Author: Dani Renouf, RD, MSc
Although beans, lentils, and other legumes may have received some mixed reviews over the years, specifically in relation to phosphorus and potassium content, there is no better time than the present to embrace vegetarian eating as part of a healthy diet. If you need to limit your potassium intake, check with your dietitian about how much legumes/lentils you can safely consume.
Whether we study blood pressure, heart health, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, we see time and time again that those who include vegetarian eating as part of their diet tend to have better health outcomes as compared to individuals whose diets are higher in meat-based proteins. As with everything else, variety is the spice of life, and including a combination of foods in your diet is the best way to achieve improved wellbeing, health, and energy.
Choosing from vegetarian proteins which are found in beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, can help improve kidney-related health outcomes by:
- Reducing the amount of protein lost in the urine (proteinuria), thereby slowing progression of kidney disease
- Maintaining a healthy weight and thereby helping improve blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol
- Increasing fibre intake in the diet and preventing constipation for improved elimination of waste from the body
Try to limit processed vegetarian proteins (veggie burgers, miso, and salted nuts) and instead buy bulk beans, lentils, or chickpeas, soaking them overnight, draining off the water, and then adding them to your favorite recipes. Unsalted nuts can be included in small amounts in most kidney-friendly diets, but portion control is important. Sprinkling of seeds in recipes is a great way of including these nutritious morsels, while watching potassium and phosphate at the same time. It’s always good to check with your dietitian first, if you have questions.
An excellent assortment of vegetarian recipes can be found in the cookbooks Kidney Friendly Cooking (Canadian Association of Nephrology Dietitians) or Spice It Up (Website: www.myspiceitup.ca). One of our favorites from the St. Paul’s Cooking Classes is by Chef Ilan David Wright and Dietitian Anja Webster (Note: this recipe is not suitable for people who need to limit their potassium intake):
Middle Eastern Chickpea and Vegetable Stew
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 Medium Eggplant, 1-inch dice
2 Carrots, peeled, ½ inch dice
1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced
5 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Fresh Ginger, grated
2 Tsp Sweet Paprika
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika (optional)
1 Tsp Cumin Seed
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 cup Water
2 cups Cauliflower
2 Bell Peppers, 1-inch dice
1 Zucchini, ½ inch dice
1 cup No Salt Added Canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Whole Wheat Couscous
6 cups Boiling Water
3 cups Whole Wheat Couscous
2 tsp Curry powder (optional)
- Place dry couscous in a heat proof bowl or pot, pour boiling water over couscous. Cover with plastic wrap or lid tightly. Fluff with a fork after 15 minutes to break up any clumps.
- Heat medium size pot with oil and fry eggplant until some browning begins. Add onions and carrots and cook together for 3 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add spices, tomato, and water. Bring everything to a boil and gently simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.
- When carrots and eggplant are tender, add peppers, zucchini, and chickpeas. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes or until all vegetables are knife tender.