The Best Foods for Healthy Kidneys

Try these healthy foods if you want healthy kidneys!

Kidney disease is a widespread problem, affecting a whopping ten percent of the world’s population. That’s approximately three-quarters of a billion people! The most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. The best foods for healthy kidneys are low in sodium, phosphorus, and potassium. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that so many people suffer from kidney disease. Processed foods are loaded with all three of these things, and this type of food also contributes to the conditions that lead to unhealthy kidneys.

Even if you have healthy kidneys, it doesn’t hurt to begin incorporating the following foods into your daily diet. If you currently have kidney problems, you should speak with your doctor before switching up your eating plan. Once you get the green light, give these foods a try. We also included some incredible recipes!

Important Kidney Functions

Your kidneys are the two bean-shaped organs that lie against the back muscles in the upper abdominal area. These organs are responsible for several different functions, including:

  • Maintaining overall fluid balance in the body.
  • Regulating and filtering minerals from your blood.
  • Filtering out wastes from food, medications, and toxic substances.
  • Creating hormones that produce red blood cells, promoting bone health, and regulating blood pressure.

Kidney-Healthy Food Guidelines

Healthy Kidneys Food guidelines

Before we get to the list of foods, there are a few tips that will help you keep your diet kidney-friendly. The following guidelines will improve kidney function and prevent any further damage.

Limit Alcohol Intake: Not only will alcohol interfere with the kidneys’ ability to filter blood, but it will also dehydrate you.

Decrease Your Sodium Consumption: Kidney disease can reduce the body’s ability to balance sodium and water levels, requiring you to limit daily salt intake to no more than 2,000 milligrams.

Eat Small Portions of Protein: If you suffer from kidney disease, your body struggles with eliminating waste from protein. Therefore, it’s important to keep your protein portions small.

Avoid Saturated Fats and Trans Fats: These fats can inhibit the kidneys’ ability to function properly. Try to eat mostly unsaturated fats, like olive oil.

Limit Fried Food: Frying food increases fat content, thus increasing the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Give your kidneys a break and grill, bake, broil, or roast your food instead!

Choose Foods Lower in Potassium: Diseased kidneys can’t filter potassium out of the blood properly. High levels of potassium in the blood can be hazardous. For this reason, potassium intake should be limited. Daily intake should be less than 2,000 mg.

Avoid Foods High in Phosphorus: High levels of phosphorus in the body can be potentially damaging as well. Daily intake should be limited to no more than 800-1,000 milligrams.

Focus on Fresh Food Instead of Processed Foods: Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. If you do eat vegetables out of a can or from the freezer section, we recommend rinsing them thoroughly before consumption.

The Best Foods for Healthy Kidneys

Apples

apples are on the renal diet

It’s no surprise that apples made the list. After all, they are the ultimate healthy-heart food and the focus of the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This vitamin-packed fruit contains no sodium and is extremely low in phosphorus.

Recipe to try: Apple and Endive Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Arugula

Many greens are high in potassium, but not arugula. Aside from being chock-full of essential vitamins, arugula also contains nitrates that lower blood pressure.

Recipe to try: Feta Cheese, Apple, and Arugula Quesadilla

Bell Peppers

While bell peppers are low in sodium and phosphorus, it’s one of the few vegetables that are also low in potassium. These veggies are full of antioxidants that improve immune function as well, making them an excellent choice for kidney patients.

Recipe to try: Asian Stuffed Bell Peppers

Buckwheat

buckwheat pancakes that are safe for people with kidney issues

This nutritious food is a low-phosphorus whole grain. If you’re a kidney patient, you need this in your diet.

Recipe to try: Buckwheat Pancakes with Berry Sauce

Bulgur

Bulgur is a solid source of protein and another good alternative to grains that are high in phosphorus and potassium.

Recipe to try: Herbed Salmon with Broccoli Bulgur Pilaf

Cabbage

This vegetable is loaded with vitamins and minerals while also being low in sodium, phosphorus, and potassium! If you’re not a fan of cabbage yet, you will be once you try the recipe below.

