Submitted by Fiona Bellefeuille, Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator
If you have been diagnosed with early kidney disease, stage 1 or 2, you are probably wondering what you should be eating to help preserve your kidney function. Nutrition plays a crucial role in how fast or slow your kidney function declines. The steps below can help protect your kidney function and slow the progression of kidney disease.
- Skip the salt
Salt is sodium chloride. Excess intake of sodium from added salt, processed foods and restaurant meals can damage your kidneys. High sodium foods can increase your blood pressure, cause edema (fluid buildup), leads to proteinuria (protein in the urine) and increase the acidity in your blood. All of which can further damage your kidneys.
To lower your sodium intake:
- Avoid using salt in cooking or at the table
- Choose fresh foods cooked at home most often
- Limit the use of processed, canned and packaged food
- Keep your sodium intake to less than 2,000 mg a day
- Look at the nutrition label, choose foods with less than 5% of the daily recommended intake of sodium
- Decrease your frequency of eating out at restaurants
- Don’t overeat the meat
Large portions of protein from meat, chicken and fish can cause higher pressure in your kidneys leading to further damage.
To lower your intake of animal protein:
- Keep your portion size of meat, chicken and fish to the size of a deck of cards
- Choose vegetarian protein sources more often, for example, tofu, legumes (chickpeas, lentils, etc.), seitan and tempeh. These are lower in protein and have additional benefits for your health. Try this Eggplant and Tofu Stir-fry recipe today: https://www.kidneycommunitykitchen.ca/kkcookbook/recipes/eggplant-and-tofu-stir-fry/
- Follow a balanced diet
Eating three balanced meals a day will help maintain your kidneys’ health.
A balanced meal includes:
- Have half of your plate be full of vegetables or fruits. Choosing a variety of vegetables or fruits will not only make your meal richer in flavor but also in nutrients.
- Have a quarter of your plate be full of grains or starchy vegetables like rice, potatoes or pasta
- Have another quarter of your plate be full of protein foods like meat, chicken, fish or alternatives such as tofu or legumes
- Drink water
The best drink for your kidneys is water. Limit your intake of sweet beverages like juice and pop as these can lead to unwanted weight gain and elevated blood sugar. Avoid over or under-drinking fluids as they can both cause health problems. Dehydration can lead to further kidney damage and over-hydration can cause heart problems or excessive swelling of the body.
- Watch your blood sugar
High blood sugar can damage the vessels in your kidneys, leading to damage. If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, follow a balanced diet to help manage your blood sugar levels.
Further recommendations to help manage blood sugar include:
- Follow up regularly with your doctor and diabetes team
- Check your blood sugar at home
- Take your diabetes medications as prescribed by your doctor
- Manage your weight
Gaining weight or being overweight can put extra stress on your kidneys. Inversely, being underweight can lead to loss of muscle mass and malnutrition. Speak to your doctor or dietitian to determine what a healthy weight looks like for you.
- Get active
Physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, blood sugar and stress level. These beneficial changes may protect your health and your kidneys. Steps to get active:
- Choose an activity you enjoy so it feels more like a hobby than a chore. These activities might include walking, biking, or swimming. Start slow and build up. Walk 5 minutes on the first day and work your way up to 30 minutes to slowly build your endurance.
- Set yourself a goal but make sure that this goal is attainable. “I will exercise for 20 minutes 4 times a week”
Before starting a new exercise program, we recommend you consult with your doctor and health care team.
- Take your pills as prescribed
Your doctors prescribe medications to help keep your body and your kidneys healthy. Remember to take them every day. If you have questions about your pills or have difficulty remembering to take them, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. They will be able to help.
- Attend your medical appointments
Your doctor and medical team will schedule your appointments to help ensure that you are staying healthy and receiving the right treatment. Your medical team can help you to protect your kidney function. If you cannot make it to your appointment or forget about an appointment, call your team as soon as possible to reschedule.
- Stop smoking
Smoking can further damage your kidneys by causing changes in your blood vessels. Smoking also puts you at high risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer. If you need help to stop smoking, reach out to your health care team.
There are many ways you can take an active role in helping to protect your kidney function. Remember, you are not alone; your health care team is there to help you navigate your kidney journey and to slow the progression of kidney disease.