Superfoods for your kidneys

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Eating healthy when on dialysis or if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), need not be a challenge. People with kidney disease experience more inflammation and have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those without kidney problems. 

If you have kidney disease, it's important  to consult a renal dietician and follow a specific diet. 

Here’s a list of kidney-friendly super foods.

1. Red bell peppers

Red bell peppers are low in potassium. They add colour and taste to any dish, while packing a generous portion of vitamins A, C, B6, folic acid and fibre. They also contain the antioxidant lycopene, which protects against certain types of cancer. Mix them into tuna or chicken salad or eat raw with dip. Roasted, they're great for topping sandwiches or green salads. Chop them up for omelettes or scrambled eggs, add them to kebabs for grilling or stuff them with a ground beef or turkey mixture for a tasty baked entrée.

2. Cabbage

Crunchy cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable filled with phytochemicals, chemical compounds found in certain fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals work to break apart free radicals. Many phytochemicals are believed to combat cancer and support cardiovascular health. Cabbage is a great addition to your diet, because it's also high in vitamins K and C, fibre and a good source of Vitamin B6 and folic acid, yet it's low in potassium, so it's especially kidney-friendly. Cabbage can be boiled, steamed or microwaved and enjoyed with a touch of butter or cream cheese and a sprinkling of pepper or caraway seeds.

3. Cauliflower

Cauliflower brings loads of Vitamin C to your plate, along with folate and fibre. In addition, it contains compounds that help your liver neutralise toxic substances. Cauliflower can be eaten raw with dip or in salads. Steamed or boiled, it can be seasoned and turned into a great side dish. You can even mash cauliflower as a dialysis-friendly replacement for mashed potatoes.

4. Garlic

Garlic is good for reducing inflammation and lowering cholesterol. It also has antioxidant and anti-clotting properties. (Cooking garlic will not affect its antioxidant properties, but it will reduce its anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory effects.) If you're following the dialysis diet, use garlic powder instead of garlic salt to add extra flavour to your meals without extra sodium. Garlic can be used in many dishes: meat, vegetables or tomato sauce, for instance. Once you start cooking with garlic, you'll wonder how you ever got along without it.

5. Onion

Onion is full of flavonoids, particularly quercetin. Flavonoids are natural chemicals that prevent the deposit of fatty material in blood vessels and add pigmentation (colour) to plants. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant that is believed to help reduce heart disease and protect against many forms of cancer. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Low in potassium, onions are not only kidney-friendly; they also contain chromium, a mineral that assists your body with the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates.  

6. Apples

An apple a day really does help keep the doctor away! High in fibre and anti-inflammatory properties, apples help reduce cholesterol, prevent constipation, protect against heart disease and decrease your risk of cancer. Renal-friendly apples can be eaten raw or cooked. You can also reap the health benefits by drinking apple juice or cider.

7. Cranberries

Cranberries are great for preventing urinary tract infections, because they make urine more acidic and help keep bacteria from attaching to the inside of the bladder. They've also been shown to protect against cancer and heart disease.

8. Blueberries

Blueberries get high marks for nutrition, thanks to natural compounds that reduce inflammation and lots of Vitamin C and fibre. They also contain manganese, which contributes to healthy bones. Use blueberries to top off your morning cereal, whip them up in a fruit smoothie or enjoy them in a baked treat, such as muffins or crisp. 

9. Strawberries

Strawberries are rich in two types of antioxidants, and contain lots of Vitamin C, manganese and fibre. They have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and also help keep your heart healthy. Like most berries, they're wonderful on cereal or in smoothies.

10. Red grapes

The colour in red grapes comes from several flavonoids. These are good for your heart, because they prevent oxidation and reduce the chance of blood clots. One flavonoid in grapes, resveratrol, may boost production of nitric oxide, which increases muscle relaxation in blood vessels for better blood flow. Flavonoids also help protect you from cancer and prevent inflammation.  

Choose those with red or purple skin grapes for the highest flavonoid content. Eat grapes as a snack. When frozen, they make a good thirst-quencher for those on a fluid-restricted diet. Add grapes to fruit or chicken salad. Or drink grape juice.

11. Egg whites

Egg whites are pure protein. Eggs provide the highest quality protein, along with all of the essential amino acids. If you're on the kidney diet, note that egg whites have less phosphorus than other protein sources, such as egg yolks or meats. Use egg whites for omelettes or egg white sandwiches. You can also add them to smoothies or shakes. Hard boil eggs and use the whites in tuna or green salads.

12. Fish

Another high-quality source of protein is fish. Both the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association recommend that you include fish in your meal plan two or three times a week. Besides being a great source of protein, fish contains anti-inflammatory fats called Omega-3s. These healthy fats help prevent cancer and heart disease. They also help lower LDL (the bad cholesterol) and raise HDL (the good cholesterol).

The types of fish that have the most omega-3s are salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, herring and rainbow trout.

13. Olive oil

Research has shown that people in countries where olive oil is used instead of other types of oils tend to have lower rates of cancer and heart disease. This is believed to be due to olive oil's many good components: oleic acid, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid which protects against oxidation and polyphenols and antioxidant compounds that prevent inflammation and oxidation. Use virgin or extra virgin olive oil which are higher in antioxidants. Olive oil can be used in cooking or to make salad dressing, as a dip for bread and as a marinade for vegetables.

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