Cleaning Up Your Kidneys
Your diet is an essential part of preventing and managing kidney disease. In this article, we show you some healthy and delicious foods to incorporate into your diet (and a few to avoid).
It’s estimated that over that 37 million Americans suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD). Unfortunately, many of the people who have CKD aren’t aware of it because the early stages can have no symptoms at all. Considering how deadly the late stages of kidney disease can be, this is a dangerous situation for many people.
Kidney disease is a serious condition and is linked to other major health issues such as heart and carotid artery disease. Carotid artery disease, when in advanced stages, can increase an individual’s risk of stroke.
What are the best ways to take care of your kidneys? The same way you take care of your overall health — diet and lifestyle choices. Healthy behaviors such as exercise, drinking plenty of water, and a balanced diet with the recommended amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals are good for your body, inside and out.
For individuals with chronic kidney disease, there are plenty of foods out there that can help. Even if you don’t have chronic kidney disease, it is still important to protect your kidneys. Preventing a health issue is always better than treating one.
Here are the best foods to help keep your kidneys healthy.
Top drinks and foods for your kidneys
Drinking water is the best way to keep the water levels in your body balanced. No need to go overboard, but you should aim for 6-8 glasses a day depending on your body weight. If you are more active, you’ll need to drink more since you’ll be losing water through your sweat as well.
Water has many positive effects on the body, but the most important one for your kidneys is that it helps flush out toxins that can lead to bacterial infection or kidney stones along with other harmful particles in the blood.
When shopping for cranberry juice, always read the label. Some juice brands contain very little actual fruit content and are instead loaded up with sugar. To get the best health benefits, be sure to choose 100% organic water-based cranberry juice.
So how does cranberry juice help? It can prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of your kidneys, which helps prevent an infection from forming in the first place.
Cranberries are so good for your health that they really do deserve two entries. Interestingly, eating whole cranberries has other benefits that just drinking the juice doesn’t provide. Eating cranberries can help prevent the growth of ulcers and bacteria in your urinary tract, and can help manage any current bacteria/ulcers you may already have.
They do this by making your urine more acidic, keeping bacteria from attaching to the inside of the bladder. In women especially, this has the added benefit of helping prevent urinary tract infections. At the grocery store, be sure to choose fresh cranberries over dried ones to get the most nutritional value out of them.
An apple a day really does help keep the doctor away! High in fiber and anti-inflammatory properties, apples prevent constipation, protect against heart disease, and decrease your risk of cancer.
Apples contain a fiber called pectin that has a few key health benefits specifically for kidneys. Pectin lowers certain risk factors for kidney damage, such as high cholesterol and blood sugar. And, as an added bonus, they are a healthy way to curb a sugar craving. They are great by themselves, can be added to salads, or even placed on a sandwich for some extra crunch and bite.
Vitamin D is extremely important for those at risk for kidney disease because it helps regulate kidney function. While many people think of oranges and orange juice as ideal sources for vitamin D (which they are), mushrooms are an excellent source as well.
While most mushrooms are chock-full of vitamin D, shiitake mushrooms have been found to consistently have the most. And did you know you can get even more vitamin D out of them if you store them correctly? A recent study found that mushrooms dried upside down in direct sunlight had significantly more vitamin D in them than those that didn’t.
Egg whites and yolks have very different nutritional properties. The whites provide a high quality protein, which is ideal for whole body health. However, egg yolks contain phosphorus, which can be especially dangerous for people with kidney disease.
To be clear, phosphorus helps the body perform a lot of essential functions. It strengthens bones, helps transport oxygen, develops connective tissue, and much more. Unfortunately, unhealthy kidneys don’t have the capacity to remove excess phosphorus from the blood. That results in an unsafe build up of phosphorus that can cause serious bone and heart issues.
There was a point in time when kale was everywhere. While it may not be as trendy as it once was, it is still an excellent source of nutrition. Kale is packed with Vitamins A and C, which can prevent inflammation and protect the immune system.
There are several other leafy greens that have these same benefits, but they also tend to be high in potassium. People with kidney disease can’t process large amounts of potassium, which can cause hyperkalemia. Symptoms of hyperkalemia include fatigue, weakness and heart arrythmias.
Kale is a great choice for those with kidney disease because it has all of the nutritional benefits of other greens without the high levels of potassium.
This vegetable brings lots of vitamin C to your plate, along with folate and fiber. In addition, it contains compounds that help your liver neutralize toxic substances. Perhaps most importantly for those with kidney issues is the fact that it is low in oxalates. Oxalates are found in a variety of foods and have been linked to the development of kidney stones.
One of the best things about cauliflower is how versatile it is. You can enjoy it raw, add it to your salad, or substitute it for mashed potatoes. Today, lots of people are substituting it for chicken and making spicy cauliflower wings. There are all kinds of tasty options!
Nutrients to be aware of
Keep in mind that there are plenty of other healthy options that will do your kidneys, and your body, plenty of good. If you do have chronic kidney disease, there are a few nutrients you should be aware of.
Your kidneys regulate potassium, which is why it’s so important to monitor how much you are eating on a regular basis. Your kidneys also have a role in red blood cell production, meaning that if they aren’t functioning correctly your count may be low. Eating iron-rich foods can help prevent this and help keep your energy levels up.
On the opposite side of the equation, salt can be your enemy. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure and make your heart and kidneys work too hard. Be careful about how much salt you use in cooking and also watch the salt content of pre-packaged foods like canned soups, frozen dinners, and boxed meals. Salt substitutes may also contain a lot of potassium, so try herbs to add flavor and give it some time. You can get used to eating less salt, but it does take six to eight weeks for your taste buds to get used to it.
Lastly, we mentioned phosphorus, but it is worth repeating. A low-phosphorus diet should include lots of fresh fruits and veggies, rice milk, corn and rice cereals, as well as lemonade and even ginger ale.
Importance of Kidney Disease Screenings
Kidney disease screening from Life Line Screening uses a simple finger-stick test to assess how well your kidneys are functioning. It uses an FDA-approved device adopted by more than 250 hospitals across the country.
Common risk factors for kidney disease include increased age, family history, race and ethnicity (African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, American Indians and Pacific Islanders are at increased risk), diabetes, high blood pressure, hereditary factors, and abnormally elevated creatinine levels or decreasing glomerular filtration rates (GFR).
If you have any of the above risk factors, or if you’re over the age of 60, you should seriously consider a kidney disease screening. Learn more now or contact us with any questions you might have.
Life Line Screening 2021 update
Learn more or schedule a screening today at lifelinescreening.com — or give us a call at 800.718.0961. We’d love to help.
UrologyHealth.org – Hydrate to Help Prevent Kidney Stones. 05/22/19
TheHealathy.com – Is Cranberry Juice Good for Your Kidneys?, Jessica Migala, 11/24/20
AICR – Foods That Fight Cancer, 12/10/19
Fungi.com – Place Mushrooms in Sunlight to Get Your Vitamin D 07/12/12
DaVita.com – Phosphorus Foods and Chronic Kidney Disease
KindeyFund.org – What is High Potassium?, 06/2020