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The #1 Best Diet to Protect Your Kidneys, New Study Says

New evidence suggests this eating habit can help preserve your kidney function.

The food and beverages you put into your body could be impacting your kidneys' ability to keep you safe and healthy. Drinking excessive amounts of soda and alcohol could do some real damage, while eating foods high in potassium and protein can help protect these vital organs. Now, new evidence suggests that following a Mediterranean diet—one with plenty of extra virgin olive oil—could help preserve kidney function, especially for those who have dealt with heart troubles in the past.

The study, published earlier this month in the journal Clinical Nutrition, aka the official journal of ESPEN (The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism), examined a group of more than 1,000 coronary heart disease patients (specifically those who have suffered a coronary event six months ago or more). Researchers assigned half of these participants to stick to a Mediterranean diet rich in extra virgin olive oil and half to follow a low-fat diet rich in complex carbohydrates.

"Our main findings are that the long-term consumption of a Mediterranean diet—one [that is] rich in monounsaturated fat from olive oil—when compared to a low-fat diet, slows and preserves kidney function in those persons with coronary heart disease," study co-author Elena Yubero Serrano, PhD, tells Eat This, Not That!.

In fact, the study actually found that both diets were linked with improved kidney function, though the positive effect was significantly more pronounced with the high-EVOO Mediterranean diet.

olive oil on salad

Related: The 15 Best Mediterranean Diet Recipes

Maintaining kidney health is key for people with coronary heart disease because your kidneys don't just remove waste and extra fluid. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' National Institutes of Health, they also play a key role in your heart health—kidney damage can contribute to high blood pressure. So, it might be worth it to look out for your kidneys, if you're worried about your heart.

"If you're new to the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, start small," Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, FAND, owner of The Healthy Epicurean, suggests. "Set goals like aiming to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce processed meat consumption. Then, aim to eat more omega 3-rich seafood."

"Then, swap your grains to 100% whole grains and shoot to eat more beans," adds Andrews. "Setting small goals, one or two at a time, can help you implement and maintain a healthier lifestyle over time."

On the flip side, for foods you should probably cut back on, check out these Popular Foods That May Cause Lasting Damage to Your Kidneys, Says Science.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more about Clara