A healthy kidney is as important as a healthy heart. Kidneys filter out the waste and extra water and remove harmful toxins from the body in the form of urine. In addition, these bean-shaped organs are responsible for secreting vital hormones and maintaining a balance of electrolytes and other fluids in your body.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million adults in America suffer from some kind of kidney disease.(2)
Several health issues that have become quite prevalent in this day and age, such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and heart disease, can also have a major bearing on your renal function and pave the way for kidney disease.
Other risk factors that can increase your propensity for renal dysfunction include obesity, urinary tract infections, and autoimmune diseases. Moreover, some people may have a genetic predisposition to kidney problems.
What’s a Renal Diet?
Keeping tabs on what you eat and drink can go a long way in ensuring the health of your kidneys. This is especially true if you are already dealing with some kind of renal dysfunction such that your kidneys are unable to filter or remove wastes from your blood properly.
The gradual buildup of waste in your body and your kidney’s faliure to filter them can have an adverse impact on the electrolyte balance within your body.
A renal diet is a kidney-friendly way of eating that limits the intake of certain foods and fluids to prevent the minerals in those foods from building up in your body. Although the foundational basis of a renal diet is to protect your kidneys from further damage, there is no standard plan that applies to all patients of kidney disease.
The dietary restrictions vary depending on the stage of kidney disease, and each patient is expected to work with a renal dietitian to come up with a diet that is tailored to his or her health needs. People in the early stages of chronic kidney disease are usually subjected to fewer and minor food limitations.
However, the stakes are higher for those with end-stage renal disease or kidney failure. They will have to be extra careful about what they eat or drink accordingly.
Given that people with chronic kidney disease find it hard to remove excess sodium, potassium, and phosphorus from their blood, a renal diet usually runs low on these minerals.
Furthermore, patients of kidney disease in stages 1-4 are recommended to cut down on the consumption of protein because their kidneys cannot adequately filter the waste products of protein metabolism. This dietary restriction, however, does not apply to patients with end-stage renal disease who require additional protein intake due to the ongoing dialysis.
While curtailing on certain unfavorable dietary elements, you must not forget to supplement your body with the right kind of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals. Making the right food choices will not only help your kidneys function at their best but also support good overall health.
The ideal renal diet plan will optimize on certain fruits, vegetables, and other food items that are richly supplied with antioxidants. Antioxidants such as flavonoids, lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C promote kidney health by mitigating the rate of oxidation caused by free radicals, a prime culprit for kidney problems.(3)
Healthy Foods for Healthy Kidneys
Here are some kidney-friendly foods that help promote optimal renal function.
1. Cabbage Helps Your Kidneys Fare Better
Cabbage improves kidney functioning and is most commonly used as a natural medicine to repair and nourish the kidneys. It is an essential food for anyone suffering from kidney problems.(4)
Cabbage is packed with phytochemicals that help break up free radicals before they can do any serious damage to your kidneys.
Also, it is high in vitamin B6 (124 mcg/100 g), C (36.6 mcg/100 g), and K (76 mcg/100 g), along with fiber (2.5 mg/100 g) and folic acid (43 mcg/100 g), all of which are conducive to optimal kidney health.
Given that this leafy green has a minimal potassium content, cabbage makes for a great addition to a dialysis diet. You can enjoy this vegetable steamed or boiled.
2. Berries are Nutritionally Robust
Being excellent sources of manganese, vitamin C, fiber, and folate, different types of berries such as strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, and blueberries are good for your kidneys.(5) The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of these berries help reduce inflammation and improve bladder functioning.
You can choose fresh, frozen, or dried berries, and eat them raw or add them to your favorite cereal or smoothie to promote kidney health.
3. Fish is the Kind of Protein that Your Kidneys Need
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation in the body and hence protect the kidneys from various diseases. Also, fish is a good source of high-quality protein.
