Best & Worst Foods For Your Kidneys

When it comes to optimal kidney health, it’s ideal to consume healthy foods that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but are relatively low in potassium and/or phosphorus. “Foods that contain antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals in the body,” Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, says. “Foods that protect against oxidation may be good choices for dialysis patients or people with chronic kidney disease.” A kidney-friendly meal plan can limit how much of certain minerals and fluid you eat and drink. This can help keep the waste and fluid from building up and causing problems. For healthy individuals, it’s crucial to drink enough water so that the kidneys can properly flush out any excess waste materials. If you are not drinking enough water, your body will not secrete enough urine, which can lead to kidney dysfunction, such as the creation of kidney stones. According to the Institute of Medicine, daily fluid intake is roughly 2.7 liters (about 11 cups) a day for women, and 3.7 liters (about 15 cups) a day for men. However, if you have kidney disease and you’re looking to improve your overall kidney health, Bannan says you may need to limit your fluid intake.

BEST FOODS

Fatty Fish

If you wish to eat fish, choose salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, or herring because they increase omega-3 fatty acids and mono-unsaturated fats in the diet. “A meta-analysis of research done in 2017 found that omega-3s have been shown to decrease proteinuria, a common complication in kidney disease,” Bannan says.

Egg Whites

Since egg yolks contain a lot of phosphorus, which should be avoided if you suffer from kidney issues, just stick with the egg whites for a healthy, kidney-safe, and delicious breakfast choice.

Cauliflower

The vegetable is rich with antioxidants, including vitamins C and K, calcium, iron, and magnesium. In addition to providing anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial effects, cauliflower is also a great source of fiber. Mashed cauliflower is a great way to add more to your diet—they’re easy to make and are overall a better choice instead of mashed potatoes.

Berries

Berries, specifically blueberries, are a great source of natural antioxidants. They’re also ideal for a kidney diet because they are low in phosphorus, potassium, and sodium, and also reduce inflammation.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is an essential ingredient in the kitchen, so it’s a plus that it’s kidney-friendly. Olive oil also contains oleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory effects. Most importantly for a kidney-safe, best renal diet, olive oil is phosphorus-free. Opt for virgin or extra virgin for salads, marinades, and sautéing because they’re higher in antioxidants.

Garlic

Not only does it smell and taste delicious, but garlic also contains vitamin C and vitamin B6. Be sure to use garlic as a flavor booster while cooking instead of adding salt, and always opt for garlic powder over garlic salt.

Red Grapes

The juicy and delicious fruit contains flavonoids, which are known to help prevent inflammation. A 2017 study even showed that daily intake of grape powder can help reduce the progression of kidney disease. You can drink red grapes in the form of grape juice, or incorporate them into different recipes.

Chicken

Some people with kidney issues may need to be on a low protein diet, but if you’re not one of those people, chicken, specifically skinless, is a solid choice. Skinless chicken contains less fat, sodium, and phosphorus than skin-on chicken, which is why it’s a good choice for a kidney-specific diet. Plus, it’s easy to incorporate in countless recipes.

Cabbage

Cabbage is delicious and super affordable but most importantly, it’s packed with nutrients and minerals, which are great for kidney health, as well as stomach health. In cabbage, you will find calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, fiber, manganese, vitamin B6, folate, and more. It’s also low in phosphorus and potassium, two minerals you should avoid if you have kidney disease.

Bell Peppers

Red peppers are packed with vitamin C and vitamin A, which improves the immune system. Those with kidney disease may have a compromised immune system, so the more of these vitamins, the better. The vegetable is an easy ingredient to cook with too, as it can be used in a slew of recipes like stuffed peppers and fajitas, as well as an addition to omelettes, dips, salads, or sandwiches.

WORST FOODS

Dried Beans And Peas

Dried beans and peas happen to be very high in phosphorus. It’s also ideal to avoid the canned versions of beans and peas as well since they’re known to be high in sodium.

Dairy Products

Dairy products, including milk, ice cream, yogurt, and cheese, should be avoided because dairy naturally contains a lot of phosphorus and potassium. However, dairy products are rich in calcium, so just be cautious of pairing too much dairy with other phosphorus and potassium-rich foods if you are allowed to indulge once in a while.

Nuts

While nuts (yes, that includes spread such as peanut butter) are packed with nutrients and minerals, they are also unfortunately high in potassium, phosphorus, and sodium. Swap nut butters for more kidney-friendly spreads such as butter, margarine (both potassium-free), jelly, or jam.

Bran Products

Bran products, such as whole wheat/grain bread, oatmeal, and cereal contain a lot of phosphorus and potassium, so you’re better off with white bread if you suffer from kidney issues. Furthermore, a lot of bread-products tend to be high in sodium.

Bananas

Bananas are known to be of the most potassium-rich fruits out there. Unfortunately, a lot of fruits are high in potassium, so Bannan recommends avoiding juices made from them, including orange juice, tomato juice, prune juice, apricot juice, and grapefruit juice.

Red Meat

Both red and processed meats are high in sodium, protein, and phosphorus, all of which should be avoided in a kidney-friendly diet. “For people with both diabetes and kidney disease, this can make their insulin resistance worse,” Bannan says. “A research review found that limiting red meat in the diet could potentially slow the progression of kidney disease, as well as reduce cardiovascular risk.”