Preventing Kidney Stones with Healthy Diets: Five Guidelines

Kidney stones are a common health problem affecting millions of people worldwide. These hard mineral deposits can cause severe pain and discomfort in the back, side, and lower abdomen. Fortunately, dietary changes can help prevent the formation of kidney stones.

In this article, you will learn five key dietary guidelines that can help reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. By incorporating these guidelines into your daily routine, you can maintain good kidney health and avoid the pain and discomfort associated with kidney stones.

What are Kidney stones?

Kidney stones are deposits of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys. Most commonly, kidney stones are composed primarily of calcium. Less frequently, they are made up of uric acid (a normal by-product in the urine) or cystine (an amino acid) or are associated with urinary tract infections (struvite kidney stones)[1].

Smaller stones may pass out of the body on their own, without causing symptoms. However, larger stones can become lodged in the urinary tract, leading to blockage and the characteristic symptoms of symptomatic kidney stones.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Symptomatic kidney stones are stones that cause noticeable symptoms, such as severe pain in the side or back, nausea, vomiting, and blood in the urine. Other symptoms of symptomatic kidney stones include blood in the urine, painful urination, increased frequency of urination, fever and chills.

These stones can occur anywhere in the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The size of the stone, its location, and the severity of the blockage it causes can affect the symptoms experienced.

Prevention Strategies for kidney stones

Here we explain five key strategies for preventing kidney stones. In addition to these dietary strategies, it is important to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and avoid dehydration. If you have a history of kidney stones or are at risk of developing them, speak with your healthcare provider about a personalized prevention plan. By following these prevention strategies, you can reduce your risk of developing kidney stones and maintain good kidney health.

Drink plenty of water

Drinking enough water is the most crucial dietary measure for preventing kidney stones. Water helps flush out the kidneys, reducing the concentration of minerals that can form stones. Studies have shown that increasing water intake can significantly reduce the risk of kidney stone formation (Borghi et al., 1999).

The recommended daily water intake varies depending on age, sex, and activity level. However, a general guideline is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

Reduce intake of animal protein

Animal protein, such as meat, fish, and poultry, contains purines, which are metabolized into uric acid. High levels of uric acid in the urine can lead to the formation of uric acid stones. Research on vegetarian diets have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of kidney stone formation (Prezioso et al., 2015). Therefore, reducing the intake of animal protein can lower the risk of developing kidney stones. Vegetarian diets have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of kidney stone formation.

Limit intake of sodium

Excessive sodium intake can increase the excretion of calcium in the urine, leading to the formation of calcium stones. Scientific studies have shown that a low-sodium diet can reduce the recurrence of kidney stones (Finkielstein & Goldfarb, 2006). Therefore, it is recommended to limit the intake of sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day. This can be achieved by reducing the consumption of processed foods, which are often high in sodium.

Increase intake of calcium-rich foods

Calcium is a mineral that can help prevent the formation of kidney stones. However, many people believe that they should avoid calcium-rich foods because they can contribute to stone formation. This is not true, as calcium in food does not increase the risk of stone formation. In fact, it is recommended to consume calcium-rich foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as they can bind with oxalate in the intestines, reducing the amount that enters the urine.

Studies have shown that increasing dietary calcium intake can reduce the risk of kidney stone formation (Schwalfenberg & Genuis, 2017).

Limit intake of oxalate-rich foods

Oxalate is a compound found in many foods that can contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate stones. Foods high in oxalate include spinach, rhubarb, beets, and chocolate. While it is not necessary to eliminate oxalate-rich foods completely, it is recommended to limit their intake and consume them with calcium-rich foods to reduce their impact on stone formation.

A review of dietary treatment of urinary risk factors for renal stone formation has recommended limiting dietary oxalate intake as part of kidney stone prevention strategies (Prezioso et al., 2015).


Finally, dietary changes can play a significant role in preventing kidney stone formation. Drinking plenty of water, reducing animal protein intake, limiting sodium intake, increasing calcium-rich foods, and limiting oxalate-rich foods are some of the essential dietary guidelines for kidney stone prevention.


  1. Finkielstein VA, Goldfarb DS. Strategies for preventing calcium oxalate stones. CMAJ. 2006;174(10):1407-1409. doi:10.1503/cmaj.060298
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  3. Borghi L, Meschi T, Amato F, Briganti A, Novarini A, Giannini A. Urine volume: stone risk factor and preventive measure. Nephron. 1999;81 Suppl 1:31-37. doi:10.1159/000045303
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