Best Food For Kidneys

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The kidneys are essential for filtering waste products from the blood and making urine. This blog is all about how to get the best food for your kidneys. Learn what the best fruits, vegetables and whole grains to eat, along with vitamins and minerals to be sure you are getting plenty of along with information on how to keep your kidneys healthy.

Best Food For Kidneys

The kidneys are small organs in the lower abdomen that play a significant role in the overall health of the body. Some foods may boost the performance of the kidneys, while others may place stress on them and cause damage.

Following a kidney-healthy diet plan may help the kidneys function properly and prevent damage to these organs. However, although some foods generally help support a healthy kidney, not all of them are suitable for people who have kidney disease.

Water

woman drinking a glass of water which is good for kidneys
The kidneys use water to filter toxins out of the body.

Water is the most important drink for the body. The cells use water to transport toxins into the bloodstream.

The kidneys then use water to filter these toxins out and to create the urine that transports them out of the body.

A person can support these functions by drinking whenever they feel thirsty.

Fatty fish

Salmon, tuna, and other cold-water, fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids can make a beneficial addition to any diet.

The body cannot make omega-3 fatty acids, which means that they have to come from the diet. Fatty fish are a great natural source of these healthful fats.

As the National Kidney Foundation note, omega-3 fats may reduce fat levels in the blood and also slightly lower blood pressure. As high blood pressure is a risk factor for kidney disease, finding natural ways to lower it may help protect the kidneys.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are similar to white potatoes, but their excess fiber may cause them to break down more slowly, resulting in less of a spike in insulin levels. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, that may help balance the levels of sodium in the body and reduce its effect on the kidneys.

However, as sweet potato is a high-potassium food, anyone who has CKD or is on dialysis may wish to limit their intake of this vegetable.

Dark leafy greens

Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and chard, are dietary staples that contain a wide variety of vitamins, fibers, and minerals. Many also contain protective compounds, such as antioxidants.

However, these foods also tend to be high in potassium, so they may not be suitable for people on a restricted diet or those on dialysis.

Berries

Dark berries, which include strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are a great source of many helpful nutrients and antioxidant compounds. These may help protect the cells in the body from damage.

Berries are likely to be a better option than other sugary foods for satisfying a sweet craving.

Apples

An apple is a healthful snack that contains an important fiber called pectin. Pectin may help reduce some risk factors for kidney damage, such as high blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Apples can also often satisfy a sweet tooth.

Healthy Foods for People with Kidney Disease

Researchers are discovering more and more links between chronic diseases, inflammation and “super foods” that may prevent or protect against undesirable fatty acid oxidation, a condition that occurs when the oxygen in your body reacts with fats in your blood and your cells. Oxidation is a normal process for energy production and many chemical reactions in the body, but excessive oxidation of fats and cholesterol creates molecules known as free radicals that can damage your proteins, cell membranes and genes. Heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other chronic and degenerative conditions have been linked to oxidative damage.

However, foods that contain antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and protect the body. Many of the foods that protect against oxidation are included in the kidney diet and make excellent choices for dialysis patients or people with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Want to learn more about the kidney diet? Download our free kidney-friendly cookbooks filled with kidney diet tips and recipes.

Making certain lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods, working with a renal dietitian and following a renal diet made up of kidney-friendly foods is important for people with kidney disease because they experience more inflammation and have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

1. Red bell peppers

  • 1/2 cup serving red bell pepper = 1 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus

Red bell peppers are low in potassium and high in flavor, but that’s not the only reason they’re perfect for the kidney diet. These tasty vegetables are also an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin A, as well as vitamin B6, folic acid and fiber. Red bell peppers are good for you because they contain lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against certain cancers.

Eat red bell peppers raw with dip as a snack or appetizer, or mix them into tuna or chicken salad. You can also roast peppers and use them as a topping on sandwiches or lettuce salads, chop them for an omelet, add them to kabobs on the grill or stuff peppers with ground turkey or beef and bake them for a main dish.

2. Cabbage

  • 1/2 cup serving green cabbage = 6 mg sodium, 60 mg potassium, 9 mg phosphorus

A cruciferous vegetable, cabbage is packed full of phytochemicals, chemical compounds in fruit or vegetables that break up free radicals before they can do damage. Many phytochemicals are also known to protect against and fight cancer, as well as foster cardiovascular health.

High in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, cabbage is also a good source of vitamin B6 and folic acid. Low in potassium and low in cost, it’s an affordable addition to the kidney diet.

