The 20 best foods for people with kidney problems

Kidney disease is a common problem that affects approximately 10% of the world population (1).

The kidneys are small but powerful bean-shaped organs that perform many important functions.

They are responsible for filtering waste products, releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure, balancing fluids in the body, producing urine and many other essential tasks (2).

There are several ways in which these vital organs can be damaged.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common risk factors for kidney disease. However, obesity, smoking, genetics, gender and age can also increase risk (3).

Uncontrolled blood sugar and high blood pressure cause damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys, reducing their ability to function at an optimal level (4).

When the kidneys do not function properly, waste accumulates in the blood, including waste products from food (5).

Therefore, it is necessary that people with kidney disease follow a special diet.

Blueberries in a bowl

Dietary restrictions vary depending on the level of kidney damage.

For example, people in the early stages of kidney disease have different restrictions than those with kidney failure, also known as ESRD (6, 7).

If you have kidney disease, your health care provider will determine the best diet for your individual needs.

For most people with advanced kidney disease, it is important to follow a proper diet for the kidneys that helps decrease the amount of waste in the blood.

This diet is often referred to as a kidney diet.

It helps improve kidney function and prevents major damage (8).

While dietary restrictions vary, it is generally recommended that all people with kidney disease restrict the following nutrients:

  • Sodium: Sodium is found in many foods and an important component of table salt. Damaged kidneys can not filter out excess sodium, which causes your blood levels to rise. It is often recommended to limit sodium to less than 2,000 mg per day (9, 10).

  • Potassium: Potassium performs many critical functions in the body, but people with kidney disease must limit potassium to avoid dangerously high blood levels. It is generally recommended to limit potassium to less than 2,000 mg per day (11, 12).

  • Match: Damaged kidneys can not eliminate excess phosphorus, a mineral in many foods. High levels can cause damage to the body, so phosphorus in the diet is restricted to less than 800-1,000 mg per day in most patients (13, 14).

Protein is another nutrient that people with kidney disease may need to limit, since the waste products of protein metabolism can not be eliminated by damaged kidneys.

However, those with end-stage renal disease undergoing dialysis, a treatment that filters and cleanses the blood, have higher protein needs (15, 16).

Every person with kidney disease is different, so it is important to talk with your health care provider about your individual dietary needs.

Fortunately, many delicious and healthy options are low in phosphorus, potassium and sodium.

Here are 20 of the best foods for people with kidney problems.

1. The cauliflower

Cauliflower is a nutritious vegetable that contains many nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin K and vitamin B, folate.

It is also full of anti-inflammatory compounds such as indoles and an excellent source of fiber (17).

In addition, you can use cauliflower mash instead of potatoes for a low potassium garnish.

One cup (124 grams) of cooked cauliflower contains (18):

  • Sodium: 19 mg

  • Potassium: 176 mg

  • Match: 40 mg

2. Blueberries

Cranberries are full of nutrients and one of the best sources of antioxidants that you can eat (19).

In particular, these sweet berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which can protect against heart disease, certain cancers, cognitive decline and diabetes (20).

They are also a fantastic supplement for a kid-friendly diet because they are low in sodium, phosphorus and potassium.

One cup (148 grams) of fresh blueberries contains (21):

  • Sodium: 1.5 mg

  • Potassium: 114 mg

  • Match: 18 mg

3. Sea bass

Sea bass is a high quality protein that contains incredibly healthy fats called omega-3.

Omega-3s help reduce inflammation and may help decrease the risk of cognitive decline, depression and anxiety (22, 23, 24).

While all fish are rich in phosphorus, sea bass contains lower amounts than other seafood options.

However, it is important to consume small portions to keep phosphorus levels under control.

Three ounces (85 grams) of cooked sea bass contain (25):

  • Sodium: 74 mg

  • Potassium: 279 mg

  • Match: 211 mg

4. Red Grapes

Red grapes are not only delicious, they also provide a ton of nutrition in a small package.

Red grapes are high in vitamin C and contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation (26).

In addition, red grapes are high in resveratrol, a type of flavonoid that has been shown to benefit heart health and protects against diabetes and cognitive decline (27, 28).

