Renal diets are critical for managing chronic kidney disease -- and these
“super foods” help protect the body from a range of other
March is National Kidney Month, which aims to raise public awareness for
kidney disease. With its emphasis on kidney-friendly foods, this observance
highlights how specific fruits and vegetables help support the body in
several important ways.
For those who have chronic kidney disease (CKD), these “super foods”
are recommended for inclusion in a renal diet to maintain optimal health,
and help protect kidneys from further damage. When dieticians talk about
super foods, they are generally referring to the vegetables and fruits
that are highest in antioxidants, along with other healthy nutrients.
Antioxidants are the body’s ally in counteracting
inflammation, which is at the root of many diseases, including CKD.
"People with kidney disease experience more inflammation and are more
at risk of cardiovascular disease than those who don’t have kidney
Abhijit Adhye, MD, FACP, a board-certified internal medicine physician at
St. Joseph Health Medical Group. “Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that are linked to kidney
disease, and lower the inflammation that aggravates the condition. Following
a renal diet of kidney-friendly, low-potassium foods, and working closely
with a renal dietician, is a wise approach for managing CKD.
kidneys clean the blood and maintain the critical balance of water and minerals
in the body,” says Dr. Adhye. “They are also an essential
part of red blood cell production, regulating blood pressure and building
bones. When the kidneys are damaged, waste products and fluids can build
up and cause ankle swelling, weakness, nausea and poor sleep. Untreated,
diseased kidneys can stop working completely. Loss of kidney function
is potentially a fatal condition.”
If you have kidney disease, consult a renal dietitian who can create a
meal plan that works for you. Everybody is different and will have different
nutrition needs, but most kidney diets will include at least some of the
super foods listed below.
Super Foods for Your Kidneys
Including these fruits and vegetables in your kidney diet eating plan
can help you increase your intake of nutrients and antioxidants. These
super foods are hugely beneficial for everyone, not just people with kidney
disease, so by using them in your daily meals, you'll be helping support
good health overall.
Olive oil is rich in the fatty acids and monounsaturated fats (“good
fats”), and contain antioxidants that prevent inflammation. Research
shows that cultures that rely on olive oil over other fats tend to have
lower rates of cancer and heart disease. Olive oil doesn’t have
to be only used for salad dressing or marinades, it can be used as a substitute
for butter, cream and many other ingredients.
Garlic is an antioxidant powerhouse that reduces inflammation and lowers
cholesterol. Garlic can be used in a wide variety of dishes, and its strong
flavor helps it act as a salt substitute. Whether used fresh or powdered,
garlic is a great ally in maintaining kidney health.
Another versatile ingredient, onion contains flavonoids that have strong
antioxidant properties. These are also thought to help with heart disease
and even prevent many types of cancer. Whether used raw or cooked, include
a variety of onions – brown, white and red – in your dishes
for powerful kidney support.
An excellent source of quality protein, fish should be eaten two or three
times a week as part of a kidney-friendly diet plan. The anti-inflammatory
omega-3 fatty acids in fish are not just good for the kidneys, they help
prevent heart disease and cancer as well. Fish with the highest amounts
of omaga-3s include albacore tuna, mackerel, herring rainbow trout and salmon.
Egg whites are pure protein, with less phosphorous than meats or egg yolks,
which helps prevent this mineral from building up in your system. Egg
whites can be used in omelets, sandwiches, salads and even smoothies and shakes.
Apples are good for reducing inflammation, and have other great health
benefits as well: They help reduce cholesterol, protect against heart
disease and lower the risk of cancer. Apples can be eaten raw or cooked,
and the same kidney-friendly properties are present in apple juice and
Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are perfect for a renal diet: Full of flavor, color and
vitamins, red bell peppers are low in potassium and rich in antioxidants.
Red bell peppers are versatile because they are easily added to all sorts
of recipes. Chop them into salads, soups and sauces, grill, roast or stuff
them – red bell peppers can brighten up almost any dish.
Cabbage is loaded with phytochemicals, the compounds that work against
free radicals that lead to inflammation. High in vitamins yet low in potassium,
kidney-friendly cabbage can be enjoyed raw in salads, steamed or stuffed
– and it’s one of the least-expensive foods on the market.
Its cruciferous cousin, the cauliflower, has similar benefits, and can
be a great substitute for mashed potatoes.
Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and cranberries are all considered
to be among nature’s top super foods, and are packed with inflammation-lowering
antioxidants. Berries contain a wide array of vitamins, fiber, folate
and phytonutrients that neutralize free radicals. These qualities help
them prevent heart disease and certain cancers as well. Easy to use, berries
can be juiced, sprinkled on cereal, added to smoothies, baked into cereal
bars or made into salad dressing. With their natural sweetness, there
are all sorts of ways berries can act as a sugar substitute.
If you are concerned about the health of your kidneys, these super foods
should be added to your regular shopping list. “Be sure to consult
with a renal dietitian who can help incorporate them into a meal plan
if you do have chronic kidney disease,” adds Dr. Adhye. “When
shopping for fruits and vegetables, aim for variety, since they all contain
different types of nutrients. And look for the freshest ones, since they
will have more nutrients overall. But even when past their peak, these
fruits and vegetables will still be valuable for maintaining your kidney
Nutritional recommendations for adults with chronic kidney disease stages 3 to 4
||≤0.8 g/kg/day, increase plant source.
||<2.3 g/day (<5 g/day of NaCl).
||Individualize to keep the serum potassium within a normal range.
||1.5 g/day from both dietary and medication sources.
||0.8 to 1 g/day or individualize to keep the value within normal range.
Increase vegetable source and avoid processed foods as much as possible.
||30 to 35 kcal/kg/day; <30% of total calories from fat and <10% of
total fat from saturated fat. DASH diet pattern highly recommended.
||25 to 38 g/day.
Learn more about
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Have you experienced kidney disease? Share your story below.
Mayo Clinic: Chronic Kidney Disease
WebMD: Understanding Kidney Disease
American Kidney Fund
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.