What Foods Cause Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts inside the kidneys and can cause severe pain when passing through the urinary tract. The result of concentrated urine is often that these stones can crystallize and grow over time.

A significant factor associated with the formation of specific kidney stones is an increased pH value of the urine, which makes the environment more alkaline. Alkaline urine can facilitate the precipitation of calcium and phosphate, leading to the development of calcium phosphate stones. Thus, monitoring and managing urine pH can be crucial in preventing the recurrence of these painful stones.

What Foods Cause Kidney Stones?

Scientific research shows that salty food (high in sodium), cola beverages, fast foods, and processed meats can cause kidney stones. Additionally, a high intake of oxalate foods (spinach, chocolate, wheat bran, nuts, beets, tea, rhubarb, cocoa) can trigger kidney stone formations.

kidney stones

Several foods and dietary habits are potential contributors to kidney stone formation. Consistent fluid intake, especially 2-3 quarts daily, helps dilute urine, reducing the risk. However, foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, berries, chocolate, and cocoa products, can increase the risk.

Cocoa products, which have gained popularity for their health benefits, contain high levels of soluble oxalates, contributing to kidney stones. On the other hand, modern fad diets can also impact kidney stone formation. For instance, the intake of simple carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup, and diets high in animal proteins, especially from purine-rich sources like meat, can elevate the risk of stone formation.

Vegan diets, naturally rich in oxalates and lacking dairy, may contribute to calcium oxalate stone formation. Conversely, consuming dairy products like milk and yogurt can decrease the risk. Furthermore, high vitamin C supplement consumption has been linked to an increased risk of kidney stone development. Lastly, while caffeine from coffee may offer some protection against kidney stones, red meat has been associated with an elevated risk.

How to Avoid Kidney Stones?

To avoid kidney stones, ensure consistent fluid intake, aiming for 2-3 quarts/day, which helps produce less concentrated urine. Limit foods rich in oxalates like spinach, berries, and chocolate while maintaining an intake of dietary calcium through three servings of dairy per day. Moderate your protein and salt consumption, avoid excess calcium and vitamin C supplements, and consult a physician regarding individual dietary needs.

To avoid kidney stones:

  • Maintain Fluid Intake: Aim for 2-3 quarts/day to dilute urine.
  • Limit Oxalate-rich Foods: Spinach, berries, chocolate, and especially cocoa products.
  • Moderate Protein Intake: High animal protein diets can increase the risk.
  • Reduce Simple Carbohydrates: Intake of glucose or xylitol can induce hypercalciuria.
  • Avoid High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): It elevates serum uric acid levels, leading to stone formation.
  • Be Cautious with Vegan Diets: They can be high in oxalates and low in calcium.
  • Limit Red Meat Intake: Specially processed meats, as they increase the risk.
  • Increase Dairy Intake: Dairy products like milk and yogurt can decrease the risk.
  • Limit Vitamin C Supplements: High intake can contribute to stone formation.
  • Reduce Salt Intake: High sodium increases calcium in the urine.
  • Consider Diet Types: Some diets, like the Mediterranean diet, can protect against stone formation.
  • Consider citrus drinks: Dring lemon, orange, and citrus fruits to remove kidney stones from urine.

Remember, Lemon juice, when consumed, is acidic, which means it has a pH level of less than 7. But an exciting transformation occurs after our metabolism consumes and processes it. The breakdown of lemon juice releases alkaline substances, and when these substances are excreted through the urine, they can make it more alkaline. The pH of urine can be influenced by what we eat and drink, and in this case, the alkaline byproducts of lemon juice can raise the urine’s pH.

This is why citrus (fresh lemon or orange juice) is suitable for removing kidney stones from urine, making the pH level more alkaline.

Cocoa Oxalates and Kidney Stones

Cocoa and its products are famous in health food markets due to their unique flavors and health benefits. However, the potential harm from containing oxalates, which can contribute to kidney stones, is often overlooked. Most consumers are unaware of the soluble oxalate content in cocoa products.


