The #1 Best Drink for Your Kidneys, Says Dietitian
You can think of your kidneys as your body's water boys. Like those "hydration engineers" who run out on the gridiron to squirt water into the mouths of your favorite football players to keep them well-hydrated, your kidneys are responsible for 24/7 regulation of your body's water supply.
It's a crucial job. Your body's water boys don't demand a salary, but they do require a fluid payday. And the #1 best fluid for healthy kidneys and their continued wellbeing is unsurprisingly, water!
Read on, and for more helpful kidney health tips check out 5 Worst Foods for Your Kidneys.
Why water is best for your kidneys
"Water is your body's most important 'nutrient,'" says registered dietitian nutritionist and American College of Sports Medicine certified exercise physiologist and registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN. "It should always be your first course of action."
The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies estimates that men need about 13 cups of fluid daily while women need approximately 9 cups to function optimally. Drinks other than water and even foods can contribute to that goal, but water is your body's go-to. After all, 60% to 70% of your bodyweight is made up of water, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Your bean-shaped kidneys do an important job. They act as filters, removing wastes and extra water from your blood at the rate of about a half cup per minute and sending the "dirty water" out of the body through urination. As they filter your blood, your kidneys also regulate the balance of sodium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium in your bloodstream, which is critical to the proper function of your nerves, muscles, and organs.
It should also be noted that the specific advice in this article is for those wanting to maintain healthy kidneys. If you've had or currently have a form of kidney disease, you'll want to talk to your doctor or dietitian about a specific plan of action for your renal health.
Other good beverages for your kidneys
While water is the playmaker, other fluids can be useful for specific healthy goals, like rehydration. An example is fluid containing electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
"Water is the flusher and hydrator, minerals like potassium and salt are the regulators, and a little bit of glucose in a drink is a hydration helper to open the channels for hydration," says Dr. Bazilian.
So, by combining water, sodium, and potassium, and the right amount of glucose in a beverage, water can be more efficiently absorbed through the intestinal wall, speeding up whole-body hydration. That's why oral rehydration solutions made from water, sodium, potassium, and molasses are given to people in places like Bangladesh who are suffering from the deadly dehydrating effects of cholera. It's why water boys offer players a choice of water or electrolyte-containing sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade on the field.
Read on to learn about a few other drinks that can help keep your kidneys healthy.
You've probably heard of this tart home remedy for bladder infections. Well, there's scientific support behind grandma's kitchen cure. A meta-analysis of studies in The Journal of Nutrition found that healthy women at risk for a recurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs) reduced their risk by 26% after drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets or capsules.
"Cranberry juice has anti-adhesion properties that keep bacteria from sticking to the walls of urinary tract linings," explains Bazilian. If the bacteria can't gain a secure hold, it'll likely be swept away in your pee. Researchers believe proanthocyanins, a type of polyphenol in cranberry juice, are to thank for the protective effect.
Drinking lemon water may improve kidney health for people with a history of the most common type of kidney stones, calcium-based stones, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Lemons contain citrate, or citric acid, which can help inhibit the growth and aggregation of the crystals that form kidney stones.
Just as a morning cup has been associated with a lower incidence of heart disease, recent clinical research published in 2022 in the journal Kidney International Reports suggests that it may keep your kidneys healthy. The researchers found that people who consumed any amount of coffee had an 11% lower risk of developing acute kidney injury, which is characterized by sudden renal failure. What's more, the analysis showed that those who consumed 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily experienced the greatest risk reduction.
But if your kidneys aren't healthy…
A friendly warning: The drinks above are good for healthy kidneys. If you have a kidney-related issue like chronic kidney disease, do not significantly change your diet or the amount of fluids you drink before talking with your doctor. Having kidney disease means your kidneys do not remove toxins and fluid from your blood the way they are supposed to, so following a kidney-health diet is important. Consider speaking with a renal dietitian who can advise you about kidney-friendly eating and drinking practices.