No matter what type of food you are looking for, food for kidneys blog is ready to help you. We have easy recipe ideas and helpful tips on what kind of food is good for kidney patients.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What Foods Help Repair Kidneys?
If you have chronic kidney disease, it is crucial to track food and fluid intake because diseased kidneys can’t remove waste products from the body as healthy kidneys can.
Here are kidney-friendly foods that can help repair your kidneys and help you stay healthier longer:
- Apples: Apples are a good source of pectin, a soluble fiber. It can lower cholesterol and glucose levels. It has high antioxidant levels. Fresh apples are also a good source of vitamin C.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are a low-calorie source of fiber and vitamin C. Studies say it has the potential to protect against cancer and heart disease and provides brain health benefits.
- Fish: Certain fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is an essential nutrient to control blood clotting and build cell membranes in the brain. Studies say it may decrease the risk for an abnormal heartbeat, decrease triglycerides levels and lower blood pressure slightly. They may potentially provide benefits in conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Kale: Kale is rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, and many minerals. It is also a source of carotenoids and flavonoids, which are beneficial for eye health and cancer protection. It also contains vitamin K, which is a natural blood thinner. It has a moderate potassium level. Therefore, people on dialysis must avoid it.
- Spinach: Spinach is high in vitamins A, C, and K and folate. The beta-carotene found in spinach helps to boost your immunity and protect your vision. It is also a good source of magnesium.
- Sweet potato: Sweet potato is low in sugar and high in soluble fiber. This helps you feel full.
Other foods that you can include:
- Summer squash
What does a kidney-friendly diet do?
Your kidneys’ major function is to get rid of waste and extra fluid from your body through your urine. They also balance the body’s minerals and fluids and make a hormone that regulates your blood pressure.
A kidney-friendly diet will help protect your kidneys from further damage. You must limit some food and fluids, so other fluids and minerals such as electrolytes do not build up in your body. Also, you must ensure that you are getting the right intake of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals in your daily diet.
If you have early-stage kidney disease, there are a few food items you must limit. But as your disease worsens, you must be more careful about your daily food intake.
What are the ways to make a kidney-friendly and diabetic diet work together?
If you have diabetes along with kidney disease, you need to control your blood sugar to prevent more damage to your kidneys. A diabetic diet and a kidney-friendly diet share a lot of the same food items, but there are some important differences. There are some ways your kidney-friendly diet and diabetic diet can work together.
Below are a few food items that are good for you, if you’re diagnosed with both diabetes and kidney disease.
- Fruits: Berries, papaya, cherries, apples, and plums
- Vegetables: Cauliflower, onions, and spinach
- Proteins: Lean meats (poultry, fish), eggs, and unsalted seafood
- Carbohydrates: Whole-wheat bread, sandwich buns, unsalted crackers, and pasta
- Fluids: Water, clear soups, and unsweetened tea
- If you drink orange juice to treat low blood sugar, switch to kidney-friendly apple juice. It will provide the same blood sugar boost with a lot less potassium.
- Late-stage disease: Your blood sugar levels get better with late-stage kidney disease, possibly because of changes in how the body uses insulin.
- Dialysis: If you are on dialysis, your blood sugar can increase because the fluid used to filter your blood contains a high blood sugar level. Your doctor will monitor you closely and decide whether you will need insulin and other diabetes medicines.
Your doctor and/or dietician will help you to create a meal plan that helps you control your blood sugar level while limiting sodium, phosphorus, potassium, and fluids in the body.
What food items should you limit in kidney disease?
Many food items that are part of a typical healthy diet may not be right for you if you’re suffering from kidney disease.
If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, your doctor may recommend limiting certain food items such as:
- Salt: Avoid table salt and high-sodium seasoning food items. Sodium affects your blood pressure and helps maintain the water level in your body. If you have ankle swelling, high blood pressure, breathing difficulty, and fluid build-up around your heart and lungs, you must avoid salt. You must aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of salt in your daily diet. Use spices or herbs instead of salt. Stay away from packaged food and read labels while shopping. Focus on fresh, home-cooked food. You will get used to food with less salt or no salt within a week or two.
- Potassium: In kidney disease, high potassium levels can build up in your blood and cause serious heart problems. The right level of this mineral keeps your nerves and muscles working well. Avoid tomatoes, oranges, bananas, potatoes, avocados, broccoli, and whole-grain bread, as they are high in potassium. Eat apples, carrots, and salads. Your doctor may recommend a potassium binder to help your body get rid of extra potassium. The doctor may recommend eating foods such as apple, cranberries, strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower, and cucumber.
