Basic Nutrition for Kidney Patients
Eating healthy is the first step in taking control of your wellbeing. But it can be very confusing at times to know what to do, especially with so many terms. So let’s focus on basic nutrition and see if we can break it down a little.
When talking about basic nutrition, the following terms are commonly used: Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats all provide energy in the form of calories. We need calories in order to survive. Many of us eat more calories than our bodies need, leading to being overweight. Vitamins and minerals do not provide calories but are essential for structure and proper functions and maintenance of our bodies.
Carbohydrates provide calories and are quickly digested, so they rapidly elevate blood sugars. That’s why, if you are a person with diabetes, you need to maintain a consistent intake of carbohydrates throughout the day. Try to avoid eating too many carbohydrate-rich foods to avoid very high blood sugars. If you do not have diabetes, your body can handle extra carbohydrates by using them as energy or storing them as fat. Foods high in carbohydrates include starches, fruits and fruit juices, grains, pasta, cereals, rice, flours as well as cookies, candies and cakes. Some vegetables such as corn, peas, potatoes, plantains and winter squash are also high in carbohydrates.
Proteins provide calories and amino acids for everyday repair and maintenance in the body. It is important to eat adequate amounts of protein, especially on dialysis, to avoid illness, malnutrition and to stay strong. In later stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD) a lower protein eating plan may be prescribed. Some studies show reducing protein may possibly help slow progression of kidney disease. See the video below for other ways to possibly slow the progression of CKD.
Proteins are found in meats, such as beef, lamb, veal, as well as in eggs, chicken, turkey and fish. If eating enough high protein foods is difficult, kidney-friendly protein bars, protein powders and drinks are a convenient way to get extra protein.
One gram of fat has over double the calories of one gram of carbohydrate or protein. Fats that are liquid at room temperature are generally heart healthier than fats that are solid at room temperature. However, all fats have equal calories. Because fats are calorie dense (a lot of calories per quantity) and can affect weight and cardiovascular health, it is a good idea to limit intake of fats.
Although vitamins don’t provide calories, they are important because they help to access nutrients from foods. If you are on dialysis your dietitian can recommend a multivitamin for you that is appropriate for people on dialysis. Some vitamins in over the counter supplements can build up to toxic levels in dialysis patients. Always check with your dietitian or doctor before adding a supplement. If you take a prescribed renal vitamin supplement, take it after your dialysis treatment to avoid washing it out.
Minerals don’t provide calories but they are important for maintaining various bodily functions. Some minerals that you may be familiar with are phosphorus, calcium, sodium and potassium. These minerals are most likely to get out of balance when the kidneys no longer work. It is not recommended for dialysis patients to take a mineral supplements unless prescribed by the nephrologist, as they may cause toxicity.
Water does not have calories or nutrients but it is essential for our well-being because we need water for our bodies to function properly. Make sure to avoid drinking in excess of your fluid restriction to avoid fluid overload.
Learning about basic nutrition may help you make healthier food choices. Your dietitian is a great resource to answer questions and provide more nutrition information.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.