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Your kidneys are essential. They remove waste and excess fluid from the body; they also help balance the remaining fluids, release vital hormones that regulate blood pressure, and control red blood cell production. Maintaining optimum kidney health is essential for everyone, but people with existing kidney disease or similar conditions need to pay particular attention. Certain foods can do double duty providing essential nutrients and helping keep these vital organs in peak condition.

Cabbage

Cabbage is an ideal food for people with kidney damage or kidney disease. People with kidney conditions often have dietary restrictions such as avoiding foods with too much potassium, sodium, and phosphorus. Cabbage is low in these nutrients but high in fiber and antioxidants that can help heal the kidneys or, at least, help guard them against further damage.

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Blueberries

As a rich source of antioxidants, it's not surprising blueberries are especially ideal for a diet focused on kidney health. Like cabbage, blueberries are low in those nutrients that force the kidneys to work overly hard, such as phosphorus and potassium. Blueberries are excellent for supporting kidney health, but they also improve cognitive function and even help prevent heart disease.

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Garlic

Garlic is a superfood that supports many aspects of health including kidney function, thanks to its outstanding anti-inflammatory properties. The bulb is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese -- nutrients ideal for reducing inflammation. Because garlic is also flavorful, it makes a great alternative to salt. Even more so than others, people with kidney damage should be careful about the amount of salt they ingest.

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Olive Oil

Olive oil is phosphorus-free, which makes it excellent for kidney-friendly diets. It is also good for the heart, as well, so it's something we should all include in our diets. Olive oil is rich in polyphenols -- plant compounds with antioxidant properties -- that help prevent damage caused by oxidation. These compounds, along with healthy fats, also keep inflammation at bay.

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Skinless Chicken Breasts

To promote general health and support your kidneys, you need high-quality sources of protein. Skinless chicken breast can fulfill this need. Some people suffering from kidney disease need to limit their protein, so they should ensure the protein they do ingest is high-quality and low in sodium and phosphorus. Removing the skin reduces the amount of these nutrients. Making your meals with fresh chicken breast is preferable, as pre-cooked versions often have additives such as salt.

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Cranberries

Folk medicine practitioners have long prescribed cranberries to guard against urinary tract infection. Researchers suggest one reason this berry is so beneficial is its ability to prevent harmful bacteria like E. coli from sticking to the lining of the bladder and urinary tract. When bacteria adhere to this lining, they multiply and cause an infection that can spread to the kidneys. People with kidney disease tend to be at increased risk for urinary tract infections, so cranberries are an ideal dietary choice.

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Red Grapes

While all grapes are healthy, red and purple grapes are especially good for people with kidney damage because they contain flavonoids such as anthocyanin, which gives grapes their dark color and reduces the risk of blood clots and damage from free radicals. Grapes are readily available and make for a convenient, on-the-go snack.

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Pineapple

People with kidney disease are often encouraged to avoid tropical fruit, but pineapple is considered safe because it is low in potassium and rich in B vitamins, manganese, fiber, and bromelain. Bromelain effectively reduces inflammation, which can cause kidney conditions to flare up. If you're looking for a refreshing snack that supports kidney health, choose pineapple.

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Bell Peppers

Low in potassium but high in many healthful nutrients, bell peppers make the list of kidney-friendly foods. Bell peppers are a great food to eat raw, or they can be diced and sauteed or roasted for use in many recipes from pasta sauces to casseroles. Bell peppers are rich in vitamins C and A, which have important antioxidant effects that support immunity and kidney health.

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Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable rich in folate, vitamins C, K, and fiber. It contains compounds that can reduce inflammation. Cauliflower is also low in potassium, so it is an excellent alternative to potatoes, which are high in potassium. More and more recipes online are featuring cauliflower in place of white potatoes and rice.

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Apples

What they say about an apple a day definitely applies to keeping the kidneys fit. Apples have a sugar called pectin. Based on some research, pectin may help increase urination. Pectin may also lower serum creatinine, a muscle-breakdown waste product. Apples are rich in the flavonoid quercetin, too, which decreases the risk of certain kidney diseases.

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Salmon

Salmon is the go-to fish when planning a healthy diet plan. It's kidney benefits come from omega-3 fatty acids, which play a significant role in reducing inflammation in the body, and the kidney malfunction this can cause. Omega 3 fatty acids also assist in controlling blood pressure and triglycerides. High blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels increase the risk of kidney damage and heart disease. Just one 3.5-ounce serving twice a week should do it.

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Buckwheat and Bulgur

Another way to keep kidneys healthy is to reduce blood sugar spikes from simple carbohydrates by incorporating more complex ones that have low or medium glycemic index, like buckwheat or bulgur. Both are whole grains that can easily replace rice. They don't cause unhealthy sugar spikes that can damage kidney blood vessels and filtration over time. Buckwheat is a seed used for cereal, while bulgur is made from dried, cracked wheat groats and has a nutty flavor. Other wheat products that are rich in phosphorus and potassium can be problematic for those with kidney disease, making these grains great alternatives.

