Most of us know that eating a balanced diet is important for good health. Now scientists have pinpointed certain foods as super foods. In addition to promoting overall health, these are foods for kidney health as well.
If you are on dialysis or have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you'll be glad to know that there are lots of super foods, containing antioxidants and other health-supporting properties, included in the kidney diet. People with kidney disease experience more inflammation and have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without kidney problems. If you have kidney disease, it's important that you consult a renal dietitian and follow a kidney diet. Including super foods in your kidney diet eating plan can help you increase your intake of nutrients and antioxidants.
Here’s a list of the top kidney-friendly super foods. These foods are good for everyone, not just people with kidney disease, so by using them in your family's meals, you'll be helping your loved ones enjoy good health too.
Another kidney-friendly super food is cauliflower. This cruciferous 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.
Cauliflower can be eaten raw with dip or in salads. Steamed or boiled, it can be seasoned and turned into a great side dish. You can even mash cauliflower as a dialysis-friendly replacement for mashed potatoes.
Crunchy cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable filled with phytochemicals, chemical compounds found in certain fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals work to break apart free radicals. Many phytochemicals are believed to combat cancer and support cardiovascular health. Inexpensive cabbage is a great addition to your eating plan, because it's also high in vitamins K and C, high in fiber and a good source of vitamin B6 and folic acid, yet it's low in potassium, so it's especially kidney-friendly.
If you're following the dialysis diet, add cabbage by turning it into coleslaw or use as a topping for fish tacos. Other nutritious meal options include cabbage rolls and stuffed cabbage.
Red bell peppers
Red bell peppers are a good choice for those concerned about kidney health, because they're low in potassium. In addition, they add color and taste to any dish, while packing a generous portion of vitamins A, C, B6, folic acid and fiber. They also contain the antioxidant lycopene, which protects against certain types of cancer. If you're following the kidney diet, it's easy to add red bell peppers to your food plan.
Garlic is good for reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol. It also has antioxidant and anti-clotting properties. (Cooking garlic will not affect its antioxidant properties, but it will reduce its anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory effects.)
If you're following the dialysis diet, use garlic powder instead of garlic salt to add extra flavor to your meals without adding extra sodium. Garlic can be used in cooking many dishes: meat, vegetables or tomato sauce, for instance. Once you start cooking with garlic, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.
Onion is full of flavonoids, particularly quercetin. Flavonoids are natural chemicals that prevent the deposit of fatty material in blood vessels and add pigmentation (color) to plants. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to help reduce heart disease and protect against many forms of cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Low in potassium, onions are not only kidney-friendly; they also contain chromium, a mineral that assists your body with the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
An apple a day really does help keep the doctor away! High in fiber and anti-inflammatory properties, apples help reduce cholesterol, prevent constipation, protect against heart disease and decrease your risk of cancer. Renal-friendly apples can be eaten raw or cooked. Or get their health benefits by drinking apple juice or cider.
Cranberries are great for preventing urinary tract infections, because they make urine more acidic and help keep bacteria from attaching to the inside of the bladder. They've also been shown to protect against cancer and heart disease.
Although we think of cranberries as a holiday side dish, cranberry juice can be enjoyed daily for added nutrition. Or toss a handful of dried cranberries into your cereal or salad.
These tasty berries get their blue color from antioxidant compounds called anthocyanidins. Blueberries get high marks for nutrition, thanks to natural compounds that reduce inflammation and lots of vitamin C and fiber. They also contain manganese, which contributes to healthy bones.
Strawberries are rich in two types of antioxidants, plus they contain lots of vitamin C, manganese and fiber. They have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and also help keep your heart healthy.
Cherries are filled with antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect your heart. When eaten daily, they have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Fresh cherries make a delicious snack. Of course, cherry pie is a popular dessert, but there's also cherry crisp, cherry cheesecake and even cherry coffee cake. Cherry sauce makes a nice accompaniment to lamb or pork.
Did you know that egg whites are pure protein? They provide the highest quality protein there is, along with all of the essential amino acids. If you're on the kidney diet, it's good to note that egg whites have less phosphorus than other protein sources, such as egg yolks or meats. .
Another high-quality source of protein is fish. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association recommend that you include fish in your meal plan two or three times a week. Besides being a great source of protein, fish contains anti-inflammatory fats called omega-3s. These healthy fats help prevent diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. They also help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (the good cholesterol).
The types of fish that have the most omega-3s are salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring and rainbow trout.
If you're concerned about the health of your own kidneys — or somebody else's — these super foods for kidney health should be on your grocery-shopping list. Ask a renal dietitian for help including them in your kidney-friendly meal plan if you have chronic kidney disease. When buying fruits and vegetables, get the freshest ones you can find and be sure to include a variety, since some are rich in one nutrient and others are rich in another. If you can only find fruits that are not at their peak, the flavor may be lessened, but you'll still get good nutritional value from them for your kidney health.