If your kidneys are in good working condition, you probably don’t give a second thought about what foods are best for these two organs in your back. Even if you’ve been diagnosed with kidney disease—as many African Americans have been—you may not know how your diet can bolster kidney health.
Kidneys are crucial to help us maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and remove waste from our blood. When your kidneys are not working properly, fluid and waste build up in your body. Over time, the extra fluid and waste can lead to bone, heart and other health problems.
A kidney-friendly meal plan, however, can give you optimal kidney health. So it’s best to eat healthy foods that provide a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Add these to your list:
- Bell peppers. Red peppers are loaded with vitamins C and A, which improve the immune system. Folks with kidney disease may have a compromised immune system, so the more of these vitamins, the better. Peppers are an easy ingredient in a whole host of recipes, including fajitas, stuffed peppers omelets, pastas or sandwiches.
- Berries. All berries, but especially blueberries, are a great source of natural antioxidants. They’re also perfect for an ideal kidney diet because they are low in phosphorus, potassium and sodium, which you should avoid if you have kidney disease.
- Cabbage. Sure, cabbage is delicious and very affordable but more important: It’s packed with nutrients and minerals, including calcium; vitamins B6, C and K; fiber; manganese and folate. It’s also low in phosphorus and potassium.
- Cauliflower. Rich in antioxidants and loaded with vitamins C and K, calcium, iron and magnesium, cauliflower is a great source of fiber. Mashed cauliflower is easy to make and a better choice than mashed potatoes.
- Chicken. If you have kidney issues, you may need to be on a low protein diet, but if that’s not the case for you, chicken is a good source. Skinless chicken is best because it contains less fat, sodium and phosphorus than chicken with the skin.
- Egg whites. Egg yolks contain a lot of phosphorus, which, as we’ve mentioned, should be avoided if you suffer from kidney issues. But egg whites are a healthy, kidney-safe, delicious breakfast option.
- Fatty fish. Choose salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel or herring, which increase the all-important omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats you need. A bonus: Recent research found omega-3s decrease proteinuria, a common complication in kidney disease.
- Garlic. It doesn’t just smell and taste wonderful, but garlic also contains vitamins B6 and C. Use garlic as a flavor booster instead of salt while cooking, and always opt for garlic powder instead of garlic salt.
- Olive oil. Olive oil contains oleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory effects. Choose virgin or extra-virgin for salads, marinades and sautéing because these versions are higher in antioxidants.
- Red grapes. The juicy fruits contains flavonoids, known to help prevent inflammation. A 2017 study showed daily intake of grape powder can help reduce the progression of kidney disease.