Raw cabbage makes a great addition to the dialysis diet as coleslaw or topping for fish tacos. You can steam, microwave or boil it, add butter or cream cheese plus pepper or caraway seeds and serve it as a side dish. Cabbage Rolls Made with Turkey are a great appetizer, and if you’re feeling fancy, you can stuff a cabbage with ground meat and bake it for a flavorful meal bursting with nutrients.

3. Cauliflower

  • 1/2 cup serving boiled cauliflower = 9 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 20 mg phosphorus

Another cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is high in vitamin C and a good source of folate and fiber. It’s also packed full of indoles, glucosinolates and thiocyanates—compounds that help the liver neutralize toxic substances that could damage cell membranes and DNA.

Serve it raw as crudités with dip, add it to a salad, or steam or boil it and season with spices such as turmeric, curry powder, pepper and herb seasonings. You can also make a nondairy white sauce, pour it over the cauliflower and bake until tender. You can pair cauliflower with pasta or even mash cauliflower as a dialysis diet replacement for mashed potatoes.

4. Garlic

  • 1 clove garlic = 1 mg sodium, 12 mg potassium, 4 mg phosphorus

Garlic helps prevent plaque from forming on your teeth, lowers cholesterol and reduces inflammation.    

Buy it fresh, bottled, minced or powdered, and add it to meat, vegetable or pasta dishes. You can also roast a head of garlic and spread on bread. Garlic provides a delicious flavor and garlic powder is a great substitute for garlic salt in the dialysis diet.

5. Onions

  • 1/2 cup serving onion = 3 mg sodium, 116 mg potassium, 3 mg phosphorus

Onion, a member of the Allium family and a basic flavoring in many cooked dishes, contains sulfur compounds which give it its pungent smell. But in addition to making some people cry, onions are also rich in flavonoids, especially quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that works to reduce heart disease and protects against many cancers. Onions are low in potassium and a good source of chromium, a mineral that helps with carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.

Try using a variety of onions including white, brown, red and others. Eat onions raw on burgers, sandwiches and in salads, cook them and use as a caramelized topping or fry them into onion rings. Include onions in recipes such as Italian Beef with Peppers and Onions.

6. Apples

  • 1 medium apple with skin = 0 sodium, 158 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus

Apples have been known to reduce cholesterol, prevent constipation, protect against heart disease and reduce the risk of cancer. High in fiber and anti-inflammatory compounds, an apple a day may really keep the doctor away. Good news for people with kidney disease who already have their share of doctor visits.

This kidney diet winner can be paired with the previous good-for-you food, onions, to make a unique Apple Onion Omelet. With versatile apples you can eat them raw, make baked apples, stew apples, make them into apple sauce, or drink them as apple juice or apple cider.

7. Cranberries

  • 1/2 cup serving cranberry juice cocktail = 3 mg sodium, 22 mg potassium, 3 mg phosphorus
  • 1/4 cup serving cranberry sauce = 35 mg sodium, 17 mg potassium, 6 mg phosphorus
  • 1/2 cup serving dried cranberries = 2 mg sodium, 24 mg potassium and 5 mg phosphorus

These tangy, tasty berries are known to protect against bladder infections by preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. In a similar way, cranberries also protect the stomach from ulcer-causing bacteria and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, promoting GI health. Cranberries have also been shown to protect against cancer and heart disease.

Cranberry juice and cranberry sauce are the most frequently consumed cranberry products. You can also add dried cranberries to salads or have them as a snack.

8. Blueberries

  • 1/2 cup serving fresh blueberries = 4 mg sodium, 65 mg potassium, 7 mg phosphorus

Blueberries are high in antioxidant phytonutrients called anthocyanidins, which give them their blue color, and they are bursting with natural compounds that reduce inflammation. Blueberries are a good source of vitamin C; manganese, a compound that keeps your bones healthy; and fiber. They may also help protect the brain from some of the effects of aging. Antioxidants in blueberries and other berries have been shown to help slow bone breakdown in rats made to be low in estrogen.

Buy blueberries fresh, frozen or dried, and try them in cereal or , topped with whipped topping, in a fruit smoothie. You can also drink blueberry juice.

9. Raspberries

  • 1/2 cup serving raspberries = 0 mg sodium, 93 mg potassium, 7 mg phosphorus

Raspberries contain a phytonutrient called ellagic acid which helps neutralize free radicals in the body to prevent cell damage. They also contain flavonoids called anthocyanins, antioxidants which give them their red color. An excellent source of manganese, vitamin C, fiber and folate, a B vitamin, raspberries may have properties that inhibit cancer cell growth and tumor formation.

Add raspberries to cereal, or puree and sweeten them to make a dessert sauce or add them to vinaigrette dressing.

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