Kidney Cancer Awareness Month – Tips for Keeping them Healthy

March 1, 2021

Kidneys are incredible organs, and vital to our health.  The kidneys perform their life-sustaining job of filtering and returning about 200 quarts of fluid to the bloodstream every 24 hours. Around two quarts are removed from the body through urine, and the other 198 quarts are filtered and recovered in the body.

However, in 2020, 73,750 adults (45,520 men and 28,230 women) were diagnosed with kidney cancer.  The most common form of kidney cancer, called renal cell cancer, occurs when malignant tumors form in the tiny filters that clean blood. Symptoms include blood in the urine, back or side pain, and a lump in the abdomen. If you have these symptoms, it is best to call your urologist immediately.

With all of that being said, of course we want our kidneys in tip-top shape. Here are some tips on how to do just that.

5 Diet Tips for Cancer-Fighting Kidneys

Everything we eat and drink passes through our kidneys at one point, so of course, will affect their health. In fact, the top two leading factors of kidney cancer are cigarette smoking and obesity. So a clean and healthy diet (and our Austin nutritionist  can help) along with kicking any smoking habit puts you in the best chances of keeping them healthy and functioning their best.  Follow these tips to treat your kidneys well during Kidney Cancer Awareness Month, and every month!

1. Opt for low phosphates. 

Damaged kidneys have trouble removing phosphates from food. Some cooked seafoods like Tuna and Salmon can be high in phosphates. Instead, look for low-phosphate fish options, including raw fish (an excuse to get sushi, anyone?), as well as oysters, scallops, crabs, trout, and sea bass. In addition to being low in phosphates, these fish contain high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for our health. Sausage, ham, and bacon are also a no-go when focusing on low phosphate foods. Do your best to avoid processed or prepackaged meats.

2. Bring on the berries.

Berries are packed with antioxidants that can protect cells from cancer-causing free radicals. Blueberries, in particular, contain anthocyanins, a specific antioxidant which may protect against cancer. Red and purple grapes carry flavonoids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, a contributor to cancer.

3. Enjoy your whole grains.

Due to the amount of fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins like vitamin E, selenium, and phytochemicals, whole grains have a few ways they can help lower the risk of kidney cancer. Look for whole wheat, oatmeal, whole grain cornmeal, or whole rye as the first ingredient on the food label to ensure you are choosing a whole grain food.

4. Go lean on protein.   Ailing kidneys struggle with filtering the waste from the proteins we eat, especially fatty red meats and processed meats. Plant-based proteins like tofu or mushrooms, low-phosphate fish, and egg whites are all suitable options instead. High-protein diets filled with meat, and dairy (or a high amount of nuts) may cause the kidneys to work harder to remove urea, the waste product created as your body breaks protein down for use. Current guidelines recommend reducing the amount of protein in your diet when the kidney function has declined.

5. Make colorful salads.  For those at risk or who want to avoid risk, make salads with arugula or cabbage (rather than high-potassium spinach or kale) and load them with a rainbow of veggies like carrots, radishes, and bell peppers. Inflammation plays a role in many chronic diseases like kidney disease and cancer, and fruits and vegetables are important for their anti-inflammatory properties. A review published in January 2018 in the journal Current Opinion in Urology examined 76 studies on kidney cancer risk factors, and they found that fruits and fiber-rich vegetables may have a protective effect against kidney cancer and its recurrence.

A balanced diet benefits everyone, but especially those at higher risk of kidney cancer. For those previously diagnosed with kidney cancer, the right food choices could help maintain strength, prevent infections and support the regeneration of normal body tissues.