10 Antioxidant Foods for the Kidney Diet

Fresh, colorful and kidney-friendly fruits and vegetables aren't just good; they're good for people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Powerful compounds called antioxidants found in certain foods may help protect you against other diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Antioxidants neutralize harmful molecules in your body called free radicals, the normal yet damaging byproducts created when your body produces energy, fights infection or is exposed to toxins. Antioxidant vitamins A, C and E available in supplement form can be harmful to people on dialysis, though many take a renal vitamin supplement that contains 60-100 mg of vitamin C per day as recommended by their doctor.

One of the best ways to get antioxidants is through food. Dietitians use colors in fruits and vegetables to identify antioxidants, which include:

  • Red/Purple = Anthocyanins, polyphenols, resveratrol
  • Red = Lycopene
  • Orange = Beta-carotene
  • Orange/Yellow = Cryptoxanthin, flavonoids
  • Yellow/Green = Lutein, zeaxanthin
  • Green = Indoles, sulforaphanes, lutein
  • White/Green = Allyl sulphides, quercetin

Here are 10 colorful, high-antioxidant foods for the kidney diet.

1. Cranberries

Cranberries add a distinctive zing to sweet breads, muffins and other recipes like Easy Cranberry Salad. Enjoy dried cranberries sprinkled on a salad or on their own as a snack. You can also drink cranberry juice or cranberry juice cocktail.

  • 1/2 cup serving of raw cranberries = 1 mg sodium, 40 mg potassium, 6 mg phosphorus
  • 1/2 cup serving cranberry juice cocktail = 3 mg sodium, 22 mg potassium, 3 mg phosphorus
  • 1/2 cup serving dried cranberries = 2 mg sodium, 24 mg potassium and 5 mg phosphorus

2. Plums

Black plums are higher in antioxidants than red. Look for plums that have a fairly firm to slightly soft feel. Pit and freeze plums and add them to smoothies, purée them for Quick Fruit Sorbet or try Old-Fashioned Plum Cake.

  • 1 medium plum = 0 mg sodium, 104 mg potassium, 11 mg phosphorus

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are classic additions to pancakes and blueberry muffins. Buy them frozen to use in smoothies or in a Blueberry Peach Crisp. When they're in season, enjoy a bowl of fresh blueberries.

  • 1/2 cup serving fresh blueberries = 4 mg sodium, 65 mg potassium, 7 mg phosphorus

4. Blackberries/raspberries

Sprinkle fresh berries on your cereal or oatmeal, use frozen ones in smoothies or bake them into pies such as More Momma's Blackberry Mountain Pie. Use berries in unexpected ways to bring out the flavor of meats, including this recipe for Raspberry Wings.

  • 1/2 cup serving blackberries = 1 mg sodium, 117 mg potassium, 16 mg phosphorus
  • 1/2 cup serving raspberries = 0 mg sodium, 93 mg potassium, 17 mg phosphorus

5. Garlic

This tiny antioxidant powerhouse is available in fresh, bottled, minced or powdered form to use in Garlic Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar or another savory dish. Roasting a head of garlic mellows its flavor and makes a soft, delicious spread for bread.

  • 1 clove garlic = 1 mg sodium, 12 mg potassium, 4 mg phosphorus

6. Apples

Apples have more antioxidants with the peel on, so just wash and enjoy for the perfect snack, or chop and add to chicken or tuna salad. You can also bake them in a pie, cobbler or Apple Crisp.

  • 1 medium apple with skin = 0 sodium, 158 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus

7. Strawberries

Add fresh strawberries to cereal and salads, or combine them with angel food cake and whipped topping for a summertime dessert. Fresh or frozen strawberries pump up antioxidant power in smoothies and desserts, from Strawberry Mousse to Red, White and Blue Salad.

  • 1/2 cup serving (5 medium) fresh strawberries = 1 mg sodium, 120 mg potassium, 13 mg phosphorus

8. Red Bell Peppers

Eat red bell peppers raw with dip as a snack, or mix them into tuna or chicken salad and serve on crackers or bread. Roast peppers and use them as a topping on sandwiches, chop them for an omelet or add them to kabobs on the grill.

  • 1/2 cup serving red bell pepper = 1 mg sodium, 88 mg potassium, 10 mg phosphorus

9. Red cabbage

Ounce for ounce, cooked cabbage contains more antioxidants than raw. Steam, boil or microwave red cabbage for a nutritious side dish. It's also good in main dishes like Cabbage Rolls with Turkey. Raw red cabbage can be used for coleslaw or Cabbage Salad.

  • 1/2 cup serving cooked red cabbage = 21 mg sodium, 197 mg potassium, 25 mg phosphorus
  • 1/2 cup serving raw shredded red cabbage = 9 mg sodium, 85 mg potassium, 11 mg phosphorus

10. Red leaf lettuce

The red or purple color that distinguishes red leaf lettuce from the ordinary kind contains small amounts of the powerful antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein. Wash leaves carefully and use within three days for the best taste. Try it by making Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

  • 1 leaf of red leaf lettuce = 4 mg sodium, 32 mg potassium, 5 mg phosphorus

Bonus: Adding spices such as cinnamon, curry powder, pepper, oregano and turmeric to food adds more than flavor; they are concentrated sources of antioxidants and can contribute to your intake, even when consumed in small amounts.

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Eating Out

See kidney-friendly food and drink choices to consider when eating out at your favorite restaurants. Choose from 12 cuisine types.