Recipe to try: One Pot “Stuffed” Cabbage Stew

Cauliflower

Eat cauliflower on the kidney diet

Ah, cauliflower! This is another vegetable low in sodium, phosphorus, and potassium, and it can be served in a number of different ways. It’s nutritious and full of anti-inflammatory compounds.

Recipe to try: 30-Minute Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

Cherries

This fruit is packed with antioxidants that protect the heart. If your heart is healthy, your kidneys are more likely to be healthy, as well. Cherries are delicious, but they’re also capable of decreasing inflammation. Did we mention that they contain no sodium and are very low in phosphorus?

Recipe to try: Peach, Cherry, and Almond Overnight Oats

Cranberries

This tart fruit will benefit the urinary tract and kidneys by preventing infection. Cranberries are low in sodium, phosphorus, and potassium, making them an excellent option for kidney patients. It’s important to mention that you should always choose all-natural cranberries and juice to avoid any added sugars.

Recipe to try: Green Beans with Cranberries and Walnuts

Egg Whites

Egg whites are a great source of protein

While egg yolks are not inherently unhealthy, they can be if you’re a kidney patient. The yolks contain high levels of phosphorus, but the egg whites offer a kidney-friendly protein with much less phosphorus.

Recipe to try: Individual Eggs and Spinach Bowls

Fish (Salmon, Trout, Tuna)

Fish can contain high levels of phosphorus, but salmon, trout, and tuna contain less than average. These high-quality protein options are great sources of unsaturated fat and good cholesterol. Even further, the healthy fats in fish can lower bad cholesterol and fight heart disease.

Recipe to try: Salmon Foil Packet with Mushroom and Garlic

Garlic

Adding garlic to a meal is one of the best ways to increase flavor while keeping sodium, phosphorus, and potassium in check. This nutritious flavor-enhancer is also full of anti-inflammatory properties.

Recipe to try: 3-Ingredient Crispy Garlic Broccoli

Onions

Incorporate onions into your diet

Much like garlic, onions provide low-phosphorus and sodium-free flavor. Onions are also loaded with vitamins that promote digestive health.

Recipe to try: Pepper and Onion Wraps

Radish

These veggies are low in phosphorus and potassium, but they’re chock-full of many other nutrients! The vitamins found in radishes work to decrease the risk of heart disease.

Recipe to try: Grilled Shrimp and Radish Chopped Salad

Red Grapes

Red grapes are more than just a tasty snack; they’re also loaded with antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Furthermore, they’re low in sodium, benefit heart health, and protect against diabetes!

Recipe to try: Clean-Eating Chicken Salad

Shiitake Mushrooms

mushrooms are good for your health

This savory food is often used as a meat substitute for kidney patients. Shiitake mushrooms are low in potassium and are an excellent source of plant-based protein.

Recipe to try: Pan Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Shiitakes and Smoked Paprika

Skinless Chicken

Whether you’re a kidney patient or not, one thing remains the same: we all need protein! Chicken contains some of the lowest levels of sodium, phosphorus, and potassium than any other meat protein source. Removing the skin will decrease the fat levels, making it easier for your kidneys to filter waste.

Recipe to try: Chicken, Broccoli and Asparagus Stir Fry

Strawberries

Strawberries are safe to eat

There is practically no sodium in these tasty little fruits and hardly any phosphorus, either. Strawberries contain anti-inflammatory properties that protect the heart (and kidneys, too!)

Recipe to try: Strawberry Rhubarb Buckwheat Bars

Water

This technically isn’t a food, but don’t forget to drink lots of WATER! Staying hydrated will decrease the amount of effort that your kidneys have to give.

Don’t wait until you have kidney issues to start eating right. The sooner you start eating healthy foods, the better off you will be! Get proactive!

What do you think about the best foods for healthy kidneys? Do you already eat any of them regularly? Which ones are you going to try to incorporate into your diet? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Erin Miller

Erin is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist. She’s a Florida girl, currently living in Colorado. Some of her favorite hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, and hanging out at the beach, although weight lifting is her greatest passion. Erin believes that sustainability is the single most important factor to a successful fitness routine. She says, “If you can find a form of exercise that you truly enjoy, there will never be a fitness goal that you can’t achieve!"

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