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Renal Health: Tips for a Kidney-Healthy Diet

Aug 24, 2023 | Featured, Health & Wellness, Nutrition & Dining | 0 comments

Renal health may not be a term you hear as often as heart health or brain health, but it’s just as important to monitor when aging. Renal health refers to your kidneys, which are essential organs that help filter waste from your body, control your blood pressure, keep your bones healthy, and more.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a growing epidemic in our country, currently affecting more than 1 in 7 American adults, according to the American Kidney Fund. Further, 9 out of 10 people with CKD are unaware they have it.

While CKD can develop during any stage of life, your chances greatly increase over the age of 60. In fact, researchers from John Hopkins University found that more than 50% of seniors over the age of 75 are believed to have kidney disease. Luckily, there are preventative measures—diet being one. Read on to learn how a renal-healthy diet protects your kidneys.

Lay Off the Salt

Sodium is everywhere—especially in prepackaged or processed foods. A higher salt intake can lead to high blood pressure. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, aim to consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon) of sodium daily. Try these tips to cut back on sodium:

  • Cook at home using whole, unprocessed foods so you can control the sodium level.
  • Limit dining at restaurants or eating takeout food, as nutritional information is often omitted from menus.
  • Use salt-free spices and herbs in place of salt when cooking.
  • Drain and rinse canned vegetables, beans, meat, and fish before eating.
  • Avoid processed meats like ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and lunch meats.
  • Always check Nutrition Facts labels.

Portion Your Proteins

Your kidneys naturally remove waste produced when you eat proteins. Eating more protein than necessary causes your kidneys to overwork. Eating smaller portions of protein-rich foods can help protect your renal health.

  • Animal proteins include chicken, fish, meat, dairy, and eggs. A cooked portion of chicken, fish, or meat is about 2 to 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards). A portion of dairy foods is ½ cup of milk or yogurt or 1 ounce of cheese.
  • Plant proteins include foods like beans and nuts. A portion of cooked beans is about ½ cup, and a portion of nuts is ¼ cup.

Swap Simple Carbs for Complex Carbs

Carbohydrates (carbs) are your body’s main source of energy. Eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain, which puts you at risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and more. Always choose complex carbs over simple carbs, as complex carbs take longer to digest and are a more stable energy source.

  • Choose complex carbs like beans, brown rice, oatmeal, 100% whole-wheat bread, quinoa, barley, and sweet potatoes.
  • Avoid simple carbs like soda, baked goods, potato chips, breakfast cereal, and candy.

Avoid Alcohol

Drinking too much can harm your kidneys, liver, heart, brain, and more. When you drink alcohol, your kidneys have to filter its waste, making them less efficient. Plus, alcohol dehydrates and impacts your kidneys’ ability to regulate your body’s water levels.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, senior men should limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day, and women should limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces (one shot glass) of distilled spirits.

Be Aware of Potassium and Phosphorous

Potassium and phosphorous are essential nutrients, but too much of either one can lead to health problems. When your kidneys aren’t performing fully, these minerals can build up in your blood. High phosphorous levels can pull calcium from your bones, making them weaker. High potassium levels can lead to heart problems.

  • Limit potassium-rich foods like oranges, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, wild rice, and dairy foods.
  • Limit phosphorus-rich foods like meat, poultry, fish, dairy foods, lentils, beans, dark-colored sodas, fruit punch, and iced teas.

Always consult your doctor when starting a new diet.

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