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Chronic Kidney Disease: What is a Kidney Diet?
Kidney disease affects growing numbers of people worldwide. If you are one of the millions of people at risk for chronic kidney disease (CKD), it is important to learn about the disease progression and how a kidney diet can positively impact your health.
Why follow a kidney diet?
The purpose of following a kidney-friendly diet is to slow the progression of renal disease and avoid complications of chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is important to manage your diabetes and blood pressure, the most common causes of CKD and kidney failure. Working with your nephrologist can help you identify your level of kidney disease. Working with a renal dietitian can help to customize a nutrition plan to suit your needs. This article is an overview of some of the nutrition terms that are commonly discussed with chronic kidney disease. It includes resources to help make healthy dietary choices.
Protein is necessary for building, repairing and maintaining cells in the body. When your kidneys are not working well, the byproducts of protein breakdown will build up in your blood making your kidneys work harder. Foods high in protein include poultry, eggs, beef, seafood, pork, lamb and meatless protein sources such as tofu. On the contrary, it is vital to avoid malnutrition. A blood test to determine your protein level, called albumin, will determine if you are getting enough good quality protein. Some people find that their appetite decreases and they have taste changes, especially with meat. If you experience poor appetite, weight loss or taste changes, talk to a renal dietitian to help you with a healthy meal plan and tips for eating. An albumin blood level of 4.0 mg/dL or higher is an indicator of good nutrition.
Phosphorus and calcium
Phosphorus is a mineral which works with calcium to keep bones strong and helps muscles and nerves work properly. The kidneys regulate both minerals keeping them balanced in the blood. With CKD, this kidney regulation process may not work efficiently and phosphorus levels rise. Phosphorus is in most foods, but some foods have more than others. Some professionals think 800-1200 milligrams of phosphorus is a good goal. Dairy may be restricted to 1/2 cup servings daily and legumes, seeds and nuts may be limited. Since food labels are not required to list phosphorus content, a renal dietitian can assist you with references to identify acceptable low phosphorus foods.
Potassium is regulated by the kidneys to help muscles, including your heart, function efficiently. When kidneys fail, too much potassium may build up in the blood and cause irregular heart beat or cause the heart to stop without warning signs. If your blood test shows a high potassium, then your nephrologist will prescribe a low potassium diet. Common items with high potassium include potatoes, citrus fruits, avocados, bananas yogurt, milk, nuts and potassium chloride-based salt substitutes.
Sodium is a mineral the body needs to regulate blood pressure and maintain fluid balance in your blood and cells. With decreased kidney function excess sodium may cause fluid to be retained in the body resulting in high blood pressure, edema and shortness of breath. Limiting salty foods is recommended. High salt foods include processed meats, canned foods, cured items, salted snacks, and salty seasonings. Low sodium flavorings such as vinegar, spices, herbs and lemon are best to add flavor to foods.
Healthy fats are encouraged for heart health. These include olive oil, omega 3 fats, flax, canola and vegetable oils. Limit or avoid unhealthy fats from animal fat, chicken skin, cheese, cream and other dairy fats.
Online Kidney Diet Resources
It may be challenging to navigate through the nutritional aspects of CKD. Reaching out to a renal dietitian can help you make a plan for your specific needs. There are over 1,000 kidney-friendly recipes on DaVita.com, plus DaVita Diet Helper™ online planner and tracker to help with meal planning. You can download DaVita’s cookbook collection at DaVita.com/FreeCookbook. Look for the quick reference guide for what to eat for CKD stages. These resources can help you make healthy choices and better understand your kidney diet.