A healthy kidney is essential to overall well-being. The kidneys perform a variety of vital functions, including filtering the blood and eliminating extra fluid and waste.
Particularly if you have renal disease, the foods you eat can directly affect the health of your kidneys. See which foods, according to six experts, are best for kidney health and why some foods are better than others by reading on.
Kidney Disease: What Is It?
According to Denver-based DaVita Kidney Care’s chief medical officer Jeff Giullian, M.D., “a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease (CKD) indicates that a person’s kidneys have lost some function.”
In addition, Melanie Betz, a dietitian and the founder of The Kidney Dietitian, based in the greater Chicago area, notes that if your kidneys aren’t functioning properly, toxins can accumulate in your body and negatively impact how hormones function, particularly ones that regulate red blood cell production, vitamin D status, and bone health.
Statistics and Stages of Kidney Disease
Many people are afflicted with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which usually does not exhibit symptoms until it is highly advanced and has major effects on overall health.
For instance, 37 million Americans, or one in seven of the population, have chronic kidney disease (CKD), and 90% of those individuals may not even be aware that they have the disease.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two main risk factors for chronic kidney disease (CKD). Roughly 75% of instances of CKD are caused by these two diseases.
The National Kidney Foundation states that chronic kidney disease (CKD) progresses in five stages, the least severe being stage one and the most severe being stage five. At stage five, a person may require dialysis, a procedure that uses a machine to filter and purify blood, or a kidney transplant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CKD is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
How Can Nutrition Affect Diabetic Patients?
According to Joseph Vassalotti, M.D., chief medical officer of the National Kidney Foundation, which is based in New York City, eating a healthy diet can typically prevent the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in people who are at-risk (such as those with diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease) and slow the loss of kidney function in those who already have CKD.
There is a correlation between certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, or a plant-based diet, with a decreased chance of either acquiring chronic kidney disease (CKD) or postponing its deterioration. That’s likely due to the fact that these diets do a good job of controlling for risk factors like elevated blood glucose (sugar), blood pressure and blood lipids like cholesterol that can lead to additional strain on kidney function.
The principal foods included in these diets are:
- Plant- or animal-based proteins (such as low-phosphorus cheeses like brie or tiny amounts of fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, and some beans)
- Complex carbs found in grains, fruits, and veggies rich in antioxidants and fiber
- Good fats (such as oils, nuts, or seeds)
According to Dr. Giullian, people with CKD may also need to limit their intake of sodium, phosphorus, and potassium and stay away from diets that are extremely high in protein and processed foods. These nutrients can cause additional strain on the kidneys.
However, there isn’t a single diet that works for everyone when it comes to CKD.
Working with a nephrologist, a physician who specializes in the treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD), is crucial because diet plays such a crucial role in maintaining kidney health. This doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian, who is skilled in creating individualized diet plans that can be used to manage CKD and suit your preferences, financial situation, and cultural requirements.
Is It Possible for Diet to Heal the Kidneys?
Dr. Giullian says that early detection, blood pressure and sugar control, frequent exercise, eating a kidney-friendly diet, and upholding a healthy lifestyle can all help prevent chronic kidney disease (CKD).
As noted by registered dietitian Kristen Carli, proprietor of Camelback Nutrition and Wellness in Arizona, kidney injury cannot be “repaired” in the same way that other bodily tissues may regenerate.
According to Dr. Vassalotti, “there is less evidence that healthy eating patterns can reverse kidney disease.” Although he has treated patients whose CKD improved with a healthy diet and weight, he notes that these individuals are most likely exceptions.
According to Betz, even minor dietary adjustments can have a significant impact on delaying or halting the course of CKD.
The Best 10 Foods for Healthy Kidneys
Scientists studying chronic kidney disease (CKD), such as Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, argue that the data on the best foods for CKD is moving beyond limiting specific minerals, such as potassium, to more comprehensive components of nutrition.