These sweet fruits are compatible with the kidneys, with half a cup (75 grams) containing (29):

  • Sodium: 1.5 mg

  • Potassium: 144 mg

  • Match: 15 mg

5. Egg whites

Although egg yolks are very nutritious, they contain high amounts of phosphorus, which makes egg whites a better option for people who follow a renal diet.

Egg whites provide a high-quality protein source compatible with the kidneys.

Not to mention that they are an excellent option for people who undergo dialysis treatment, since they have higher protein needs but need to limit phosphorus.

Two large egg whites (66 grams) contain (30):

  • Sodium: 110 mg

  • Potassium: 108 mg

  • Match: 10 mg

6. the garlic

It is recommended that people with kidney problems limit the amount of sodium in their diet, including added salt.

Garlic provides a delicious alternative to salt, adding flavor to the dishes while providing nutritional benefits.

It is a good source of manganese, vitamin C and vitamin B6 and contains sulfur compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties.

Three cloves (9 grams) of garlic contain (31):

  • Sodium: 1.5 mg

  • Potassium: 36 mg

  • Match: 14 mg

7. Buckwheat

Many whole grains tend to be high in phosphorus, but buckwheat is a healthy exception.

Buckwheat is highly nutritious and provides a good amount of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and fiber.

It is also a grain without gluten, so buckwheat is a good option for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

One half cup (84 grams) of cooked buckwheat contains (32):

  • Sodium: 3.5 mg

  • Potassium: 74 mg

  • Match: 59 mg

8. olive oil

Olive oil is a healthy source of fat and without phosphorus, making it an excellent choice for people with kidney disease.

Often, people with advanced kidney disease have problems maintaining weight, which makes healthy, high-calorie foods like olive oil important (33).

Most of the fat in olive oil is a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties (34).

In addition, monounsaturated fats are stable at high temperatures, so olive oil is a healthy choice for cooking.

One ounce (28 grams) of olive oil contains (35):

  • Sodium: 0.6 mg

  • Potassium: 0.3 mg

  • Match: 0 mg

9. Bulgur

The bulgur is an ancient grain that constitutes an excellent alternative for the kidney to other whole grains with high content of phosphorus and potassium.

This nutritious grain is a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, iron and manganese.

It is also an excellent source of protein of vegetable origin and full of dietary fiber, which is important for digestive health.

A serving of half a cup (91 grams) of bulgur contains (36):

  • Sodium: 4.5 mg

  • Potassium: 62 mg

  • Match: 36 mg

10. cabbage

Cabbage belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables and is loaded with vitamins, minerals and potent plant compounds.

It is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C and many B vitamins.

In addition, it provides insoluble fiber, a type of fiber that keeps the digestive system healthy by promoting regular bowel movements and adding bulk to the stool (37).

In addition, it is low in potassium, phosphorus and sodium with one cup (70 grams) of shredded cabbage that contains (38):

  • Sodium: 13 mg

  • Potassium: 119 mg

  • Match: 18 mg

11. Chicken without skin

Although limited protein intake is necessary for some people with kidney problems, providing the body with an adequate amount of high quality protein is vital to health.

Skinless chicken breast contains less phosphorus, potassium and sodium than chicken skin.

When buying chicken, choose fresh chicken and avoid ready-made roast chicken, since it contains large amounts of sodium and phosphorus.

Three ounces (84 grams) of skinless chicken breast contain (39):

  • Sodium: 63 mg

  • Potassium: 216 mg

  • Match: 192 mg

12. peppers

Peppers contain an impressive amount of nutrients but are low in potassium, unlike many other vegetables.

These brightly colored peppers are loaded with powerful antioxidant vitamin C.

In fact, a small red pepper (74 grams) contains 158% of the recommended intake of vitamin C.

They are also loaded with vitamin A, an important nutrient for immune function, which is often compromised in people with kidney disease (40).

A small red pepper (74 grams) contains (41):

  • Sodium: 3 mg

  • Potassium: 156 mg

  • Match: 19 mg

13. onions

Onions are excellent for providing sodium-free taste to kidney diet dishes.

Reducing salt can be difficult for many patients, so finding tasty salt alternatives is a must.

Sautéing the onions with garlic and olive oil adds flavor to the dishes without compromising the health of your kidneys.