- Protein: Though protein is important for your body, more protein makes your kidneys work harder and may worsen kidney disease. Consult your dietitian to determine the right combination and amount of protein for you. You may need to cut foods such as meat, seafood, and dairy products.
- Phosphorus: Phosphorus is a mineral that keeps your bones strong and healthy. In kidney disease, your kidneys can’t remove extra phosphorus from your blood very well. It may weaken the bone and may damage your blood vessels, eyes, and heart further. You may even get heart disease. Avoid high phosphorus-containing food items such as meat, fish, dairy, beans, nuts, whole-grain bread, packaged foods, and dark-colored sodas. If you have late-stage kidney disease, your doctor may advise you to have less than 1000 milligrams of phosphorus-rich foods in your diet daily. Choose low-level phosphorus foods such as fresh fruits, veggies, corn, rice, and cereal.
- Calcium: Your doctor may also advise you to avoid over-the-counter calcium supplements and to cut back on calcium-rich foods such as dairy foods. Foods that are high in calcium also tend to be high in phosphorus.
- Fluids: Generally, you need to maintain the water level in your body. However, in early-stage kidney disease, you must limit your fluid levels. Because damaged kidneys do not get rid of extra fluid, too much fluid can be dangerous for you. It can even cause high blood pressure, swelling, and heart failure. It can also build up extra fluid around your lungs and you may have difficulty breathing. You must also need to cut back on some foods that contain a lot of water such as ice cream, gelatin, watermelon, and grapes.
Depending upon the stage of your kidney disease, your doctor will advise you to reduce the potassium, phosphorus, and protein levels in your diet.
What fruit is bad for kidneys?
People suffering from kidney disease should avoid potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, avocados, apricots, and more.
Most fruits are not harmful in individuals with healthy kidneys. When the kidneys are damaged or people suffer from a renal disease, the filtration process is disrupted and waste products are retained in the body. Accumulation of waste or toxic substances in the blood may further damage the kidneys.
- Foods heavy in minerals, such as salt, potassium, and phosphorus, stress the kidneys and may cause further renal damage.
- Among these compounds, avoiding potassium-rich foods and high sodium diet is highly essential in situations, especially kidney damage.
- Dietary modifications are recommended to avoid these substances that increase stress in the kidneys.
The kidneys are essential organs of the body that perform multiple functions, such as:
- Filtration of toxic and waste substances from the body through the urine
- Production of hormone that stimulates red blood cells production
- Maintenance of body’s mineral balance
Although fruits are typically quite beneficial to have in the diet, certain fruits are high in potassium and should be avoided by patients with renal disease, which include:
- Citrus fruits and juices, such as oranges and grapefruit
- Prunes and prune juice
- Dried fruits, such as dates and raisins
- Melons, such as honeydew and cantaloupe
The citric acid in oranges may increase the risk of developing kidney stones in patients with kidney damage. Salt and salt substitutes that are made with potassium are to be avoided. If levels of potassium or other toxic substances increase in the body, the patient may undergo dialysis.
Dialysis is a procedure used to eliminate waste products and excess fluid from the blood when kidneys do not function properly. This procedure is usually performed by redirecting the blood into a machine for cleaning.
How to extract potassium from fruits
If possible, substitute fresh or frozen fruits with canned fruits. The potassium in canned products leaches into the water or juice, thus reducing potassium levels in the fruits. If a person includes this juice in their meal or consumes it, their potassium levels may rise.
The juice often has a high salt content, which causes the body to retain water. This can result in kidney issues. So, before consuming the canned fruits, they must drain the juice and rinse the fruits thoroughly to reduce the salt and potassium content.
Soaking in water and rinsing the fresh fruits thoroughly before consuming helps eliminate unwanted compounds.
What are the effects of high potassium in the body?
Patients with kidney damage or diseases may have high potassium levels in the body even after they consume the daily recommended dose.
Healthy people aged 19 years and older should take at least between 3,400 mg and 2,600 mg of potassium per day, respectively. However, if the kidneys malfunction, the dose should be reduced.
Hyperkalemia (high potassium levels in the body) may lead to:
- Abdomen pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness in the limbs
- Difficulty breathing
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Palpitations of the heart (fast or fluttering heartbeat)
Consult a doctor if the symptoms worsen.