Cocoa powder contains a mean total oxalate content of 632 ± 20 mg/100 g dry matter (D.M.), with soluble oxalates making up 89%. Analysis of cocoa powders from different countries showed soluble oxalate contents ranging from 360 to 567 mg/100 g D.M., with some conventionally produced cocoa even reporting higher levels between 727.5 to 1477.5 mg/100 g D.M. Kidney stone incidence is rising globally, prompting investigations into how processing impacts oxalate levels in cocoa. Dietary oxalate contributes significantly to renal oxalates, often making up about 50% and sometimes up to 67%. Thus, reducing oxalate availability in foods like cocoa is essential for safety.

Reduction of soluble oxalate in cocoa powder by adding calcium and ultrasonication study explored methods to reduce soluble oxalate in cocoa powder, including adding calcium in various forms and using ultrasonication at varied temperatures and durations.

People must be cautious when consuming cocoa to avoid kidney stones.


Modern Fad Diets and Kidney Stone Disease

In the article, The Relationship between Modern Fad Diets and Kidney Stone Disease, ” the authors summarise various diets and find each has some impact on kidney stones.

The following foods and dietary elements are potentially detrimental to kidney stone formation:

  1. Simple Carbohydrates: An intake of simple carbohydrates like glucose or xylitol can induce hypercalciuria, increasing the risk for kidney stone disease (KSD).
  2. High fructose corn syrup consumption leads to elevated serum uric acid levels associated with kidney stone formation.
  3. High Protein Diets: Those high in animal proteins can increase urinary calcium excretion, lower urine pH, decrease citrate levels, and elevate uric acid levels. Diets with a high intake of purine-rich sources, such as animal meats, elevate uric acid levels, heightening the risk for uric acid stone formation.
  4. Vegan Diets: Being rich in oxalate and poor in calcium, vegan diets might be associated with calcium oxalate stone formation. Additionally, vegan diets’ lack of dairy products can lead to higher serum uric acid, hyperuricosuria, and uric acid stones.
  5. Oxalate-rich Foods: Found in many vegetarian diets, these can increase the intestinal absorption of oxalate and lead to hyperoxaluria.

An oral load of simple carbohydrates, such as glucose or xylitol, can induce hypercalciuria and increase the risk for KSD. Low-carb diets might reduce the risk of hypercalciuria, but increased protein intake in these diets can also contribute to hypercalciuria. Fructose and xylitol influence oxalate synthesis, which can lead to hyperoxaluria, a risk factor for kidney stones. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) consumption increases serum uric acid, which is associated with kidney stone formation. Reducing carbohydrates inentially reduces urine calcium, oxalate, and uric acid levels, risk factors for KSD.

High protein diets can increase urinary calcium excretion, lower urine pH, and decrease citrate levels. Diets with a high intake of purine-rich sources, such as animal meats, elevate uric acid levels, increasing the risk for uric acid stone formation. A high animal protein diet can significantly increase the acid load on the body. Vegetarian diets, often rich in oxalate, can increase urinary oxalate excretion, thereby increasing the risk for KSD. Oxalate absorption can be influenced by the presence of calcium and magnesium in the diet.

Adequate calcium intake is crucial as a reduction can increase oxalate dietary absorption, posing a risk for KSD. Vegan diets, rich in oxalate and poor in calcium, might be associated with calcium oxalate stone formation. The DASH diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, can reduce the risk of stone formation by up to 45%. The Mediterranean diet, which promotes a high consumption of vegetables and low animal protein intake, could protect against urinary stone formation.

Diets involving intermittent fasting periods, such as the moon diet, might not change urinary risk factors for KSD if water intake is consistent. Detox diets that comprise short-term fasting followed by a fruit and vegetable-based diet probably don’t increase the risk for KSD, provided water and calcium intake are maintained. The relationship between KSD and obesity emphasizes the need to consider the effects of obesity-treatment diets on the risk of KSD. A balanced diet that reduces carbohydrates while ensuring adequate protein intake combined with fruits and vegetables appears protective against KSD. It’s crucial to have long-term follow-up studies to understand the actual effects of various diets on KSD. Each diet’s specific type and modifications can influence their impact on urinary risk factors for KSD.

