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13 Best Foods for Healthy Kidneys

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Your kidneys are like filters that get rid of everything you don’t want in your body. These two bean-shaped organs filter your blood and remove toxins and excess fluids. Not only that, but they also control your levels of potassium, sodium and more. At the same time, they produce hormones that help regulate everything from your blood pressure to the strength of your bones. Long story short: your kidneys do a lot.

So much, in fact, that they can be overtaxed. About one in seven Americans has chronic kidney disease, which can cause waste and fluid buildup in your body. Worse still, most people with CKD don’t know they have it.

Poor eating habits increase your risk of CKD. But when you eat the best foods for your kidneys, the reverse may be true. Since some foods are good for the kidneys, what you eat can help protect your kidney health.

The best foods for healthy kidneys

These are our top picks of foods to add to your diet for optimal kidney health.

1. Oily fish

Fish provides protein, and when you choose a fatty fish like tuna, salmon, or trout, you also get omega-3 fatty acids. According to the National Kidney Foundation, omega-3 fatty acids can help lower levels of fats (triglycerides) in the blood and can also lower blood pressure.

If you suffer from CRF, you may need to monitor the phosphorus and potassium levels of the fish you choose. The National Kidney Foundation has a chart you can use to determine levels for certain types of fish. However, it is best to consult your doctor.

2. Cabbage

This nutrient-dense vegetable is low in potassium and sodium while containing fiber, vitamins C and K and more.

In addition, cabbage is versatile. You can use it in salads and coleslaw, but you can also use it as a wrap for tacos, sandwiches and more.

3. Peppers

Like cabbage, peppers contain lots of good nutrients with low levels of potassium. With them you get vitamins B6, B9, C and K, as well as fiber. And they also provide antioxidants.

You can slice them and eat them with dips or roast them and add them to dinner.

Red bell pepper on cutting board with hands and knife slicing it

Jacobs Stock Photography/Getty Images

4. Cranberries

Cranberries help prevent urinary tract infections. Although they usually stay in your bladder, they can travel up to your kidneys, making kidney problems worse. Fortunately, consuming cranberries regularly can help you avoid this unfortunate situation.

Plus, cranberries contain antioxidants that can help fight inflammation, and they can improve your heart and digestive health. Turns out these tart berries aren’t just for the Thanksgiving table.

5. Blueberries

We’ve talked about some of the best kidney foods, but you can go further. The question is, what foods help repair the kidneys? Blueberries deliver here.

With high levels of antioxidants and loads of vitamin C and fiber, blueberries are healthy. They can also help reduce inflammation and promote bone health, reversing some of the problems that can occur with CRF.

6. Dark leafy greens

There are plenty of reasons to turn to dark leafy greens like spinach or kale. They provide so many nutrients that they can help you get essential vitamins and minerals, as well as immunity-boosting benefits.

Be aware, however, that green vegetables can contain a decent amount of potassium. If you have CKD, talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet.

7. Olive oil

Rich in antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, olive oil can improve your overall well-being. A Harvard University study found that olive oil can reduce cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, and certain types of cancer.

Beyond all that, it can help you add flavor to dishes without relying on salt or butter.

For more antioxidants, choose unrefined or cold-pressed, virgin or extra-virgin olive oil.

8. Garlic

Another antioxidant-rich anti-inflammatory food, garlic also contains a specific compound called allicin. For people with CKD, allicin — an active compound found in garlic — has been just as effective in helping to protect kidney health as a prescription drug. If you are looking for the best foods for your kidneys, garlic has to be on the list.

Plus, it’s a great way to add flavor even when you skimp on the salt.

9. Onions

Related to garlic, onions give you another great salt-free way to add flavor (bonus points if you sauté them in olive oil). Onions also provide important nutrients like vitamins B6 and C, manganese and copper.

They also contain quercetin, a chemical that may help your body fight cancer, and organic sulfur compounds that may lower your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

10. Cauliflower

Cauliflower provides the crunch, combined with lots of vitamins C, B6, B9 and K, as well as fiber. It also contains compounds that your body can use to neutralize certain toxins, which is a big help when your kidneys aren’t doing their best job of filtering.

Cauliflower contains potassium and phosphorus, however, although it makes the list of kidney-friendly foods, people with CKD may want to moderate their intake.

Green, white and purple cauliflowers on a cutting board

Thanasis/Getty Images

11. Egg whites

Egg whites are especially recommended for people with kidney problems. They give you a way to boost your protein levels – which can be important with late-stage CKD, especially if you’re on dialysis.

12. Arugula

Arugula is packed with nutrients your body needs like magnesium, iron, calcium, and vitamins A, B9, C, and K. Plus, it’s high in antioxidants and contains glucosinolates, which can help your body heal. protect against a range of cancer types.

You can eat arugula raw (it’s a great salad base), but you can also sprinkle it on anything you make. It is excellent on pizzas, in omelettes and with pasta, for example.

13. Apples

Apples provide quercetin and cancer-fighting fiber that can help keep your cholesterol and blood sugar at healthy levels. And they have lots of antioxidants.

Best of all, they’re easy to incorporate into your diet. Leave a bowl of apples on your counter and you’ll have a kidney-healthy on-the-go snack whenever you need it.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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