World Kidney Day is March 12, 2015, and as part of our spreading the message of “Kidney Health For All,” we are turning our focus to foods that promote kidney health. The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdominal cavity. They provide the important function of filtering and cleaning our blood daily, keeping the chemical composition of the blood stable. They also filter urine and eliminate wastes from our body.

This life-preserving function is essential, yet we often neglect our hard-working kidneys when considering what to eat. For those on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease, diet and proper nutrition is an important part of managing this condition. Here are some delicious ways to support kidney health in our Eat This, Not That: Kidney Edition.

Instead of: Mashed potatoes

Try: Cauliflower mash

Cauliflower is filled with vitamin C, folate, and fiber. Delicious steamed, roasted, or raw, when served mashed, it is a dialysis-friendly substitute for potatoes. To make, steam one head of cauliflower florets until very tender. While the cauliflower is steaming, sauté one or two cloves of minced garlic in olive oil (just a tablespoon) in a saucepan until softened (don’t burn or the garlic will become bitter). Place half of the drained, cooked cauliflower into a food processor and process until smooth. Add garlic, a splash of milk (or a tablespoon of sour cream), salt and pepper to taste, and ¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Blend, and then add the rest of the cauliflower, one floret at a time, until very smooth.

Instead of: Excess salt

Try: Garlic

When kidneys are cleaning the blood and processing urine, the last thing they need is excess salt to clean out. Garlic adds a powerful punch of flavor without adding extra sodium. Garlic is also an anti-inflammatory and lowers bad cholesterol. Try adding garlic powder to dishes that call for extra salt, or use slow-roasted garlic as a spread for toast instead of salted butter.

To roast an entire head of garlic until it is sweet and creamy, use a muffin tin to keep the whole bulb of garlic upright. Preheat your oven to 400˚. Peel the papery outer skin off the garlic, and then cut off the top ½ inch of the whole bulb (you will see into the end of each garlic glove). Place whole head of garlic in the muffin tin (you can prepare several of these at a time), and rub with a teaspoon or two of olive oil (also great for kidney health!). Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about 30-35 minutes until the cloves are brown and spreadable. Caramelizing the garlic in this way makes it easier to digest and less smelly, so this is a quick snack you can share. For a quick pasta dish, mix roasted garlic with hot pasta, fresh Parmesan, and plenty of cracked black pepper.

Instead of: Cereal bars for breakfast and snacks

Try: Berries of all types

The kidneys benefit tremendously from foods that contain high levels of antioxidants, the blood-cleaning nutrients found in many deep red, bright orange, and deep purple fruits. The best news is that they retain their antioxidants no matter how they are prepared, so feel free to incorporate them into your diet in as many ways as possible.

  • Cherries: Try a handful of cherries daily as a snack to reduce inflammation and protect your heart. Or mix it up and try pickling fresh cherries to add to sandwiches (or eat straight from the jar!!).
  • Blueberries: Add blueberries to your oatmeal in the morning or bake into muffins for extra vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants.
  • Strawberries: Fresh with some whipped cream or added to a smoothie, strawberries are not only anti-inflammatory, but they also have two different types of antioxidants and are a cancer-fighting fruit.
  • Cranberries: Think of cranberries as a year-round, delicious addition to morning breakfast breads or lunchtime turkey sandwiches.

Where possible, buy organic or locally-produced fruits in season. It pays to stock up when they are abundant and then preserve them through canning or freezing.

Instead of: Potato salad

Try: Cabbage, onion, and apple slaw

All three of these vegetables combine to form the triumvirate of kidney-friendly side dishes. Onions contain flavinoids called quercetin that prevent fatty deposits in the blood. Cabbage and apple are also high in antioxidants and fiber, with cabbage bringing added nutrition in the form of B6 and folate. When combined, these three delicious, kidney healthy foods make a slaw that is delicious on burgers, fish tacos (fish is also kidney-friendly), or just on its own.

To make, combine in a large bowl two cups of finely shredded cabbage, one carrot, grated, one chopped apple, and ¼ to ½ white onion, chopped (more or less onion depending on taste preference). Top with a dressing of ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, one tablespoon of cider vinegar, one teaspoon of honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until combined.

You can also try braised red cabbage with apples and onions to serve with chicken or fish.

As you can see, antioxidant-rich foods play a huge part in maintaining kidney health, but you don’t need to be suffering from chronic kidney disease to take care of your kidney. What are your favorite foods to support kidney health?

Image by Live4Soccer (L4S) via Flickr


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