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Diet tips for Kidney Health

What is a Kidney-Friendly Diet?

When you are looking for a diet plan that is Kidney-Friendly, you should limit sodium, cholesterol, and fat. You should instead focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats (seafood, pultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy products. People who have CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) may also need to limit other nutrients, but you should always consult with your provider!

Here are some ways to upgrade your diet to maintain kidney health!

1. Portion Your Plate!

As a general rule of thumb, you should fill roughly half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, one-quarter with lean protein, and one-quarter with whole grains.

2. Limit your Sodium Intake!

Sodium sneaks into all sorts of places you wouldn’t think. Especially with pre-packaged foods suchs as soups and breads. Limiting your intake helps keep your blood pressure under control. A good target to aim for is 2,300 milligrams per day, or about 1 teaspoon of salt, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

If you’re at risk of or already have high blood pressure, you can try these tips to keep your sodium in check:

  • Limit ordering takeout and eating at resturants. Salt is often added to food items in resturants and fast food locations. When you do eat out, it is a good idea to ask for no salt to be used as well as look for the nutrition information online.
  • Cook at home with whole, unprocessed food. When you are preparing meals at home, it is a great idea to use fresh ingredients. This allows you to control exactly how much sodium, and fat, goes into each bite!
  • Get creative with seasonings. Just because you have to avoid salt, that does not mean you can’t use something else! Items like spices, herbs, lemon and other salt free seasonings are available!
  • Check your package! Any prepared food with 20 percent or more of your daily value of sodium is considered to be “high sodium”. Choose soups, frozen meals and other packaged foods labeled as reduced or low-sodium when available.
3. Be Mindful of Protein

When you eat protein, your body produces waste that is filtered through your kidneys. While protein is an important part of a healthy diet, eating more protein than you need may cause your kidneys to work harder. Your doctor will likely recommend a lower-protein diet if you already have CKD. 

People with any stage of CKD who aren’t on dialysis should limit their protein intake to 0.6 to 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight to reduce the kidney disease progression. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with CKD, it can help to opt for healthier protein sources and be mindful of portion sizes. Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean meat, fish, or skinless poultry.
  • Eggs.
  • Dairy (one portion size of yogurt and milk is 1/2 cup, while one portion of cheese is 1 ounce).
  • Beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas (1/2 cup portion).
  • Nuts (1/4 cup portion).
4. Choose Complex Carbs over Simple Carbs

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, and naturally occuring in fresh foods filled with fiber to support heart and gut health. However, simple carbs, such as added sugars in desserts, sweetened beverages, and many packaged foods can spike blood sugar and increase the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. 

As part of an overall healthy diet, you should limit sweets and foods with added sugars. Be sure to always check your food labels closely as added sugars can be found in many surprising places! Healthier carbohydrate choices include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils.

If you have diabetes and are on insulin, you may need to be even more careful about your carbohydrate intake. 

5. Limit Saturated Fats and Avoid Trans Fat

Diets that are high in saturated and trans fats increase the risk of heart disease, and what is bad for your heart is bad for your kidneys! Heart health and kidney health are interconnected, as the heart constantly pumps blood throughout the body and the kidneys continuously filter the blood in order to remove waste products.

The USDA’s dietary guidelines recommend limiting saturated fats to less than 10 percent of your total daily calories. Main sources include meats, full-fat dairy products, butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil. Trans fats should also be avoided and are usually found in baked goods and fried foods. Instead fill up on heart-healthy unsaturated fats found in fatty fish, avocados, olives, walnuts and many types of vegetable oils.

6. Watch your Alcohol Intake

Alcohol harms your kidneys in several ways! It is a wast product that your kidneys have to filter out of your blood and makes your kidneys less efficient. It is dehydrating, which can affect the kidneys’ ability to regulate your body’s water levels. It can affect the function of the liver, which in turn can impact blood flow to the kidneys and lead to CKD over time. High alcohol intake has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, which can also lead to kidney disease. 

You should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day. That’s 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. 

7. Talk to your Doctor about whether you need to limit Phosphorus and Potassium

Phosphorus and Potassium are minerals that your body needs for certain processes. Phosphorus helps build strong bones, while potassium helps regulate your heartbeat and keeps your muscles working properly.

If you have CKD however, these minerals can build up in your blood, causing problems throughout your body. High levels of phorphorus can pull calcium from your bones, making them weak and likely to break, as well as cause itchy skin and bone or joint pain. You may need to limit foods high in phosphorus, such as animal protein, dairy, and dark-colored sodas. 

High levels of potassium can cause heart problems. Your doctor will run blood tests to check your potassium and phosphorus levels. Be sure to ask if you’re not sure whether you need to keep track of your intake of these minerals.

8. Work with a Dietitian

Making changes to your diet can be hard. If you are struggling to stick to a healthy diet, a registered dietitian (RD) can help you to develope a meal plan that’s tailored to your individual needs. It may seem overwhelming to manage your diet, an RD can help you find foods that fit into your specific dietary requirements!

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