According to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the consumption of fish helps lower abnormal levels of protein in urine in people suffering from diabetes.(6)
The types of fish that are best for the kidneys are salmon, rainbow trout, mackerel, herring, and tuna. The American Diabetes Association and The American Heart Association recommend having two to three servings of fish each week.(7)
You must eat steamed, baked, or roasted fish instead of fried fish to reduce kidney problems.
Egg whites are recommended for people with kidney disease due to their low phosphorous content and high-quality protein. The high-quality protein contains an essential amino acid that is necessary for the kidneys to function properly.(8) Additionally, when high-quality protein is metabolized in the body, it produces fewer waste products.
You can use egg whites to make omelets or sandwiches or eat hard-boiled eggs without the yolk. People with kidney problems should avoid eating egg yolks. High protein intake, too, is not recommended as it can cause extra burden on the kidneys.
5. Olive Oil is the Right Kind of Grease
Olive oil is good for your heart and your kidneys. This oil is a great source of oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid that lowers oxidation and promotes kidney health. Also, olive oil is rich in polyphenols and antioxidant compounds that prevent inflammation and oxidation.(9)
Virgin and extra virgin olive oil contain higher amounts of antioxidants than regular olive oil, so use one of these to get the most health benefits.
You can use olive oil to make salad dressings and in your everyday cooking. It’s also good for dipping bread or marinating fish and vegetables.
6. Garlic Helps Promote Kidney Health
Garlic has antioxidants and anticlotting properties that can effectively reduce the chances of kidney disease as well as heart disease.
Eating one to two raw garlic cloves daily on an empty stomach can greatly reduce bad cholesterol levels and inflammation in the body.
A study on a rat model published in the Iranian Journal of Kidney Disease showed that garlic juice significantly prevented renal reperfusion-induced functional and histological injuries.(10)
Moreover, garlic consumption is known to protect the kidneys from the potentially harmful effects of heavy metals.
You can use fresh, bottled, minced, or powdered garlic in your dishes to add aroma and flavor to your dishes as well as reap its health benefits.
7. Make the Best of Onion’s Versatility
Onions are full of powerful antioxidants that help detoxify and cleanse the kidneys, thereby helping prevent many types of kidney-related health problems. Low in potassium, onions also contain chromium, a mineral that helps the body metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
A study on a rat model published in Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin found that fresh onion juice has a strong antioxidant potential that is helpful in decreasing cell injury such as nephron apoptosis and can reverse the harmful effects of T. gondii, which can seriously affect and injure the kidneys.(11)
On top of that, these pungent-smelling layered vegetables are prized for their potent anti-inflammatory properties.
Onions can be enjoyed raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Eating raw onions can help treat kidney stones naturally.
8. Red Bell Peppers Have All the Makings of a Kidney-Friendly Food
Red bell peppers help break down toxic waste in the blood and, therefore, contribute to kidney health. They are low in potassium and rich in vitamin A, B6, and C, folic acid, and fiber.
When suffering from kidney problems, it is often advised to keep your potassium intake low because damaged kidneys may not be able to effectively filter potassium from your blood.(12)
This tasty vegetable also contains lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against certain types of cancers.
You can include red bell peppers in your diet in raw, baked, roasted, cooked, or stuffed form.(13)
9. Eat Cauliflower to Safeguard Your Kidneys
This cruciferous vegetable is high in vitamin C (48.2 mcg/100 g) and contains a good amount of folate (57 mcg/100 g) and fiber (2g/100 g). It also has compounds such as indoles, glucosinolates, and thiocyanates that help the liver neutralize toxic substances that can otherwise damage cell membranes and DNA.
Cauliflower can be eaten raw with dips or in salads. You can also try steamed, boiled, fried, roasted, or baked cauliflower dishes. However, being high in purines that lead to the accumulation of uric acid, cauliflower may not be suitable for those suffering from gout and kidney stones.(15)
10. Apples Prevent Kidney Damage
Apples are good for detoxifying and cleansing the kidneys as they are high in fiber and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, apples help prevent urinary tract infections and thus may help reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Additionally, apples are great for reducing cholesterol, protecting against heart problems, decreasing your risk of cancer, and helping prevent constipation.
