More than 26 million Americans suffer from CKD (chronic kidney disease) which means America has a serious bladder issue that boils down to more than just not drinking enough water. Kidney disease is strongly linked to other major health issues such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease. It can also be genetically developed and may come with health risks of its own. Many people who suffer obesity, autoimmune disease or urinary tract infections (UTI’s) may also develop kidney disease within their lifetime. Anytime an overall strain is put on the body, the kidneys also take a major hit. Common signs of kidney problems include frequent urination, problems urinating, pain, burning, or constant thirst.
The best way to take care of your kidneys is to approach your health as an “all in one” type deal. Whatever is good for most other parts of your body (keeping a healthy weight, staying active, eating a clean diet rich in fruits and vegetables, managing stress and drinking enough water) is also a good idea for your kidneys too. But beyond the basics, its helpful to be aware of certain foods and drinks that can also protect (or hurt) your kidneys as well. This way, when you read some crazy diet or see some sketchy health advise that proclaims you’ll lose five pounds overnight, you can be warned that it might not be the best option for your overall wellness. It’s also helpful to know what foods and drinks help your kidneys should you run into any problems beyond your control later in life that leads to poor kidney health or contribute to a current kidney problem.
Best Foods and Drinks For Your Kidneys
For those with CKD, these foods and drinks below are just a handful of some to focus on, but are some of the best and most recommended. They’re also great choices for those that are looking to take care of their kidneys without causing too much water loss within the body.
Obviously, H20 is the best ingredient for overall water balance in the body. No need to go overboard, but aim for the classic 6-8 glasses a day depending on your body weight. If you’re more active, you will likely need additional water, while some may need a glass or two less. Water helps flush out toxins that can lead to bacterial infection or kidney stones, along with harmful particles in the blood. Remember that water is the absolute best “cleanser” of all you can be consuming, no detox needed!
100 Percent Cranberry Juice
Normally, fruit juice isn’t the best option for beverage choices since it’s mainly sugar, water, and preservatives, however, 100 percent cranberry juice (preferably organic and only fruit and water-based) is a great option for clearing out the kidneys. Cranberries are a super star fruit for your arteries, kidneys, digestive tract and more. If you don’t believe in store bought options, then juice your own cranberries or blend with water and strain with a nut milk bag.
You can, of course, eat cranberries, to protect your kidneys too. They’re excellent sources of Vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, and again, very low in sugar. These berries have special urinary tract benefits since they prevent ulcers and bacteria from developing and even fight current ulcers bacteria in the kidneys and digestive tract. Remember, it’s best to choose fresh cranberries, but since they’re not in season all year (sadly), you can also choose freeze-dried cranberries or dried cranberries that contain no added sugar (read the labels). Add these to your oatmeal, smoothies, whole grain porridge, or even salads for a fresh, tart taste.
Red Bell Peppers
Normally, potassium is promoted as a healthy ingredient for people to consume because it flushes out the kidneys and eliminates water from the body, however, for those with kidney disease, potassium can make thirst and frequent urination worse because the bladder empties too often. Red bell peppers are one of the best lower potassium fruits to choose and are a good source of protective Vitamin C. They also contain a good amount of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps ward off certain types of cancers in individuals with a healthy diet.
Apples are another lower potassium fruit that also aid as a natural cleanser for the body. They’ll still keep your kidneys cleansed without causing too frequent urination. Apples are another source of protective Vitamin C, as well as the antioxidant quercetin, tied to heart health and cancer prevention. They’re also a great source of pectin, a type of soluble fiber that’s wonderful for diabetics since it slows down the blood sugar and removes excess cholesterol.
Vitamin D is an important mineral for good kidney health and mushrooms are the best whole food, plant-based source. Vitamin D has been found to regulate kidney function and may help prevent kidney disease. Fortified soy milk and almond milk may be other good options, however make sure the potassium content isn’t over 200-300 milligrams if you have kidney disease.
Grapefruits are another good source of Vitamin C, an important mineral for the immune system and preventing bacteria development in the body. They’re also one of the fruits that are lower in potassium and sugar, which makes them an excellent source of nutrients for your kidneys.
Though oatmeal is higher in potassium than some other grains, it’s also lower than many fruits and vegetables. Oats are particularly a good source of iron and Vitamin B6, which have both been found to be an important nutrient for preventing kidney stones and preventing nutrient depletion for those with CKD.
Kale is a fantastic source of Vitamins A and C to prevent inflammation and protect the immune system. It’s also lower in potassium than some other vegetables and greens and contains a large amount of iron. Iron is important for healthy kidney function since many people with kidney disease have an iron deficiency.
What to Avoid
High protein diets should be avoided, especially if they’re sourced from animal-based foods. It’s also advised to reduce your intake of foods rich in phosphorus if you have kidney disease. Animal foods contribute to inflammation while high phosphorus containing foods can cause kidney stones. If you don’t have CKD and have trouble urinating, add a few more potassium-rich foods to your meals instead of reducing potassium in your diet. Potassium is rich in fruits, vegetables, and even some whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
The American Kidney Fund advises a moderate amount of protein (40-50 grams) be consumed for those with kidney disease, and one or two vegetables and fruits at each meal for overall kidney function and balance. Meat, dairy, eggs, and alcohol are some of the biggest foods to avoid.
If You Don’t Have Kidney Disease
If you don’t have kidney disease and just want to eat a healthy diet for your kidneys, be sure to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to get a balance of both potassium-rich and moderate-potassium containing foods. A whole foods-based plant-based lifestyle is rich in anti-inflammatory proteins that are less likely to cause inflammation or acidity within the body and will ensure good heart health and healthy blood sugar levels.
Your kidneys are one of your body’s biggest natural detox components. Be sure you don’t neglect them so they can keep you healthy and feeling great. To learn more about kidney health and kidney disease, visit The National Kidney Foundation.
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