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Arugula

Arugula is a leafy green that can give your salads and side dishes a nice peppery flavor while aiding in blood pressure control. It's low in potassium, which counteracts the negative effects of salt and helps kidneys to better control body fluid levels. Arugula is also a source of organic nitrates, a precursor to nitric oxide, which opens up blood vessels and promotes lower blood pressure while regulating multiple renal functions, including filtration and excretion.

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Macadamia Nuts

In addition to making a great dessert topping or standalone snack, a one-ounce serving of macadamia nuts is a better choice to protect kidneys than other popular nuts on the market. Macadamias are rich in manganese, which fights damage to cells. They also have thiamine or vitamin B1, which helps the kidneys ward off disease.

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Onions

Onions are low in potassium, which makes them a good choice for someone with kidney damage or who is on a renal diet. When your kidneys are not working properly, your potassium levels may be too high, which can lead to muscle cramps, muscles weakness, and an irregular heartbeat.

Including onions in your diet not only helps you keep potassium levels under control, but they also add a boost of flavor that can make dishes more flavorful without a bunch of added salt or compromising kidney health.

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Egg Whites

Egg yolks are a concentrated source of phosphorus, which may be harmful to someone with kidney disease. Egg whites, on the other hand, are a great source of high-quality protein sans phosophorous. Egg whites are a good choice if you have chronic kidney disease and have a phosphorus restriction.

Woman separating egg yolk from white over glass bowl at light wooden table, top view Liudmila Chernetska / Getty Images

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Raspberries

Like blueberries, raspberries are low in potassium and phosphorus and high in antioxidants and fiber. They are a safe choice for a kidney-friendly diet and have many other nutritional benefits.

Thanks to these antioxidants, raspberries can help prevent a range of diseases, like cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and Alzheimer's, and they're low in sugar, making them a healthy way to get a sweet treat.

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Fish Oil

If you are looking for foods that can protect your kidneys, research shows that regularly consuming fish oil may protect against chronic kidney disease. You can get fish oil into your diet by eating oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and anchovies, or by taking a fish oil supplement.

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Watermelon

Watermelon is a summer favorite, and research shows that it may protect against kidney damage, thanks to the number of vital nutrients. However, people with kidney damage should talk to their doctor before adding watermelon to their diet. The fruit is rich in potassium and is about 92 percent water, which may be a problem for people with kidney disease.

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Seaweed

Packed with beneficial antioxidants, seaweed serves as an ideal addition to a kidney-healthy diet. Its ability to help regulate blood pressure enhances its importance for kidney health. However, it should be consumed judiciously, as some varieties may contain high levels of potassium and sodium.

Regardless, its nutritional benefits, when included as part of a balanced diet, can substantially support the kidneys.

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Mushrooms

Notably, shiitake mushrooms are valuable sources of vitamin D, a moderate amount of which is good for maintaining kidney health. In comparison to other varieties, they're also lower in potassium. Incorporating mushrooms into your meals can not only bring a flavor boost but can also provide significant nutritional benefits supporting your kidneys' overall wellness.

Note that some studies suggest too much vitamin D has a negative effect on kidney health, so be sure to talk to your doctor before eating more mushrooms if you have existing issues.

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Turnips

Recognized for their fiber and B-vitamin content, turnips can play an essential role in a kidney-friendly diet. Compared to other root vegetables, they're significantly lower in potassium. Turnips can be roasted, stewed, or mashed, providing a low-potassium alternative to potatoes for those who need to reduce consumption of this nutrient.

They're a nutritional powerhouse, offering substantial benefits for kidney health.

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Barley

As a kidney-friendly grain, barley stands out due to its high fiber content and the assortment of vitamins and minerals it offers. Compared to other whole grains, it contains less potassium, making it a more suitable choice for those with kidney disease.

A diet inclusive of barley can provide noteworthy health benefits, particularly for the kidneys.

Barley water in glass with raw and cooked pearl barley wheat/seeds. selective focus Arundhati Sathe / Getty Images

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Radishes

Low in potassium yet high in antioxidants, radishes are a superb choice for individuals with kidney issues. Whether eaten raw, roasted, or included in salads, they bring a refreshing crunch while offering substantial benefits for kidney health.

Their unique nutritional profile makes them an excellent component of a balanced, kidney-conscious diet.

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Endive

This leafy green vegetable is an abundant source of vitamins A and K, along with folate. Its low potassium content makes it ideal for kidney health. Endive can be creatively used as a base for salads or sautéed for a side dish, introducing both flavor and nutrition beneficial for the kidneys.

Its unique attributes make it an ideal part of a diet aimed at promoting kidney health.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.

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