accumulation of calcium in the urine. Most kidney stones are calcium stones, usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a naturally occurring substance found in food and is also made daily by your liver.
  • Struvite stones: Struvite stones are often caused by infections, and they most commonly occur after a urinary tract infection that’s lasted a long time. Struvite stones are more common in women than men.
  • Uric acid stones: Uric acid stones can form in people who don’t drink enough fluids or who lose too much fluid, those who eat a high-protein diet, and those who have gout. Certain genetic factors also may increase your risk of uric acid stones.
  • Cystine stones: Cystine stones are the rarest type of hereditary disorder that causes the kidneys to excrete too much of certain amino acids (cystinuria)


Types of kidney stone influences your food choices

Based on the type of kidney stone you have, you may be able to prevent it by making changes in how much sodium, animal protein, calcium, or oxalate is in the food you eat. A dietitian who specializes in kidney stone prevention can help you plan meals to prevent it. You may need to change what you eat and drink as follows:

  • Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods: For calcium oxalate stonesIf you’ve had calcium oxalate stones, you may want to avoid these foods to help reduce the amount of oxalate in your urine:
    • nuts and nut products
    • peanuts—which are legumes, not nuts, and are high in oxalate
    • rhubarb
    • spinach
    • wheat bran
  • Limit Animal Protein: For calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate & uric acid stonesEating animal protein may increase your chances of developing kidney stones. A health care professional may tell you to limit eating animal protein, including
    • beef, chicken, and pork, especially organ meats
    • eggs
    • fish and shellfish
    • milk, cheese, and other dairy products

    Although you may need to limit how much animal protein you have each day, you still need to make sure you get enough protein. Consider replacing some of the meat and animal protein you would typically eat with some of these plant-based foods that are high in protein:

    • legumes such as beans, dried peas, lentils, and peanuts
    • soy foods, such as soy milk, soy nut butter, and tofu
    • nuts and nut products, such as almonds and almond butter, cashews and cashew butter, walnuts, and pistachios
    • sunflower seeds
  • Reduce sodium intake: For calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate & uric acid stones

Your chance of developing kidney stones increases when you eat more sodium. Sodium is a part of salt. Sodium is in many canned, packaged, and fast foods. It is also in many condiments, seasonings, and meats.

  • Get enough calcium from foods: For calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate & uric acid stones

Even though calcium sounds like it would be the cause of calcium stones, it’s not. In the right amounts, calcium can block other substances in the digestive tract that may lead to stones. It may be best to get calcium from plant-based foods such as calcium-fortified juices, cereals, breads, some kinds of vegetables, and some types of beans.

  • Lose weight: For uric acid stones

Losing weight if you are overweight is especially important for people who have had uric acid stones.

  • Drink enough liquid: For cystine stones

Drinking enough liquid, mainly water, is the most important lifestyle change you can make to prevent cystine stones. Talk with a health care professional about how much liquid you should drink.

To conclude…

Prevention of kidney stones may include a combination of lifestyle changes and taking certain medications. There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for preventing kidney stones. Everyone is different. Once your healthcare provider finds out why you are forming stones, he or she will give you tips on how to prevent and excrete them effectively.