My first dietitian job after college was working at a dialysis center. It was a very specialized job for a newbie fresh out of college, and although the learning curve was extremely steep, I loved it. I learned how tough (physically and mentally) those individuals with kidney failure are, and how crucial nutrition is for feeling well.
The kidneys are your body's lifeline to good health. They work hard around the clock to filter out and prevent a buildup of fluid and waste. Besides acting as a filtration system, your kidneys play a key role in bone and heart health, as well as in the balance of acid and alkaline in your body.
What happens when the kidney’s start to fail at performing these important tasks?
Once damaged, kidneys have a difficult time removing the waste and fluid formed from digestion and tissue turnover, causing a buildup in the blood stream. Over time, the waste and extra fluid can leads to complications such as high blood pressure, anemia, weakened bones, declined nutritional status, as well as possible nerve damage.
Those with chronic kidney disease may need to limit certain nutrients and fluid. How strict your meal plan should be depends on your stage of kidney disease. In the early stages of kidney disease, you may have little or no limits on what you eat and drink. As your kidney disease gets worse, your doctor may recommend you limit protein, salt, phosphorus and potassium.
What you eat and drink can help slow down chronic kidney disease. Some foods are better for your kidneys than others.
Here are some tips for preserving kidney function:
Choose and prepare foods with less salt/sodium.
Why? To help control your blood pressure.
- Buy fresh food more often. Sodium is added to many packaged foods.
- Don't add salt to your food when cooking or eating. Try cooking with fresh herbs, lemon juice or other spices.
- Choose fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables. If you do use canned vegetables, rinse them before eating or cooking with them to remove extra salt.
- Shop for items that say “reduced-sodium” or “low-sodium.”
- Avoid foods with MSG (monosodium glutamate).
Eat the right amount and the right types of protein.
Why? To help protect your kidneys.
- Eat smaller portions of protein foods.
- Protein is found in plant and animal foods. A doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist can determine how much protein to eat in one day.
Choose foods that are healthy for your heart.
Why? To help keep fat from building up in your blood vessels, heart, and kidneys.
- Grill, broil, bake, roast, or stir-fry foods, instead of frying or deep-frying.
- Cook with nonstick cooking spray or a small amount of avocado oil or olive oil.
- Trim fat from meat and remove skin from poultry before eating.
Choose foods with less phosphorus.
Why? To help protect your bones and blood vessels.
- Limit high phosphorus foods, such as dairy foods, beans, lentils, nuts, chocolate, and colas.
Choose foods with the right amount of potassium.
Why? To help your nerves and muscles work the right way.
- Salt substitutes can be very high in potassium. Read the ingredient label.
- Choose lower potassium foods such as apples, peaches, carrots, green beans, and rice milk.
A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) can help in making these diet changes a success, especially if you have other health conditions to consider. By working with a RDN, you’ll learn how to get a balance of important nutrients in your diet.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
- National Kidney Disease Education Program. Eating Right for Kidney Health. Tips for People with Chronic Kidney Disease.