It won’t be an overstatement to say that an apple a day can keep kidney problems at bay. You can enjoy this crunchy and juicy fruit raw, in baked desserts, or as applesauce or juice.
According to a research published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and whole grains and low in salt, red meat, processed meat, and sweetened beverages can help prevent kidney stones.(16)
Including the above-mentioned food choices in your diet will supply you with kidney-friendly nutrients and antioxidants that can help delay the progression of kidney disease.
Moreover, people without any noticeable renal dysfunction can also stave off potential damage by eating more of these healthy goods. Thus, almost anyone can benefit from using them in their daily meals, irrespective of the state of their kidneys.
When suffering from any kidney problem, though, make sure to enlist the expert advice of your doctor and nutritionist before finalizing a diet plan. A professional in the field of nephrology and dietetics will take into account your overall health and kidney function before determining the appropriate food choices for your case.
- Subbiah AK, Chhabra YK, Mahajan S. Cardiovascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease: a neglected subgroup. Heart Asia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133395/. Published November 7, 2016.
- About Chronic Kidney Disease. The National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/about-chronic-kidney-disease. Published March 28, 2018.
- Dennis JM, Witting PK. Protective Role for Antioxidants in Acute Kidney Disease. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537833/. Published July 7, 2017.
- Sahay M, Sahay R, Baruah MP. Nutrition in chronic kidney disease. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals. http://www.jmnn.org/article.asp?issn=2278-1870;year=2014;volume=3;issue=1;spage=11;epage=18;aulast=Sahay. Published 2014.
- Nair AR, Elks CM, Vila J. A Blueberry-Enriched Diet Improves Renal Function and Reduces Oxidative Stress in Metabolic Syndrome Animals: Potential Mechanism of TLR4-MAPK Signaling Pathway. PLoS One. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4221362/. Published November 5, 2014.
- Fish Swims to the Top of the Diabetic Diet. The National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/news/ekidney/november08/FishRelease_november08. Published March 3, 2017.
- Evert AB, Boucher JL, Cypress M. Nutrition Therapy Recommendations for the Management of Adults With Diabetes. Diabetes Care. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/Supplement_1/S120. Published January 2014.
- Taylor LM, -Zadeh KK, Markewich T. DIETARY EGG WHITES FOR PHOSPHORUS CONTROL IN MAINTENANCE HAEMODIALYSIS PATIENTS: A PILOT STUDY. Journal of Renal Care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4564395/. Published September 10, 2015.
- Campbell KL, Carrero JJ. Diet for the Management of Patients With Chronic Kidney Disease; It Is Not the Quantity, but the Quality That Matters. Journal of Renal Nutrition. https://www.jrnjournal.org/article/S1051-2276(16)30060-7/abstract. Published September 2016.
- Bagheri F, Gol A, Dabiri S, Javadi A. Preventive effect of garlic juice on renal reperfusion injury. Iranian Journal of Kidney Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21525580. Published July 2011.
- Gharadaghi Y, Shojaee S, Khaki A. Modulating effect of Allium cepa on kidney apoptosis caused by Toxoplasma gondii. Advanced Pharmaceutical Bulletin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3846023/. Published February 15, 2012.
- Din UAASE, Salem MM, Abdulazim DO. Stop chronic kidney disease progression: Time is approaching. World Journal of Nephrology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848149/. Published May 6, 2016.
- Sim KH, Sil HY. Antioxidant activities of red pepper (Capsicum annuum) pericarp and seed extracts. International Journal of Food Science & Technology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2621.2008.01715.x. Published September 10, 2008.
- Ahmed FA, Ali RFM. Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Fresh and Processed White Cauliflower. BioMed Research International. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793502/. Published September 22, 2013.
- Melton A. Home-Delivered Meal Options for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients. Plum X Metrix. https://www.jrnjournal.org/article/S1051-2276(12)00138-0/fulltext. Published September 2012.
- An apple a day keeps kidney stones away. American Society of Nephrology. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-08/ason-aaa081009.php. Published August 13, 2009.