Safeguard Your Kidneys with a Bean-Based Winter Stew

Skipping the meat and swapping in more beans could lower your risk of kidney issues.

Medically reviewed in April 2021

Updated on February 4, 2022

When the mercury dips, what’s more comforting than a big bowl of chili? And when you go with an all-bean, veggie chili, you not only warm your insides, but you may also be supporting the health of your kidneys.

Why? Because all beans means no meat, and animal protein can be hard on kidneys.

Multiple studies have linked higher meat consumption to renal cell carcinoma, the most common kidney cancer. And a growing amount of evidence suggests that eating meat could contribute to chronic kidney disease. This type of protein appears to be especially problematic in people who already have weakened kidneys.

On the other hand, the lycopene in your chili’s cooked tomatoes may be protective when it comes to kidney cancer.

Kidney issues are on the rise
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means your kidneys don’t filter your blood as effectively. Although at first it doesn’t have symptoms, over time, CKD can result in the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. The disease is very common in the United States, affecting about 1 in 7 adults—and most of them don’t even know they have it. Diabetes and heart disease are major reasons CKD develops, but red meat consumption may contribute as well.

Kidney cancer, although rare, seems to have grown more common in recent decades. Unfortunately, a quarter of the people diagnosed with kidney cancer die from it within 5 years. That is in part because it’s often discovered late and by accident when people get a CT scan or other medical test for an unrelated reason. So there are some compelling reasons to think about how much meat you eat and where you might cut back.

Embrace what’s plant-based
You don't have to give up meat entirely, but a little less could do your body good in more ways than one: Eating a lot of red and processed meat has been linked to higher risks of other cancers, as well as to heart disease and diabetes.

An overall nutritional pattern that emphasizes plant-based foods, such as the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, has been linked to a host of health benefits.

Article sources open article sources

Handa K, Kreiger N. Diet patterns and the risk of renal cell carcinoma. Public Health Nutr. 2002 Dec;5(6):757-67.
Ziouziou I, Shariat SF, Ajdi F, Khabbal Y. Association of Processed Meats and Alcohol Consumption with Renal Cell Carcinoma: A Worldwide Population-Based Study. Nutr Cancer. 2021;73(11-12):2665-2670.
Padala SA, Barsouk A, Thandra KC, Saginala K, Mohammed A, Vakiti A, Rawla P, Barsouk A. Epidemiology of Renal Cell Carcinoma. World J Oncol. 2020 Jun;11(3):79-87.
Bock CH, Ruterbusch JJ, Holowatyj AN, Steck SE, Van Dyke AL, Ho WJ, Cote ML, Hofmann JN, Davis F, Graubard BI, Schwartz KL, Purdue MP. Renal cell carcinoma risk associated with lower intake of micronutrients. Cancer Med. 2018 Aug;7(8):4087-4097.
Rhee J, Loftfield E, Freedman ND, Liao LM, Sinha R, Purdue MP. Coffee consumption and risk of renal cell carcinoma in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Int J Epidemiol. 2021 Nov 10;50(5):1473-1481.
Liu B, Mao Q, Wang X, Zhou F, Luo J, Wang C, Lin Y, Zheng X, Xie L. Cruciferous vegetables consumption and risk of renal cell carcinoma: a meta-analysis. Nutr Cancer. 2013;65(5):668-76.
Grieb SM, Theis RP, Burr D, Benardot D, Siddiqui T, Asal NR. Food groups and renal cell carcinoma: results from a case-control study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Apr;109(4):656-67.
American Cancer Society. Key Statistics About Kidney Cancer. Last revised January 12, 2022.
Goraya N, Wesson DE. Is Dietary Red Meat Kidney Toxic? J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 Jan;28(1):5-7.
Mafra D, Borges NA, Cardozo LFMF, Anjos JS, Black AP, Moraes C, Bergman P, Lindholm B, Stenvinkel P. Red meat intake in chronic kidney disease patients: Two sides of the coin. Nutrition. 2018 Feb;46:26-32.
Lew QJ, Jafar TH, Koh HW, Jin A, Chow KY, Yuan JM, Koh WP. Red Meat Intake and Risk of ESRD. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 Jan;28(1):304-312.
National Cancer Institute. Cancer Stat Facts: Kidney and Renal Pelvis Cancer. Accessed February 4, 2022.
Haring B, Selvin E, Liang M, Coresh J, Grams ME, Petruski-Ivleva N, Steffen LM, Rebholz CM. Dietary Protein Sources and Risk for Incident Chronic Kidney Disease: Results From the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. J Ren Nutr. 2017 Jul;27(4):233-242. doi: 10.1053/j.jrn.2016.11.004. Epub 2017 Jan 5.
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