What you see may not be what you get!

Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements are a big business in Canada. Many people take vitamin supplements as a bit of an “insurance policy” just in case their diet isn’t quite as good as it should be. Or sometimes just because they think it might do some good and probably won’t do any harm. Others use herbals and supplements to cure or prevent disease. But there is little science to support the routine use of supplements and now a recent study from the University of Guelph shows some pretty shocking data about supplements.

Researchers looked at 44 different herbal products and used DNA barcoding to authenticate these products. What they found? Over half of the products contained DNA barcodes from plants that weren’t listed on the labels. Many products contained contaminants or substitutions. The authors identified that some of these contaminants could be harmful or dangerous to consumers. And 30 of the 44 products had product substitution (that means that the main herbal ingredient was substituted with a different product). See the article here: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/222

Kidney patients have even more reason than most to be cautious when considering herbal supplements. There are very few studies looking at herbal products in CKD patients. What might be harmless for someone with healthy kidneys can lead to a build-up of waste products in a CKD patient and some herbs may be toxic to the kidneys. Unfortunately, herbal products in Canada are not regulated so (as shown in the study above) the safety, purity and effectiveness of these products is highly questionable. A big concern with supplements is that they may interact with prescription medications. This is especially dangerous for transplant recipients. And even if you are taking an herbal product that is known to be safe in kidney disease, you have no way of knowing if your product actually contains what it’s supposed to!

Based on this, I generally recommend avoiding herbal products in CKD. If you decide to take an herbal supplement anyway, make sure to talk it over with your kidney health care team – your doctor, dietitian and pharmacist. For vitamins – read carefully! Often, products contain potassium, phosphorus that can really add up!

The National Kidney Foundation in the US has a great kidney-specific resource on herbal products: http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/herbalsupp.cfm

Here’s a great recipe to help you warm up this winter!

Cauliflower Apple Soup with Roasted Garlic Crostini (12 portions*)
1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup apple, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
1 head of garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
12 baguette slices

To make the roasted garlic crostini, preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the tips off the whole garlic head and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and roast in oven for 30 minutes. While the garlic is roasting, place baguette slices on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for approximately 10 minutes. Once the garlic has finished roasting and has cooled slightly, squeeze out the softened garlic cloves and spread onto the toasted baguette slices.

To make the soup, add the vegetables, dry spices, and chicken stock into a large sauce pan. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and the flavours have developed. With a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Garnish the soup with a roasted garlic crostini and enjoy.

* Renal exchange: 1 Veg, 1 Starch
Diabetic exchange: 1 Carb choice

Nutrient Analysis per Serving
Calories 82Kcal                    Total Fat 1g
Proteins 3g                          Sodium 124mg
Carbohydrates 15g                Potassium 231mg
Fibre 2g                               Phosphorus 64mg

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