Choosing healthy foods in your everyday diet can be a preventative measure in protecting healthy kidneys and it can also help you manage current symptoms of kidney disease. The kidneys work hard to remove waste and toxins from the body and keep the body’s fluids balanced (such as blood and electrolyte levels). This is exactly why taking good care of your kidneys’ well-being is essential for a long and healthy life.
“The kidneys are a complicated organ,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, an award-winning nutrition expert and bestselling author of Diabetes Create Your Plate Meal Prep Cookbook. Because of that, there are various states of kidney damage and different types of kidney diseases that all “call for different medical nutrition therapy,” she says.
To better help you maintain healthy kidneys and potentially prevent any further kidney decline, you can try incorporating whole foods and eating less processed meat. Specifically, studies have found that dark leafy greens that are high in minerals and antioxidants can give these powerhouse organs exactly what they need.
The leafy greens in your diet should help “maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals like sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium in your blood,” Amidor says because all of which are necessary to prolong kidney function over the span of your lifetime.
Arugula, for example, contains a healthy amount of multiple nutrients like magnesium, vitamin K, and calcium. But what sets this leafy green apart from others is that it’s low in phosphorus—a naturally occurring mineral in foods that can build up in the bloodstream if the kidneys don’t filter properly. A large body of research has found that a frequent high intake of phosphorus may increase also one’s risk of long-term damage to the kidneys.
Another reason eating more arugula may be the first step in preventing kidney decline, is due to the fact that the dark green vegetable contains nitrates, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure. Consistent high blood pressure can put major stress on the kidneys and in turn, interfere with their ability to work properly, explains the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
For the most part, when it comes to generally healthy people, “no food is toxic to the kidneys, as the kidneys are built to filter out toxins,” Amidor explains. However, she says, it’s the “folks with certain types of kidney disease that need to watch certain foods,” since their kidneys have weakened capabilities.