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Eating Well to Help Control Chronic Kidney Disease

Our kidneys serve several vital roles in the body, including eliminating waste, filtering the blood and helping to maintain fluid balance in the body. When kidney function is compromised, chronic kidney disease (CKD) can develop, often due to chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). 

Based on my experience, CKD seems to be one of the least understood chronic conditions among patients. For starters, many patients have little awareness of the different stages of the disease or what recommendations they should follow. If you receive a CKD diagnosis, your healthcare provider may recommend that you consult with a dietitian to help you gain a better understanding of the role nutrition plays in preventing the progression of CKD. By following a healthy lifestyle, including a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and few processed foods, you can slow the progression of CKD and improve your outcome. 

Here are a few factors to consider regarding nutrition and CKD.

Sodium

Excessive sodium (salt) intake can lead to serious outcomes for people with compromised kidney function. Since sodium contributes to fluid retention, it also can raise blood pressure, which can further reduce kidney function in those with CKD.

Typically, sodium is present in high quantities in many restaurant foods and in most processed and packaged items in grocery stores. In fact, a single restaurant dish may contain 3,000 milligrams of sodium or more, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recommended sodium intake for an entire day is less than 2,300 mg. When eating out, you can reduce your sodium intake by checking nutrition information beforehand; asking for sauces, dressings and other condiments to be served on the side; consuming smaller portions; and sharing meals.

A better option, though, is to eat out less frequently and make more meals at home—using fresh ingredients, rather than packaged, frozen or prepared items. Substitute the high-sodium foods you usually consume with reduced-salt or salt-free products. And instead of seasoned salts, use garlic, onions and herbs to flavor meals. Together, these steps can help reduce your sodium intake to 500 mg or less for a single meal. 

You can also reduce your sodium intake by buying frozen vegetables without sodium, as well as not having the saltshaker present at the table during mealtimes.

Plant-Based Eating

Plant-based diets have been a focus in the media recently for their ability to prevent certain cancers, as well as heart disease, diabetes and other conditions. As with many healthy-eating recommendations, eating more fruits and vegetables also is beneficial for kidney health. Fruits, vegetables and foods from other plant sources are packed with vital nutrients, and may even be effective in delaying the progression of CKD.

Weight Management

One very effective way to prevent development of CKD and other health conditions is to manage your weight. In addition to helping prevent diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and many cancers, maintaining a healthy weight also can help prevent worsening kidney function. 

Simple strategies for better weight management include focusing on more nutrient-dense foods, such as fiber-rich grains and lean proteins. These foods create a feeling of satiety (fullness) that can help with portion control. Engaging in regular physical activity also can be beneficial for weight management.

Potassium and Phosphorous Levels

Following a low-sodium diet is a standard recommendation for CKD, even in its earlier stages, but what about other dietary modifications? Potassium and phosphorus are two minerals that build up in the blood when the kidneys can no longer excrete them in adequate amounts. For many CKD patients, elevated phosphorus levels (known as hyperphosphatemia) in later stages can be controlled with a phosphorus binder. CKD patients with elevated potassium levels (known as hyperkalemia) should follow a low-potassium diet. Regular visits with your nephrologist will help to monitor these levels.

If you are among the millions of adults who suffer from CKD, or if you have a loved one who has CKD, you can learn more about how to maintain kidney health by consulting with a registered dietitian, in addition to your other healthcare providers. Other helpful resources include the National Kidney Foundation (www.kidney.org) and the American Kidney Fund (www.kidneyfund.org).

RECIPE 1:

Apple Cranberry Walnut Salad

Ingredients

2 cups red seedless grapes, each grape sliced in half

21/3 cups walnut halves, chopped into pea-size pieces

1¼ cups (6-ounce package) Ocean Spray Craisins® Pomegranate Juice Infused Dried Cranberries

4 stalks celery, chopped into ¼-inch pieces

7 medium-sized Gala apples, skin on

1 bottle (8 fluid ounces) Maple Grove Farms Fat-Free Cranberry Balsamic Dressing

Directions

1.Rinse the cluster of red grapes and separate from the stem. Use a paring knife to slice each grape in half. Place sliced grapes in an extra large mixing bowl.

2.Chop the walnuts into pea-sized pieces. Add the chopped nuts to the bowl with the grapes.

3.Add the bag of dried cranberries to the mixture.

4.Rinse, clean and chop the celery into ¼-inch pieces, and add to the mixture.

5.Rinse the apples, slice them in half vertically and core them. Slice into wedges, and then chop the wedges into bite-sized pieces. Add the chopped apple pieces to the mixture.

6.Pour the bottle of cranberry dressing over the entire mixture. Stir the ingredients, making sure the dressing is incorporated and covers all of the ingredients. Chill and serve.

RECIPE 2:

Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts (about 12 ounces)

6 tablespoons grated 2% Mexican cheese blend

½ teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ yellow onion, sliced and cut into strips

1 bell pepper, cut into strips

6 small corn tortillas

Directions

Cook chicken until 165°F. Let cool, then cut.

Cook onion until translucent, and cook bell pepper until browned.

Toss chicken and vegetables with onion powder, garlic powder and black pepper.

Add chicken and cooked vegetables to tortilla.

Top with shredded cheese. 

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