Foods for Kidney Health

The kidneys serve a multitude of essential functions within the body. They clean waste and excess water from the blood, produce urine, help control blood pressure by regulating electrolytes, adjust pH, filter proteins, remove toxins that have been packaged for removal by the liver, and even produce hormones. These hormones are important to red blood cell production, blood pressure, and in keeping bones healthy. They stay very busy. Each day, the kidneys process over 200 quarts of blood and sift out over 2 quarts of waste products and water.  

If the kidneys did not remove these waste products, they would build up in the blood and poison the body, dealing damage to every tissue and cell. The toxins, excess water, and failure to control pH, blood pressure, and electrolyte balance would also put enormous strain on the blood vessels and heart.

Keeping the kidneys healthy is important. Two of the leading contributors to kidney problems are diabetes and high blood pressure. These both cause damage to the nephrons, the tiny filtering units in kidneys. So adopting a lifestyle that limits the development of diabetes and high blood pressure will dramatically reduce the risks of kidney disease, kidney stones, or renal failure, though there are some less controllable ways to develop these health issues. Some autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, infections, poisoning, and physical blows to the kidneys can result in renal failure.

If you want to reduce your risks, begin by maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity raises the chances of developing diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise is also important in keeping blood vessels, the heart, and cholesterol under control. Don’t smoke. Smoking dumps toxins into the blood stream that damage the kidneys. Avoid coffee and colas that can dehydrate you and contain too much phosphorus. Avoid highly processed and refined foods. These contain large amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, free radicals, sugar, and sodium that increase the load on the kidneys that must filter most of this out. They also contribute to obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Too much protein can also damage the kidneys. Excessive protein consumption floods the blood with toxic ketones. The kidneys go into overdrive to remove these toxins, increasing the stress on these organs. The kidneys use up a lot of water in the process of flushing these dangerous ketones away. Dehydration further stresses the kidneys and the heart. Eating too much meat also means getting a lot of saturated fats and cholesterol.

Plant-based options are a healthier alternative. They deliver smaller, manageable amounts of protein; healthy fats that are essential to heart and kidney health; carbohydrates paired with fiber for slow, steady absorption; and much less sodium. Plant foods also contain antioxidants that help prevent damage, water for proper hydration, and valuable vitamins and minerals. Those who already have some form of kidney disease should especially avoid red meat and watch carefully their consumption of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus as the kidneys can no longer fully regulate these electrolytes in the blood stream.

Red Bell Pepper – These peppers are low in potassium which can be hard on those who have kidney disease. They also contain a good amount of vitamin C, folate, vitamin B6, and fiber. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and plays roles throughout the body in energy production, blood flow, and metabolism. Folate and B6 contribute to the formation of red blood cells. Red bell peppers also contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that keeps kidneys healthy and prevents renal failure.

Cabbage – Cabbage is rich in fiber, folate, B6, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The fiber in cabbage and other leafy greens slows the absorption of nutrients. This gives the liver and kidneys time to deal with the influx into the blood stream. Fiber keeps blood sugar from spiking, one of the biggest reasons for kidney damage, and it also helps pull toxins from the digestive tract. Vitamin K is important in healthy blood clotting. Cabbage also contains many phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

Cauliflower and Broccoli – These florets are rich in vitamin C, folate, and fiber. Also consider adding healthy greens to your diet such as mustard greens, dandelion leaves, and turnip greens.

Garlic – Garlic, onions, and leeks all contain allicin. Allicin is an organic sulfur compound that has some mighty anti-inflammatory properties that also fights infection. It also has beneficial effects on blood pressure and can act as an antioxidant.

Asparagus – The asparagus stalk is an excellent source of fiber. The phytonutrients in asparagus lower blood pressure and have a cleansing effect on the kidneys and bladder as they increase urine production and break up uric acid. This is for prevention. Those who already suffer from kidney disease should be careful with asparagus as it is also rich in potassium and phosphorus.

Apples – Apples are an excellent source of fiber. The fiber in apples is exceptional at binding to and removing toxins from the digestive tract before the body can absorb them, lessening the load on the kidneys. Apples also reduce inflammation and cholesterol.

Berries – Berries are low calorie sweets that are also packed with some potent antioxidants and phytonutrients that help prevent damage to kidney cells and nephrons. They reduce inflammation and contain vitamin C, fiber, folate, and manganese. Some, like cranberry, are known to have a soothing effect on the urinary system and prevent infections. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cherries all help protect and cleanse the kidneys. Raspberries also contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant that has been shown to prevent kidney disease and some cancers.

Olive Oil – The healthy essential fatty acids in olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and can ease the pain of kidney stones.

Melons – Melons provide a gentle source of hydration full of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. They help cleanse the kidneys, blood, and bladder. Watermelon also contains lycopene.

Ginger– This spice has been used as a digestive aid for hundreds of years. It also has been shown to protect the kidneys from damage caused by diabetes, alcohol, and dehydration. Ginger when combined with thyme may offer even more protection. Turmeric is related to ginger and can also protect the kidneys from damage though it isn’t recommended for those who already have kidney disease due to its potassium content.

 Learn more about Charlie Pulsipher


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