This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.
Your kidneys help your body eliminate waste and perform other critical functions, such as producing hormones and helping your body balance nutrients and minerals. If your kidneys aren't functioning optimally, waste and excess fluid can build up in your body.
One in 10 Canadians are affected by kidney disease. Uncontrolled diabetes and high blood pressure are two main risk factors for kidney disease, but smoking, toxins and certain medications can harm your kidneys as well.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet can help reduce your risk of developing kidney disease or maintain your kidney function in general. In particular, you should avoid foods that are high in sodium, potassium and phosphorus.
Read on for six of the best foods that can help keep your kidneys healthy.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and an excellent source of vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It's low in potassium, sodium and phosphorus but high in fibre, with one cup containing 8 per cent of the daily recommended allowance. Eating a high-fibre diet can help regulate your bowels, reduce bad cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight.
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Because of their high levels of antioxidants, blueberries are considered a "superfruit" and can help control your blood sugar, reduce your risk of some cancers, improve your brain health and protect your heart.
Blueberries are low in potassium, calcium and sodium, so they're safe to eat even if you've had kidney stones or a kidney transplant. You can rinse and eat them raw or add them to your favourite smoothie or oatmeal recipe.
3. Hot chili peppers
If you love spicy foods, you don't have to avoid them if you have kidney disease.
Capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their heat, increases your blood flow — which can speed healing and protect against high blood pressure and heart disease. Capsaicin also causes you to burn more calories and reduces your appetite, making them ideal for people trying to lose weight.
Because people with kidney disease are advised to limit their salt intake and avoid many other traditional seasonings, chili peppers are a great option for adding flavour to your diet.
4. Bell peppers
If you prefer your peppers sweet rather than hot, you can still enjoy them as part of a kidney-healthy diet.
Bell peppers are high in immunity-boosting vitamin C, which is especially vital because kidney disease can weaken your immune system. The antioxidants in bell peppers — including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene — may also help protect against heart disease and cancer.
Red bell peppers are particularly rich in capsanthin, a polyphenol that gives them their red colour and may help prevent diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol.
Garlic is a delicious way to add salt-free flavour to your diet. It may also control high blood pressure and treat kidney disease.
These benefits stem from the plant compound allicin, which gives garlic its distinctive, powerful smell. Allicin expands your blood vessels, making your blood pressure easier to regulate. Not only is this great for kidney health, but it also positively impacts your arteries.
6. Egg whites
Protein plays an essential role in many of your body's functions, including building muscle, repairing tissues and fighting infections.
But too much protein can be bad for people with kidney disease. Your kidneys may be unable to filter excess waste that accumulates in your blood when you eat a lot of protein.
Egg whites are a great way for people with kidney concerns to get the right amount of protein. They are low in potassium and phosphorus and high in protein.
Eating for kidney health
A healthy diet is an important part of keeping your kidneys healthy. A kidney-friendly diet protects your kidneys from damage and limits minerals that may build up in your blood.
The best diet for kidney disease will vary based on your individual circumstances, such as your health history and what stage of kidney disease you have. Talk to your doctor or dietician about the type of diet you should follow for your situation.