Understanding how the kidneys work is the first step to keeping them healthy.
These bean-shaped organs are each about the size of a fist. They are located near the middle of the back and are responsible for extracting waste and extra water from the blood. The waste and water become urine, which in turn flows to the bladder through tubes called ureters.
The blood produces waste that comes from normal breakdown of active tissues and food. Once the body takes what it needs from food, the wastes are sent to the blood. The blood is then processed by the kidneys for cleaning. When kidneys do not perform optimally, wastes can accumulate and cause illness. Although not a largely discussed topic, kidney health is actually integral to overall body health. Kidney disorders can lead to a number of degenerative diseases, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Foods to Eat for Kidney Health
One of the most effective ways to ensure the kidneys remain in optimal condition is with diet. Everything a person consumes is eventually absorbed into the blood through digestion. Healthy foods that are properly chewed and eaten well in advance of bedtime can contribute to better digestion, which helps reduce stress to the kidneys. Conversely, processed foods that are unhealthy can impact digestion and cause blood to become contaminated. This places stress on the kidneys and, in turn, other organs as well.
In addition to the standard adage of fruits, vegetables and nuts, specific foods can help target kidney health. Some examples include the following:
Red bell peppers: rich in vitamins A and C, vitamin B6, folic acid and fiber. Peppers also contain lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against certain cancers.
Cabbage: full of phytochemicals, which break-up free radicals before they can cause damage to cells. Cabbage is also high in vitamins C and K, vitamin B6 and folic acid.
Cranberries: these line the bladder wall and protect against bladder infections. In similar fashion, cranberries also line the GI tract to promote stomach and digestive health.
Strawberries: rich in phenols that help protect body cell structure and prevent oxidative damage. Strawberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, manganese and fiber.
Egg whites: these contain one of the highest-quality levels of protein with all essential amino acids.
Fish: like egg whites, these also contain high-quality protein, but fish includes anti-inflammatory fats called omega-3s. Fish also helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good.
Additional foods that doctors recommend to support kidney health include cauliflower, garlic, watermelon, onion, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, red grapes and olive oil. Incorporating this assortment can be easy with salads, fritters, muffins and casseroles. Moreover, health officials strongly advocate drinking water. This is known to balance the kidneys, help cleanse the body and keep the kidneys functioning at optimal levels. Water can also help prevent the formation of painful and debilitating kidney stones.
Low Phosphorous Foods
In addition to cleansing, kidneys help regulate the level of phosphorous in the blood. Persons who experience impaired kidney function may also have elevated phosphorous levels. This can ultimately decrease the blood’s calcium, which may lead to bone disease. To help maintain this balance, listed below are some foods to select which are healthy but also low in phosphorous:
Rice milk instead of traditional milk, pudding or yogurt
Cream cheese or cottage cheese instead of hard cheeses
Broth-based soups in place of those that are cream-based
Refined grains instead of whole grains
Potato, rutabaga or winter squash instead of sweet potatoes, corn and pumpkin
Persons who wish to maintain sound kidney health or who are on restricted diets because of kidney disease should also avoid foods with simple sugars. Salt, alcohol and excessive proteins should also be limited. Persons are further encouraged to exercise, receive adequate sleep and avoid taking over-the-counter pain pills to increase kidney health.