Several times a year, events will pop up that include candy. Chocolate and other candy can be part of the renal diet, but there are some factors to consider. Some candy and chocolate are high in potassium and/or phosphorus, while others are low. In this article, we’ll cover the best and worst candy and chocolate options when on a renal diet.
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Is candy okay for kidneys?
Long story short, yes, candy is okay for kidneys. It’s not going to give any improvements to your kidney health, similar to fast food. That being said, a few pieces of candy will not entirely derail your kidney health goals.
Candy can provide more enjoyment in your life. The feeling of “I can’t eat anything here” can be so frustrating and upsetting when it comes to following a kidney-friendly diet. By allowing some permission in these areas where it’s not going to make a huge difference can be very beneficial.
How much candy is okay?
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. This equals 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men.
How to convert grams of sugar to teaspoons of sugar
When looking at how much is okay, check with the added sugar, and total calories are for a serving of your preferred candy. The nutrition label will list the added sugar under the carbohydrate section in grams. For reference, there are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon.
For example, let’s say you find a candy that has 8 grams of added sugar per serving. Divide that 8 grams of sugar by 4 grams per teaspoon and you get 2 teaspoons of sugar.
What kidney friendly candy can I have?
There are a ton of candies that are acceptable when it comes to kidney health! Here are some types of candies that I generally recommend:
- Fruity candies
- Hard candies
- Jelly beans
- Cinnamon/spicy candies
- Sour candies (another benefit with these is that they can help with a fluid restriction!)
- Marshmallow candies
These candies are considered more kidney-friendly candy because they are lower potassium and phosphorus options. It’s still important to remember the added sugars, even if these are considered better candy options for the renal diet.
Read the nutrition label to check for any added phos or potassium ingredients because added preservatives are highly absorbed.
What candy should I stay away from?
There are certain types of candies that are not seen as kidney friendly as other candies. The groups of candies not-so-kidney-friendly include the candies with nuts, nut butters and chocolate.
- Peanut brittle (In a 100-gram/3.5 ounce serving, it has 445 milligrams of sodium!)
- Chocolate-covered candies
- Candy bars
- Peanut butter candies
- Reese’s ®
These are higher in sodium, phosphorus, and potassium. But keep in mind that there are still good nuts and nut butters that can fit into a renal diet – just without all the extra sugars that come from these types of candies.
Another type of candy to avoid is black licorice. Black licorice has been well-researched and connected to health complications for those with or without kidney disease.
A component in black licorice, glycyrrhizin, can cause severe and extreme drops in potassium. This can lead to irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and congestive heart failure.
What about sugar-free kidney friendly candy?
While sugar-free may be a good option for some of the kidney-friendly candies mentioned earlier, it doesn’t mean there should be a “free-for-all” with sugar-free versions of your favorite sweets.
Sugar-free candy can be lower in calories and (obviously) sugar, but the replacement of the sugar comes from sugar alcohols. And excessive sugar alcohols can lead to side effects including bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort.
The other warning is that sugar-free candy can still increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. This can be related to excessive calorie intake and weight gain from eating more candy that is thought to be harmless.
Choosing sugar-free candy over regular candy every now and then can help in lowering your calorie and sugar intake, so this is an option for people with or without diabetes. As with all candies, though, sugar-free candy should still be consumed in moderation.
Is chocolate bad for kidneys?
We can’t talk about kidney-friendly candy and not discuss chocolate! While chocolate itself isn’t “bad” for kidneys, there are certain nutrition components chocolate has that can be an issue for someone with kidney disease.
Types of Chocolate
There are three types of snacking or dessert chocolate you will find. They are:
- White chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- Dark chocolate
These three types are defined by the amount of chocolate liquor (cocoa butter and solids) and milk that is in the recipe.
Dark chocolate needs to contain at least 50% cocoa solids. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, contains only 10-50% cocoa solids. To qualify for the benefits of chocolate, the percent of chocolate should be at least 70%.
Most candies will generally not have this much cocoa unless specially labeled, like “75% cocoa.” If you don’t see this highlighted, it likely doesn’t qualify for any benefits of cocoa.
Potassium in Chocolate
All types of chocolate contain some amounts of potassium. The different types will have different amounts of potassium.
Comparing 1 ounce servings of each white, milk, and dark chocolate, dark chocolate has the highest amount of potassium. One ounce of dark chocolate has approximately 158 milligrams of potassium.
However, a bar of dark chocolate would be considered a high potassium candy. A 3.5-oz dark chocolate bar (with 70-85% cacao) has approximately 722 milligrams of potassium.
White chocolate is considered a low potassium chocolate. It has just 81 milligrams of potassium per ounce. A bar of white chocolate would contain about 284 milligrams of potassium, which would make it a high potassium dessert.
By keeping a portion to a one ounce serving, you’ll keep your chocolate in the low potassium range.
Chocolate and Phosphorus
Chocolate is also a source of organic phosphorus. Some types of chocolate candy can also have inorganic phosphorus, which is absorbed more into the blood.
