If you have CKD and diabetes, you’re not alone — about 1 in 3 American adults with diabetes also has CKD. It was the same for one of our patients, Michael C, who’s in CKD stage 2 and is also a diabetic. When he came to us, his number one problem was how to incorporate a kidney-friendly diet with diabetes in mind. He needed to be led in the right direction.
And we get it.
Having the right diet will help your body function at its very best, but figuring out what to eat and how to balance it...can be challenging, especially since one meal plan may be good for you but not for the other.
Which is why it’s important that before you decide on anything, you have to consult a registered dietitian who specializes in both diabetes and CKD nutrition. With them, you’ll be able to create the right diet plan to not only keep your sugar levels steady, but to also reduce how much waste and fluid your kidneys will handle.
Both diabetes and CKD diets do share a lot of the same foods, but at the same time, have important differences.
Let me explain...
A diabetic diet looks like a healthy diet for anyone: lots of veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein. As well as less sugar and foods that are high in refined carbs such as cookies, crackers, and soda.)
Your individual carb goal will be based on your age, activity level, and any medications you take. Following a healthy diabetes diet will help keep your sugar levels within range, which will help prevent more kidney damage.
You’ll need to limit or avoid certain foods in order to protect your kidneys, and you’ll also include foods that will give you energy and will help keep you nourished.
FOODS TO LIMIT
1. Eat less salt/sodium
Over time, your kidneys will lose the ability to control your sodium and water balance. With less sodium in your diet, it will help lower blood pressure and at the same time, help decrease fluid buildup.
2. Focus on fresh, homemade food
When eating out at restaurants, it’s important to eat only small amounts. The same goes for packaged food since it normally contains a lot of sodium. So before anything, be sure to look for sodium (5% or less) on food labels.
After a while, you’ll eventually get used to having less salt in your food, especially when you learn to use herbs, spices, mustard, and flavored vinegars. But if you’re thinking about using salt substitutes, don't start unless you have consulted your doctor or dietitian since many are high in potassium, which is also one of the nutrients you need to limit.
3. Limit Potassium, Phosphorus, and Protein
Depending on what CKD stage you’re in, it’s important that you limit these in your diet since many foods that are part of a typical healthy diet may not be right for a CKD diet.
As may already know, it helps keep your bones strong and other parts of your body healthy. With CKD, your kidneys can’t remove the extra phosphorus from your blood as well as they used to. Too much phosphorus can weaken bones and damage your blood vessels, eyes, and heart.
There are foods such as meat, dairy, nuts, whole-grain bread, and even dark-colored sodas that are high in phosphorus, and can be found in a lot of packaged foods.
This helps keep your nerves and muscles working well. With CKD, having too much of this can cause build up in your blood and can cause serious heart problems for you.
Oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, whole-grain bread, and many other foods that are high in potassium. However, there are some food items that are considerably lower in potassium such as apples, carrots, and even white bread. Your doctor may also prescribe to you a potassium binder which will help your body get rid of any extra potassium.
The more protein your body has, the more work you’ll put your kidneys in, which can make your kidney condition worse. And having too little isn’t healthy either. Given that both animal and plant foods have protein, it’s important to work with a dietitian to figure out the right combination as well as amount of protein to eat.
Diabetes and CKD Foods: What Can You Eat?
We’ll give you a general idea of foods that a person with both diabetes and CKD can eat. Of course, there are more that your dietitian can give you and can help find recipes to make your meals more tasty:
- Fruits: berries, grapes, cherries, apples, plums
- Veggies: cauliflower, onions, eggplant, turnips
- Proteins: lean meats (poultry, fish), eggs, unsalted seafood
- Carbs: white bread, bagels, sandwich buns, unsalted crackers, pasta
- Drinks: water, clear diet sodas, unsweetened tea
To give you an example of how you can make this work together, if you drink orange juice in order to treat your low blood sugar, you can switch to a kidney-friendly apple or grape juice. With this, you’ll get the same blood-sugar boost with less potassium.
Yes, it may seem challenging and complicated to understand at first, but that’s why I’ve been emphasizing that you should…
Consult a Dietitian
Your kidney condition and diabetes will change over time, and that means your diet too. So, be sure to talk with your dietitian and come up with a plan that will give you the support and confidence that you need to manage your meals, solve any problems that come, and be at your healthiest.
Oh, and Michael? He was able to apply our lessons and showed promising results in just a short span of time. Here's a screenshot of the email we received from him last June 30:
Your Next Step
If you want to know more about how you can manage both diabetes and CKD diet and get the help you need to do so, you can click here to get started.