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Eating Your Way to Optimal Kidney Health


February 29, 2024

Eating Your Way to Optimal Kidney Health

Your kidneys are the bean-shaped organs on either side of the lower abdomen and are primarily responsible for removing waste and excess bodily fluids. The kidneys also balance fluids in the body, release hormones that regulate blood pressure, and more. Though they may not be as frequently talked about as the heart or brain, healthy kidney function is essential for life. As the same is true for the heart, brain, and every other organ in the body, what you eat and how you fuel these organs matters greatly. In honor of March as National Kidney Month and National Nutrition Month, let’s zero in on what you can eat to give your kidneys the nutrition they need to do their job well.

Critical Nutrients for Kidney Health

Protein – The human body uses dietary protein to help build and maintain muscle mass (especially important as we age), repair damaged tissue, and fight infection. And while all-protein diets are touted as “healthy and safe” by many people who engage in them, too much protein intake can be tricky for the kidneys to process. Especially for people who already have kidney problems, eating lean sources of protein in moderation is critical. The most kidney-friendly protein sources include egg whites, fish, and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and edamame. 

Fruits and Vegetables – The highest concentrations of essential and kidney-healthy nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber can often be found in the produce department. For example, blueberries, cranberries, red grapes, apples, and pineapples are fantastic sources of antioxidants that can help protect the kidneys and provide additional anti-inflammatory properties. On the vegetable front, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower, arugula, and radishes, among plenty of other veggies, are also great vitamin and mineral sources. Flavorful vegetables can be great salt substitutes – adding lots of flavors to your foods without the added sodium that can be hard on the kidneys. Additionally, people with kidney conditions should be mindful of the potassium and phosphorous content of their fruits and vegetables, as too much of these minerals can hinder kidney performance.

Healthy Fats – A diet that includes healthy fats is essential for energy, building the body’s cell membranes and nerve tissues, and adequately absorbing vitamins and minerals. Fish, avocados, low-phosphorus cheeses, and olive and avocado oils are all great sources of healthy fats that can benefit and non-irritate the kidneys. Many people obtain healthy fats by consuming raw nuts. But for people with kidney disease or other chronic kidney conditions, not all nuts are beneficial. Macadamia nuts, however, can be safer sources of healthy fats and vitamin B. 

Foods to Limit or Avoid

The list of foods to avoid for optimal kidney health is generally the same as the list to avoid for overall nutritional health. Processed foods and meats, foods high in sodium, sugary beverages, and those high in added sugar should all be avoided. Specifically for people with kidney disease or other kidney conditions, certain fruits high in potassium or phosphorus should also be avoided, as these are harder for already damaged kidneys to process.

A kidney-friendly diet generally includes foods low in salt, fat, and cholesterol, emphasizing unprocessed whole foods – especially fruits and vegetables. For packaged foods, be mindful of labels and the ingredients listed. One way to avoid harmful ingredients and focus on more nutritious meals is to cook more food at home so that you can control the ingredients and their amounts. 

Of course, not all diets are a one-size-fits-all solution. If you have specific questions about your kidney health or conditions that you must account for when preparing meals, talk to your doctor about what ingredients are best for you and ask if consultation with a registered dietitian specializing in kidney health is in order. Otherwise, start today by making small swaps for the unhealthier foods you regularly eat. Small steps continuously over time can lead to significant health rewards that your kidneys and every other organ will thank you for in the future.



S. Adam Ramin, MD
2080 Century Park East, Suite 1407
Century City

Los Angeles, CA 90067
Phone: 310-277-2929
Fax: (310) 862-0399

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