Fluid Intake and Dietary Factors and the Risk of Incident Kidney Stones

The authors’ research paper, Fluid Intake, and Dietary Factors and the Risk of Incident Kidney Stones in U.K. Biobank: A Population-based Prospective Cohort Study, makes an exciting conclusion.

This research paper studied how fluid intake and diet affect the risk of developing kidney stones for the first time. Using data from the U.K. Biobank, the study found that for every extra 200ml drink consumed daily, the risk of kidney stones decreased by 13%. Drinking more tea, coffee, and even alcohol and eating more fruits and foods high in fiber can reduce the chances of getting kidney stones. Conversely, consuming more meat and adding salt to food can increase this risk.

In a sizeable UK-based study with over 439,000 participants, the research explored how fluid and diet impact the likelihood of experiencing a first kidney stone. Increasing fluid intake reduced the risk, especially when consuming 13 or more glasses daily (around 2.3 liters), resulting in a 50% decreased chance of kidney stone formation. Tea, coffee, and alcohol contributed most to this protective effect, not plain water.

Alongside, a diet higher in meat and salt increases the risk of kidney stones. Conversely, consuming more fruit and fiber-rich foods reduced the risk. Previous studies on meat, especially animal protein and salt intake, have shown mixed results. The strength of this study lies in its vast sample size and detailed dietary data. However, certain limitations exist, like the absence of data on the type of kidney stones and potential biases. In conclusion, simple dietary changes, like increasing fluid intake and consuming more fruits and fiber, can reduce the risk of developing a kidney stone.

This study confirms that Meat (significantly higher meat intake) and Foods with a higher salt content cause kidney stones in patients.

Dietary Factors and the Risk of Incident Kidney Stones in Men

In the exciting research Dietary Factors and the Risk of Incident Kidney Stones in Men, the authors make a critical conclusion about vitamin C.

During a study spanning 477,700 person-years, 1473 new cases of symptomatic kidney stones were documented, with the highest incidence among men aged 40 to 59. Interestingly, the risk seemed to decrease with age, with men over 70 having a notably lower incidence. Dietary calcium intake was protective against kidney stone formation, especially in men under 60. Yet, this protection wasn’t observed in older men. Vitamin C’s relation to kidney stones was nuanced. Initially, it didn’t seem to increase the risk, but upon further analysis, higher intake was linked to a greater risk. This increased risk was observed even with modest vitamin C intakes. When focusing on magnesium, a higher intake was associated with a reduced risk of stones, consistent across age groups.

Other dietary factors were also explored. While overall animal protein intake wasn’t tied to stone formation, high intake showed a heightened risk in men with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI). Potassium and fluid intake inversely affected stone risk, offering protection. Other elements like sodium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, vitamin D, and supplemental calcium showed no clear association after adjusting for various factors. The study found that dietary calcium reduces kidney stone risk in younger men. While the exact cause behind the age-specific effect remains uncertain, dietary calcium’s potential to bind with dietary oxalate in the intestine could be a factor. This study was the first to link higher vitamin C intake with kidney stone development. Magnesium’s protective effect against stone formation was also underlined. Recommendations based on this study emphasize evaluating foods rich in calcium, potassium, and magnesium in diets for those prone to kidney stones. However, caution is advised regarding supplemental vitamin C intake for stone formers. The effects of diet on stone risk seem to vary with age and body size, indicating the need for future research considering these variables.

Therefore, higher vitamin C supplement intake can increase kidney stone development.

The association between caffeine intake and risk of kidney stones

In the research, The association between caffeine intake and risk of kidney stones: A population-based study, authors made unexpected conclusions about caffeine and kidney stones.

