13 Nutrient-Packed Foods for Optimal Kidney Health

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Our kidneys, those tireless little bean-shaped champions, work overtime to keep our bodies running smoothly. They filter waste products, regulate blood pressure, and even produce hormones. But just like any machine, they need the right fuel to function at their best.

Forget fancy supplements or crash diets! The key to optimal kidney health might be hiding in your pantry or refrigerator. This isn’t about deprivation, it’s about embracing delicious, nutrient-packed foods that can become the foundation of a kidney-friendly lifestyle.

Imagine a vibrant plate bursting with color and flavor. We’re talking crisp bell peppers with their hidden stores of vitamin C, or the sweet and tart tang of cranberries, nature’s tiny warriors against urinary tract woes. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna aren’t just a treat for your taste buds, they’re loaded with omega-3s, the heart-healthy fats that also benefit your kidneys.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but a treasure map to some of the best foods you can incorporate into your diet. We’ll delve deeper into the wonders of each food, explore their unique benefits, and discover how to create delicious dishes that tantalize your taste buds while keeping your kidneys happy. So, ditch the fad diets and unveil the power of real, wholesome food. Let’s embark on a journey to discover the 13 nutrient-packed superstars that will transform your approach to kidney health, one delicious bite at a time!

13 best foods for healthy kidneys

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

1. Fatty fish

Fish delivers protein, and when you choose a fatty fish like tuna, salmon or trout, you’re also getting omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats may help reduce fat levels (triglycerides) in the blood and may also lower blood pressure, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

If you have CKD, you may need to keep an eye on the phosphorus and potassium levels of the fish you choose. The National Kidney Foundation has a chart you can use to determine levels in specific types of fish. Although, it’s best to consult with your doctor.

2. Cabbage

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

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

3. Bell peppers

Like cabbage, bell peppers pack in lots of good nutrients with low levels of potassium. With them, you get vitamins B6, B9, C and K, plus fiber. And they deliver antioxidants, too.

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

4. Cranberries

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

Plus, cranberries have antioxidants that can help to fight inflammation, and they can boost your heart and digestive health. It turns out, these tart berries aren’t just for the Thanksgiving table.

5. Blueberries

We’ve talked about some of the best foods for kidneys, but you can take it a step further. The question is: What foods help repair kidneys? Blueberries deliver here.

With high levels of antioxidants and loads of vitamin C and fiber, blueberries are all-around healthy. They can also help to reduce inflammation and support bone health, reversing some of the issues that can come with CKD.

6. Dark, leafy greens

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

Be advised, though, that greens can come with a decent amount of potassium. If you have CKD, talk to your doctor before adding more of these to your diet.

7. Olive oil

Rich in antioxidants and healthy fatty acids, olive oil can boost your overall wellness. A study from Harvard University found that olive oil may lower cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia and some types of cancer.

Beyond all this, it can help you add flavor to dishes without turning to salt or butter.

To get more antioxidants, choose unrefined or cold-pressed olive oil that’s virgin or extra virgin.

8. Garlic

Another antioxidant-rich, inflammation-fighting food, garlic also contains a specific compound called allicin. For people with CKD, allicin — an active compound found in garlic — worked just as effectively to help protect kidney health as a prescription drug. If you’re looking for the best foods for your kidneys, garlic has to make the list.

Plus, it’s an excellent way to add flavor even when you’re skimping on salt.

9. Onions

From the same family as garlic, onions give you another excellent and salt-free way to add flavor (bonus points if you saute them in olive oil). Onions also deliver important nutrients like vitamins B6 and C, manganese and copper.

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

Green, white and purple cauliflowers on cutting board

10. Cauliflower

Cauliflower brings the crunch, paired with plenty of vitamins C, B6, B9 and K, along with fiber. It also contains compounds your body can use to neutralize certain toxins — a big help when your kidneys aren’t doing their best filtration work.

Cauliflower does contain some potassium and phosphorus, though, so while it makes the list of foods good for kidneys, people with CKD may want to moderate their intake.

11. Egg whites

Egg whites are specifically recommended for people with kidney problems. They give you a way to increase your protein levels — which can be important with later-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 antioxidant-rich and has glucosinolates, which can help your body protect itself against a range of cancer types.

You can eat arugula raw (it’s a great salad base), but you can also sprinkle it over whatever you’re whipping up. It’s great on pizzas, in omelets and with pasta, for example.

13. Apples

Apples deliver the cancer-fighting quercetin and fiber that can help to keep your cholesterol and blood sugar at healthy levels. And they’ve got plenty of antioxidants.

Better yet, they’re easy to work into your diet. Leave a bowl of apples on your counter and you’ll have a kidney-healthy grab-and-go snack whenever you need one.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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About the Author: Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN

Registered dietitian Sasha Bayat, RD, LDN.Sasha’s advice for easy, nutritious meals is to keep staple items that are shelf stable in your pantry and to practice having half a plate of vegetables, a quarter of protein, and a quarter of complex carbohydrates. She advises not to shy away from bagged, canned, or frozen foods, as they can still offer just as many nutrients!

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