“For example, current clinical guidelines now mention the benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, reducing dietary acid load and adhering to an overall Mediterranean dietary pattern,” she adds.
These are the top 10 foods that doctors suggest eating to maintain healthy kidneys
Resveratrol, a plant-based component predominantly found in red fruits, and flavonoids, like those found in red grapes, have the potential to slow down the aging process, according to Holly Mattix-Kramer, M.D., a nephrology expert at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. Foods that may slow down aging will aid the kidneys because age causes the loss of nephrons, the kidney’s functioning unit.
Berries Anthocyanins, a type of plant-based antioxidant, are abundant in berries like blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Carli continues, “These antioxidants help shield the kidneys from oxidative stress and inflammation.”
According to Dr. Mattix-Kramer, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon can aid in the reduction of inflammation. Reducing inflammation in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) is crucial since it can directly affect kidney function and potentially accelerate the disease’s progression. She continues, “Oily fish is also a source of vitamin D.” Including foods high in vitamin D is crucial since vitamin D deficiency is more common in persons with chronic kidney disease (CKD).
Tofu is a plant-based protein that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, low in potassium and phosphorus, and offers all the essential amino acids—an important feature as the body cannot make these amino acids on its own. It also contains minerals like magnesium. It’s a healthy choice for people who want to maintain healthy protein levels while also protecting their kidneys because it’s a fantastic source of fiber and protein.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Carli says that leafy greens like raw kale and green cabbage are great providers of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. “They are also relatively low in potassium, making them suitable for individuals with kidney disease who need to manage their potassium intake,” the spokesperson adds.
People with CKD must maintain good heart health, and Betz notes that avocados are a great source of heart-healthy fats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that there is a clear correlation between kidney and heart health since the heart must work harder to pump blood throughout the body when the kidneys are not functioning properly. An additional important risk factor for CKD is cardiac disease. Avocados are not a significant source of sodium or phosphorus, but they are rich in potassium. Potassium from foods like avocados in CKD should be managed on an individual basis.
According to Dr. Giullian, egg whites offer full protein with less phosphorus than other protein sources like meats or even the egg yolk. A complete egg has 13.4 mg of phosphorus for every gram of protein, whereas an egg white only has 1.4 mg of phosphorus per gram of protein.
Dr. Giullian says, “Apples are high in fiber and anti-inflammatory compounds and can be eaten in many ways.” He says that persons with CKD can lessen their inflammatory processes by eating a diet rich in antioxidants. To get the maximum antioxidants, keep the peel on.
Plant-based proteins like lentils are high in fiber and protein. According to Betz, eating more plant-based protein instead of animal protein can help lower acidosis, or an accumulation of acid in the bloodstream, in kidney disease and eventually decrease the disease’s course.
According to Carli, zucchini is a low-phosphorus vegetable that you should watch your intake of. “It can be incorporated into various dishes, such as stir fries or casseroles,” she continues.
Kidney Disease: Knowing When to Consult a Physician
Drs. Mattix-Kramer and Betz clarify that although maintaining a healthy diet should be a part of your CKD management strategy, it’s frequently insufficient to stop the disease’s progression or support treatment alone across all phases of the disease. This is especially true if you have moderate to severe CKD.
The kidneys have failed or are extremely near to failing in the final stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD; stage five, also known as end-stage renal disease). More extensive treatments beyond food and nutrition, like dialysis or a kidney transplant, may be necessary.
Dr. Mattix-Kramer says, “Ask your doctor if your kidney disease calls for medication or medications to slow disease progression.” She goes on to say that numerous drug classes are available to treat a wide range of kidney ailments.
According to Drs. Giullian and Vassalotti, there isn’t a cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), but there are lifestyle modifications and medications that can help maintain kidney health. Because of this, it’s critical to schedule regular check-ups with a doctor to evaluate your kidney function, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels, as well as to discuss your management choices, including nutrition.