Kidney disease affects approximately 37 million Americans, and its prevalence is rising. The disease can be caused by any number of factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney infection, and one’s risk is higher if they smoke, are obese, or suffer from heart disease.
But diet plays a role in causing kidney disease as well, particularly a high-sodium diet. On average, Americans consume around 3,400 mg of sodium per day–1,100 mg above the federal recommended amount and 1,900 mg above the American Heart Association’s guidelines. A diet high in salt puts strain on the kidneys and can trigger kidney disease.
If you’re at risk for kidney disease or simply want to make better eating choices, here’s a diet that will keep your kidneys in top shape. Note: if you already have kidney disease, discuss any dietary changes with your doctor.
The DASH diet
One ideal diet to help combat kidney disease is called the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Initially created to help lower blood pressure, the low-sodium, low-fat DASH diet has been found to treat kidney disease–and lower risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer as well.
Rather than force you to eat only specific foods, the DASH diet only tells you how many servings of each food item you should be getting per day, so feel free to customize it to your liking. Here are the basics of the DASH diet.
- 2,000 calories per day. The average American eats over 3,600 calories a day, while the federal recommendation for caloric intake is just 2,000 daily calories for women and 2,500 for men. A diet high in calories leads to obesity, a risk factor for kidney disease.
- 4 to 5 servings of vegetables per day. All vegetables contain essential vitamins and nutrients. Try to get a variety of vegetables in your diet, like carrots, broccoli, kale, and spinach. One serving is ½ cup raw or cooked vegetables. Fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables are all good choices.
- 6 or fewer servings of lean meats or fish per day. Meats and fish are rich in protein as well as other vitamins. Meat is good for you, but remember to bake or grill meats rather than frying them, and trim off the excess fat before cooking.
- 2 to 3 servings of dairy per day. Some examples of dairy include yogurt, milk, and cheese, but make sure to opt for low-fat products. One cup of yogurt or milk equals one serving.
- 4 to 5 servings of nuts/legumes per week. Nuts are nutritious and help you feel full. The soybean, a type of legume, is a great source of protein as well. ⅓ cup nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter counts as one serving.
- 2 to 3 servings of fats per day. Despite being portrayed in a negative light by the media, fats, in moderation, are beneficial–your brain needs them to function correctly. Look for “good fats”–monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. One teaspoon of vegetable oil is one serving.
Remember that diet is only a part of fighting kidney disease–regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices are crucial. But after only a few weeks on the DASH diet, you’ll start to reap the benefits.
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