In addition, onions are rich in vitamin C, manganese and B vitamins and contain prebiotic fibers that help keep the digestive system healthy by feeding bacteria beneficial to the intestine (42.

A small onion (70 grams) contains (43):

  • Sodium: 3 mg

  • Potassium: 102 mg

  • Match: 20 mg

14. the arugula

Many healthy vegetables such as spinach and kale are high in potassium and difficult to include in a kidney diet.

However, the arugula is a dense green in nutrients that is low in potassium, making it a good choice for salads and dishes for the kidneys.

Arugula is a good source of vitamin K and the minerals manganese and calcium, all of which are important for bone health.

This nutritious green also contains nitrates, which have been shown to lower blood pressure, an important benefit for people with kidney disease (44).

One cup (20 grams) of raw arugula contains (45):

  • Sodium: 6 mg

  • Potassium: 74 mg

  • Match: 10 mg

15. Macadamia nuts

Most nuts are rich in phosphorus and are not recommended for those who follow a renal diet.

However, macadamia nuts are a delicious option for people with kidney problems. They are much lower in phosphorus than popular nuts like peanuts and almonds.

They are also full of healthy fats, B vitamins, magnesium, copper, iron and manganese.

One ounce (28 grams) of macadamia nuts contains (46):

  • Sodium: 1.4 mg

  • Potassium: 103 mg

  • Match: 53 mg

16. Radish

Radishes are crisp vegetables that are a healthy complement to a kidney diet.

This is because they are very low in potassium and phosphorus, but high in many other important nutrients.

Radishes are a great source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that has been shown to decrease the risk of heart disease and cataracts (47, 48).

In addition, its spicy flavor is a tasty addition to low sodium dishes.

One half cup (58 grams) of sliced ​​radishes contains (49):

  • Sodium: 23 mg

  • Potassium: 135 mg

  • Match: 12 mg

17. Turnips

Turnips are friendly to the kidneys and are an excellent replacement for vegetables that are high in potassium, such as potatoes and winter squash.

These root vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and calcium.

They can be roasted or boiled and pureed for a healthy side dish that works well for a kidney diet.

One half cup (78 grams) of cooked turnips contains (50):

  • Sodium: 12.5 mg

  • Potassium: 138 mg

  • Match: 20 mg

18. Pineapple

Many tropical fruits such as oranges, bananas and kiwis are very rich in potassium.

Luckily, pineapple is a sweet, low-potassium alternative for people with kidney problems.

In addition, pineapple is rich in fiber, B vitamins, manganese and bromelain, an enzyme that helps reduce inflammation (51).

One cup (165 grams) of pieces of pineapple contains (52):

  • Sodium: 2 mg

  • Potassium: 180 mg

  • Match: 13 mg

19. Cranberries

Cranberries benefit both the urinary tract and the kidneys.

These small acid fruits contain phytonutrients called proanthocyanidins type A, which prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract and bladder, which prevents infection (53, 54).

This is useful for people with kidney disease, since they have an increased risk of urinary tract infections (55).

Cranberries can be eaten dry, cooked, fresh or as juice. They are very low in potassium, phosphorus and sodium.

One cup (100 grams) of fresh blueberries contains (56):

  • Sodium: 2 mg

  • Potassium: 85 mg

  • Match: 13 mg

20. Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are a tasty ingredient that can be used as a substitute for herbal meat for those on a kidney diet who need to limit protein.

They are an excellent source of B vitamins, copper, manganese and selenium.

In addition, they provide a good amount of vegetable proteins and dietary fiber.

Shiitake mushrooms are lower in potassium than Portobello mushrooms and white mushrooms, which makes them an intelligent option for those following a renal diet (57, 58).

One cup (145 grams) of cooked shiitake mushrooms contains (59):

  • Sodium: 6 mg

  • Potassium: 170 mg

  • Match: 42 mg

The bottom line

The harmless foods for the kidney mentioned above are excellent options for people who follow a renal diet.

Always remember to discuss your food choices with your health care provider to make sure you are following the best diet for your individual needs.

Dietary restrictions vary depending on the type and level of kidney damage, as well as the medical interventions implemented, such as medications or dialysis treatment.

While following a kidney diet may seem restrictive at times, there are many delicious foods that fit into a healthy, well-balanced and kidney-friendly eating plan.

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