A 1-oz serving of dark chocolate has 87 milligrams of phosphorus. A 3.5-oz chocolate bar of the same type of chocolate has 311 milligrams of phosphorus.
On the other hand, white chocolate is lower in phosphorus than dark chocolate.
A one-ounce portion of white chocolate contains just 50 milligrams of phosphorus. A 3.5-oz bar will contain approximately 175 milligrams of phosphorus.
Given that people with kidney issues often have trouble controlling their phosphorus levels, chocolate may be one of the first things to limit.
Is dark chocolate good for kidneys?
In 2015, a study was published that researched the benefits of cocoa with kidney health. In using the flavanols of cocoa, they found that it protected the endothelium of kidneys and cardiovascular health.
The study also used a beverage with the flavanol extract; they did not give the participants chocolate.
Keep in mind that flavanols are also found in fruits and vegetables. Many people with kidney disease aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables in their diet due to potassium concerns.
If dark chocolate is something you would like to add to your diet, talk with your dietitian. Even though dark chocolate is higher in potassium and phosphorus, you may be able to include it in your renal diet.
Oxalates and Chocolate
Another thing to consider is the oxalates in chocolate. For people that need to follow a low oxalate diet, chocolate may be a concern.
The cocoa itself is the source of oxalates. Therefore, chocolate with more cocoa will have a higher amount of oxalate.
White chocolate, for example, is a low oxalate source with just 1 milligram of oxalate per ounce.
Dark chocolate with over 70% cocoa has 39 milligrams of oxalate per ounce. This is a big amount for someone that needs to limit their daily oxalate intake.
Not everyone needs to limit oxalates. But if you do, this article about gout and kidney stones may be useful to you.
Chocolate Comparison Table
Below is a comparison table of the phosphorus and potassium contents of different types of chocolate. Each value is based on a 1-ounce serving.
|Chocolate Type||Potassium (mg) in 1 ounce||Phosphorus (mg) in 1 ounce||Oxalate (mg) in 1 ounce|
Data was collected from the USDA Food Database. Nutritional information may vary between products and brands.
Ideas for leftover Halloween Candy
Don’t want to leave temptation in your house after you’ve given out as much candy as possible? Try these ideas on ways to get rid of the extra sweets laying around!
Donate candy to your local nursing home or food bank
It feels good to share, so why not share with others that may not be as capable to spend money on extras like sweets? Be sure to check with your local food bank and nursing homes about any sanitation concerns prior to dropping off!
Crush or chop on top of homemade yogurt bark
An easy treat that is fun for kids (and grown-ups) to make! Find a yogurt that is lower in sugar since you’ll be sweetening it with your toppings. Coconut and almond-based yogurts can be fairly easy to find and kidney-friendly.
To make your own yogurt bark, spread yogurt onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Chop or crush your candy and sprinkle on top of the yogurt. Freeze until solid.
Break into pieces and put into freezer containers. This can keep for several months when frozen!
Toss it into homemade trail mix
Take some of your sweets and mix with dry cereal, some nuts or seeds, and you’ve got yourself a festive snack that will satisfy any craving!
Try this Halloween-inspired trail mix recipe out:
Here’s a kidney-friendly candy recipe to try out!
Keep some hard candy on hand for dry mouth
With kidney disease can come chronic dry mouth issues, which are no fun if you have a fluid restriction.
Keep some of your favorite hard candies in your purse or car to suck on when the dryness hits and you need to limit fluids.
Donate to Treats for Troops
A wonderful thing to do is support our military by sending them some yummy candy to say that we are thinking of them. (It’s hard to be away from family and friends when the holiday season comes up!)
Ask your dentist about Halloween Candy Buy Back
This is something that local companies, including dentists, have started up to help people from, well, getting too many cavities!
Learn more from Halloween Candy Buy Back. You can also check with your dentist to see if they participate or if they know of another dental office that does.
There are some kidney-friendly candy options and some that aren’t so kidney-friendly.
Fruity candies, sour candies, hard candies, jelly beans and others in these groups can be better options for a renal diet. Hard and sour candies are particularly good choices as they can also help with dry mouth and fluid restrictions. Sugar-free candies can be okay, but still in moderation.
Chocolate is higher in both phosphorus and potassium. While it may be able to fit, it should be limited if there are issues with controlling either phosphorus or potassium. Other candies that won’t be as good an option include high-sodium peanut brittle, chocolate/nut candies, and peanut butter candies.
The top candy to avoid is black licorice. This can cause irregularities with potassium and blood pressure.
To help keep treats in check, add them to a snack that includes some fiber to slow down the absorption of sugars. Spread them out by making a kidney-friendly rendition of frozen yogurt bark.
If you just want to get them out of the house, donate them to soldiers or even your dentist office.
While candy won’t outright benefit your kidneys, there can be a place for it to fit. By giving ourselves permission to enjoy candy from time to time, it loses power over us and we remain in control of our health, kidneys, and all!
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