The infamous food pyramid used in our early years to show us how to follow a balanced diet; who could forget it? We were encouraged to sparingly consume foods high in sugar and salt and to pack our plates with vegetables and honestly, not too much has changed since. Making sure you’re getting the right amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals is one of the most important steps to take when it comes to keeping our bodies happy and healthy; especially for those living with kidney disease or kidney problems.
A healthy, balanced diet is beneficial for every one of us however knowing what to add to your grocery list when you’re having kidney problems isn’t always easy. These are just a handful of the healthy foods people with kidney disease can include in their diet:
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What can a person with kidney disease eat?
Kidney disease is quite common; in fact, the National Kidney Foundation estimated that it affects around 37 million adults in the United States alone and 90% of those adults might not even realize they have it . When your kidneys aren’t functioning properly, the foods and drinks you eat can build up in the blood and cause complications, this is why for those living with chronic kidney disease or limited kidney function, following a healthy eating plan and a diet filled with kidney-friendly foods is key.
With that said, there are a few important factors to keep in mind if you have kidney problems or kidney disease.
Remember - dietary restrictions depend entirely on the individual which is why it’s always important to speak with your doctor to check in on your specific nutritional needs.
Keep an eye on your salt intake
Keeping a watchful eye on your salt intake isn’t a recommendation exclusively for those with kidney disease; taking in too much salt can cause complications in anyone.
For those with kidney disease, it is usually recommended to reduce the intake of very salty foods such as processed meats, bacon, sausages, and some packaged foods. Also, avoid adding any excess salt to your meals - too much can cause high blood pressure and fluid retention.
Eat just the right amount of protein
Eating the right amount of protein is crucial for those with kidney disease; if your protein intake is too high, urea and creatinine will build up in the blood and cause nausea and loss of appetite. How much protein you need will be specific to your needs so be sure to check in with your dietician about the amount you should be consuming.
Related article: Can too Much Protein Damage Your Kidneys?
Limit phosphate and potassium intake
When phosphate levels are elevated, it can form hard deposits in the body; this is referred to as calcification and over time can cause brittle and weak bones or bone disease. Similar to phosphate, high levels of potassium, which is found in a number of common fruits and vegetables, can cause a number of complications such as an irregular heart rhythm.
Focus on the good foods!
While everyone’s diet varies depending on a number of factors, there are some foods that are usually recommended for those with kidney disease or kidney problems.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidant power and are also low in sodium and potassium making them a perfect addition to a kidney-friendly diet!
Fish high in healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent source of high-quality protein; think salmon, mackerel, herring, or sea bass.
Cauliflower is a vegetable lower in potassium and a great source of essential vitamins and minerals; one serving is estimated to contain 100% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.
Eggs provide a high-quality source of protein and can be an easy addition to pretty much any meal throughout the day. It’s important to note that egg yolks can contain high amounts of phosphorus so when possible, stick to egg whites!
Cereals such as rice cereals, porridge, and whole-grain foods with low potassium content like barley and buckwheat can be enjoyed as part of a renal diet.
Pasta for dinner is always a treat and it’s something that those with kidney problems can include in a balanced diet. Remember though, different kinds of pasta will contain different amounts of salt or sodium so be sure to check the food labels.
What should you not eat with kidney disease?
What you should and shouldn’t eat depends entirely on your individual needs and can be affected by a number of different factors which is why it’s always important to consult your doctor about your dietary requirements.
There are certain foods however that are high in salt, protein, phosphate, and potassium which a dietician may recommend you limit intake of such as bananas, dried fruit, beans, and salt substitutes, and foods you should avoid such as salted snacks, bacon, and processed meats.
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Can you improve your kidney function?
Of course one of the most important steps to take towards healthy kidneys is following a balanced diet that suits your individual needs. As well as this, there are a number of steps you can take towards keeping your kidneys healthy and improving kidney function (most you can even start today!), these include:
- Regular exercise
- Stay hydrated
- Monitor cholesterol levels
- Check in on your kidney health through testing
- Recognize early kidney disease symptoms such as fatigue, increased thirst, and painful urination
According to the National Kidney Foundation, around 1 in 3 adults in the United States are at risk of developing kidney disease, that's over 30% of adults in the U.S. alone! If you think you're at risk of kidney disease or are concerned about your kidney health, it's important to check in through regular testing and speaking with a professional.
One of the most reliable ways to keep an eye on your kidney health is through regular testing; this can be done with your doctor or if you would prefer, from the comfort of home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s Kidney Function Test allows you to monitor your kidney function and performance. Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated clinical team will be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.
You should consider taking a Kidney Function Test if any of the below are applicable to you:
- You suffer from high blood pressure
- You suffer from diabetes
- You have suffered an acute injury
- You have persistent urinary tract infections
- You have kidney disease or a family history of one
- You have kidney stones or a family history of them
- You have a high protein diet
- You have been taking performance-enhancing drugs
Related article: How do you Check Your Kidney Function From Home?