The research examined the association between caffeine intake and the risk of developing kidney stones. Drawing from a large sample of 30,716 participants with a history of kidney stones, the research found that with every quartile increase in caffeine intake, the risk of kidney stones decreased by 5.32%. Interestingly, when broken down into subgroups, the protective effect was most pronounced for white individuals, women, and those who were not overweight. Moreover, caffeine derived from coffee had a significantly stronger protective effect against stone formation than other sources.

Historically, kidney stones have posed a considerable health challenge, with increasing prevalence worldwide. About 14.8% of the population suffers from kidney stones, which causes physical discomfort and economic strain on society. Caffeine, primarily consumed through coffee, is an integral part of many people’s diets, with around 89% of U.S. adults consuming it daily. Some studies have previously indicated the potential health benefits of caffeine on various body systems, and a connection between diet and kidney stones was suspected.

The extensive data for this research was sourced from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which lasted from 2007 to 2018. This survey encompasses detailed demographic data, health assessments, and other relevant indicators, making the sample representative of the U.S. civilian population. The study was comprehensive, considering numerous variables such as age, gender, BMI, total water consumption, alcohol intake, dietary habits, and socioeconomic characteristics.

Despite its robust methodology, the study has some limitations. Being a cross-sectional study, it cannot definitively establish cause-and-effect relationships. Moreover, based on 24-hour recalls, the caffeine intake data may introduce potential biases due to participant recall and variability.

In summary, while caffeine intake appears to be inversely associated with the risk of kidney stones, the protective benefits are especially pronounced for specific demographics, notably white individuals, women, and non-overweight people. Therefore, coffee, as a source of caffeine, offers more protection against kidney stones than other caffeine sources.

Meat Fish and Milk Intake and Risk of Kidney Stones

In the research, Associations of Total Protein or Animal Protein Intake and Animal Protein Sources with Risk of Kidney Stones: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-Analysis, the authors analyze animal proteins (meat)to see if they correlate with kidney stones.

The research aimed to determine the relationship between total protein, animal protein, and their sources with the risk of kidney stones in the general population. Data was gathered from PubMed/Medline, Scopus, and EMBASE up to July 2021, with 14 prospective cohort studies being considered. The findings revealed that a higher intake of nondairy animal protein increased the risk of kidney stones with a relative risk (R.R.) of 1.11. Consumption of total meat and meat products also heightened the risk, presenting an R.R. of 1.22. Processed meat was linked to an even higher risk, with an R.R. of 1.29. Conversely, dairy protein showed an inverse relationship, reducing the risk with an R.R. of 0.91. Additionally, every 100-gram increment of red meat intake was significantly associated with an increased risk, having an R.R. of 1.39.

Therefore, red meat increases patients’ risk of kidney stones, while milk proteins (dairy protein) reduce the risk.

According to the book “Development and Manufacture of Yogurt and Other Functional Dairy Products,” yogurt can decrease the risk of kidney stones. Hence, dairy products such as milk or yogurt shouldn’t be labeled as potential risks for kidney stone development.


Consumption of foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, chocolate, berries, and especially cocoa products, can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Intakes of simple carbohydrates, high fructose corn syrup, and excessive amounts of animal proteins, particularly from red and processed meats, have also been associated with a heightened risk.

Conversely, dairy products like milk and yogurt can potentially decrease the risk. High salt and vitamin C supplements can also contribute to stone development. Hence, dietary choices play a significant role in influencing the likelihood of kidney stone formation.


Igor M

Igor M

My name is Igor, and I like food and cooking. On this website, I will share facts related to nutrition, food, big US food chain brands, kitchen, United States grocery store reviews, etc. As an avid reader of cookbooks and professional chef blog posts, I will try to create helpful articles. I enjoy researching different food industry topics such as sustainability in farming practices, health benefits of certain ingredients, food marketing tactics used by large companies, etc. This helps him stay informed on the latest nutrition news and develop a deeper understanding of how our food choices can directly impact our overall health and well-being. As someone who truly values good quality food combined with nutritional awareness, I hope to inspire others by highlighting healthy food and offering the best deals from stores and restaurants.

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