Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN
After a kidney transplant, nutrition plays an essential role in keeping you and your new kidney healthy. Making the necessary changes to your diet can also help to decrease your risk of developing some conditions after a transplant such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and weight gain, which commonly occur due to anti-rejection medications and steroids required post-transplant. Following a diet low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar after your transplant will benefit your kidneys, heart, blood sugars and help you maintain a healthy weight. You should aim for half a plate of vegetables at each meal, while also increasing your plant-based proteins consumption. You should also, include more whole grains, and limit your sugar and fat consumption.
A heart-healthy diet is high in soluble fibre which helps to keep us full and controls cholesterol and blood glucose levels, which is necessary after a transplant. Plant-based proteins, like legumes such as beans or pulses, are a good source of soluble fibre and are lower in saturated fat compared to animal proteins like chicken, beef, or pork. You may have needed to limit beans, legumes, and pluses while on dialysis, but after your kidney transplant, they can provide you with fundamental nutrients. Try to include them in your diet three times per week. Pulses contain magnesium and phosphorus, which can be low in the blood after a transplant and are needed to help build and repair body tissues and maintain muscle strength and blood pressure.
What exactly is a pulse? Pulses come from the legume family and include beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. Exporting 80% of pulses worldwide, Canada is one of the largest producers of pulses. An excellent source of protein and soluble fibre, you can find them dried or canned. Choose brands with no added salt for a low sodium and lower potassium option when choosing canned.
Here are some ways to include more pulses into your diet after transplant:
- Add chickpeas or lentils to a salad with cucumber, onion, and bell peppers
- Incorporate black beans into a hamburger by mixing ground chicken and black beans together when forming the patties
- Add lentils or beans to a vegetable soup
- Snack on a low sodium hummus made of chickpeas
Looking for a new recipe to try? Check out the Red Lentil Dahl or Plant-Based Bean Bourguignon recipes from the Kidney Community Kitchen.
Aksoy N. Weight Gain After Kidney Transplant. Exp Clin Transplant. 2016 Nov;14(Suppl 3):138-140. PMID: 27805534.
Solhjoo M, Kumar SC. New Onset Diabetes After Transplant. [Updated 2021 Sep 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544220/
Pulses Canada. What is a pulse? https://pulsecanada.com/pulse/what-is-a-pulse