Your kidneys contain millions of tiny filters, which gather up and do away with waste while helping you retain important nutrients. They also release hormones that regulate your blood pressure, produce a form of vitamin D that promotes bone health and control red blood cell production in your body. A healthy diet, rich in particular vegetables, can help keep your kidneys functioning well and may help minimize the effects of kidney-related disease. If you have kidney disease, which often requires a special diet, seek guidance from your doctor or dietitian before making dietary shifts.
Red Bell Peppers
Red bell peppers are rich in antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation and keep your immune system's disease-fighting abilities strong. They're also low in potassium, a mineral people many people with kidney disease need to limit. To include red bell peppers in a kidney-healthy diet, Sara Colman, a registered dietitian and renal specialist with DaVita Kidney Care, recommends eating them raw with dip as an appetizer or snack or mixing them into chicken or tuna salad to serve on bread or crackers. They also make flavorful additions to omelets and sandwiches.
Cabbage and Cauliflower
Cabbage and cauliflower contain natural substances called phytochemicals, which help break up toxic substances known as free radicals, lowering your risk for disease. Both are low in potassium and high in the antioxidant vitamin C, and Colman recommends both cruciferous veggies as some of the best choices for people with kidney disease. Like bell peppers, cabbage and cauliflower are also low in calories, making them useful choices for weight control. Maintaining a healthy weight lowers your risk for kidney disease and helps prevent future damage. Serve cabbage and cauliflower steamed, in cooked dishes such as soups and stews or as fresh, crunchy additions to salads and soft tacos.
Peas and Green Beans
Peas and green beans are low in potassium and valuable sources of fiber. Fiber helps keep your appetite and blood sugar levels in check, which is important for managing or preventing excess weight gain and diabetes, a leading cause of kidney disease. Fiber also promotes cardiovascular health, which is important because heart-healthy foods help keep fat from building up in your kidneys. One-half cup of cooked peas provides nearly 4.5 grams of fiber. One cup of cooked green beans supplies 4 grams. Snack on fresh green beans or peas, add them to salads or incorporate them into hot entrees, such as pot pie and stir-fry.
Incorporating a variety of vegetables into your diet helps ensure that you reap a broad range of nutrients and can keep a healthy diet from seeming dull. Other low-potassium vegetables to consider include asparagus, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb and yellow squash. Additional fiber-rich options include okra, turnips, lentils and potatoes. To lower the potassium content of potatoes, if needed, leach them -- a process in which you peel and soak vegetables in cold water, rinse them and soak them in warm water before cooking them in 5 parts water to 1 part vegetable. Avoiding excess sodium intake is important for kidney health, so avoid canned or heavily salted vegetables.
- National Kidney Foundation: How Your Kidneys Work
- DaVita Kidney Care: Top 15 Healthy Foods for People With Kidney Disease
- National Kidney Foundation: The Right Diet May Help Prevent Kidney Disease, New Study Finds
- National Kidney Disease Education Program: Eating Right for Kidney Health Tips for People With Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
- Harvard University Health Services: Fiber Content of Foods in Common Portions
- National Kidney Foundation: Potassium and Your CKD Diet