Many of us love reaching for a refreshing, ice cold drink on a hot summer day, or cozying up with a warm beverage during the dead of winter. But did you know that the drinks you choose to quench your thirst can have a tremendous impact on your kidney health?
As a nephrologist and Kidney Kitchen® contributor, drink-related questions are some of the most common questions I get. Whether you need to watch out for certain nutrients or have fluid restrictions that you need to stick to, there are ways to enjoy healthy drinks for your kidneys. Remember: each person with kidney disease should stick to the food and fluid plan you discussed with your doctor and dietitian, as it addresses your specific kidney function, fluid needs and electrolyte imbalances (like potassium and phosphorus levels). Here are five of my favorite drinks that are generally healthy for people with kidney disease:
- Black coffee: Every year, there seems to be a new study that publicizes the benefits of coffee. Drinking coffee — my favorite morning beverage — may help protect you from developing kidney disease and keep your kidneys filtering at a higher level for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, not all coffee drinks are healthy, and if you have kidney disease, you may be limited in what you can add to your coffee. Drinking black coffee, instead of coffee with high-potassium and high-phosphorus milk or high-calorie sugary drinks, will be your best bet.
- Unsweetened green tea: Green tea has been studied almost as much as coffee. A cup of green tea is full of compounds called "polyphenols," which function as antioxidants. Although experts are unsure whether green tea will positively affect your health from a purely medical standpoint, it is certainly a safe, tasty and zero-calorie beverage for people with kidney disease. Green tea may also lower your risk of developing kidney stones. The key to making a perfect cup of green tea is to drink it unsweetened. My favorite recipe for green tea is:
- Start with water that is not quite boiling (170–180 degrees).
- Add a tea bag and steep for 2–4 minutes only.
- Add a cinnamon stick and a splash of lemon juice for taste.
- Low-sugar smoothies: Smoothies can fill you up; give you a healthy dose of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals; and also taste delicious. But if you are not careful, it can increase your blood sugar, give you too much potassium or phosphorus and be very high in calories. My favorite smoothie recipe starts with unsweetened Greek yogurt, fresh blueberries, frozen mixed berries and some hemp or flax seeds for extra plant-based protein — delicious! If you do not have to watch your potassium levels, try adding a frozen banana or a fresh orange to mix up the flavor.
- Sparkling water: This one is for all the soda lovers who cannot quit carbonation. Carbonated, or sparkling, water hydrates you just as well as still water does, and it gives you the added bonus of all the bubbly feels. It is the perfect antidote to help you lower your soda intake. If you do not like plain sparkling water, try flavoring it by adding a little fresh lemon juice, a splash of cranberry juice or fresh herbs, like basil or mint.
- Water: Water is simply the best drink you can have! Water is a zero-calorie, perfectly hydrating, cheap drink. If you are in the earlier stages of kidney disease, choosing water most of the time to quench your thirst will keep your body and kidneys functioning well. If you are in the later stages of kidney disease, you may need to limit the amount of water (and other fluids) you consume because your kidneys cannot get rid of enough water from your body. Your doctor and dietitian will tell you how much water you can drink each day.
Want to learn more? Check out my video about keeping your kidneys healthy by choosing the right drinks.