Kidney Diet Tips

Antioxidants and Anti-inflammatory Foods and the Kidney Diet

When plants are eaten we actually ingest the plant’s immune system. Our bodies benefit from some of the compounds in plant foods. Learn more about antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits from eating a plant-based diet.

Antioxidants Defined

Antioxidant is a term that most of us are familiar with, yet few understand the definition. Simply put, an antioxidant is a compound that stops oxidation from occurring in the body. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that occurs in the body that produces free radicals. While not all oxidation is bad, having high amounts of free radicals in the body is linked to the development of multiple chronic diseases. This includes cancer, heart disease, brain disorders and more. Therefore, having an insufficient amount of antioxidants in the diet may contribute to a decline in health.


Inflammation is another term commonly used in health care and is of special significance to dialysis patients. Why? Their bodies experience varying levels of inflammation due to the nature of the dialysis process. Inflammation occurs in response to cell damage in the body. Similar to oxidation, inflammation is linked to numerous disease states when it becomes chronic or occurs in excess. Consuming foods known to have anti-inflammatory properties may help to minimize the damaging effects of this process.

Kidney-Friendly Foods to Fight Disease

Despite the necessary dietary restrictions for dialysis patients, there are still a wide variety of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods that can be included in the kidney diet. However, in order to keep potassium and phosphorus levels under control, aim to consume no more than 1/2 cup serving at a meal or snack.

Some of the best sources include:

Berries: Cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are included. Berries make an excellent addition to smoothies, salads, pancakes, desserts, cereal, and are also delicious eaten alone.

Apples: Eat apples with the skin on to achieve the most antioxidant power.

Garlic: Garlic is truly an antioxidant powerhouse and can be incorporated into numerous recipes. Add fresh or bottled minced garlic to soups, sauces, salad dressings, stir-fry’s, meat and poultry dishes and more.

Salmon: Although not a plant food, salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory. Enjoy salmon alongside your favorite low potassium veggies, tossed in a salad, or in the form of a burger.

Red cabbage: Red cabbage contains a powerful compound called anthocyanin which serves as an antioxidant in the body. Enjoy cabbage steamed, boiled, or raw as a side dish or as part of a nutritious salad.

Bell peppers: No matter what the color, bell peppers are all a good source of vitamin C which is another type of antioxidant. Red bell peppers also contain a compound called lycopene which has a protective effect in the body. Bell peppers pair well inside sandwiches, omelets, salads, with dips, as well as roasted and added to stir-fry’s and kabobs.

Carrots: Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene which is another type of antioxidant. Carrots can be enjoyed cooked or raw and go well with a wide variety of meals or can be consumed by themselves.

Plum: Black plums are higher in antioxidants than red and make a delicious side to a meal or snack

Nuts (limit to 1 oz or a small handful per day): Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans are some of the most popular nuts included. These are rich in vitamin E which is an antioxidant. Nuts contain healthful anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats. Some nuts, like walnuts, also contain a significant amount of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids

Olive Oil: Olive oil is known to be part of a heart healthy and anti-inflammatory diet. It is great for low to medium temperature cooking, baking, and sautéing. Use olive oil in homemade salad dressing or for drizzling on roasted vegetables.

Embracing Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory Foods

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can significantly increase the body’s ability to fight disease. It can also aid in the healing process when disease is already present. Check out recipes for more ideas of ways to incorporate these foods into your everyday kidney-friendly diet!

Joanna Foley, RD

Joanna Foley, RD

Joanna is a registered dietitian practicing over 3 years, with experience in both the acute care and outpatient environments. She is passionate about promoting behavior change to help individuals achieve higher quality of life by adopting healthier habits. Joanna believes that food truly is the best medicine. In her free time Joanna enjoys experimenting with new recipes, traveling the world with her husband, and running half marathons.