Sticking to an adequate diet and healthy lifestyle is essential for our well-being, especially now that we’re in the middle of a global health crisis.
As we come around the new normal, people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are wondering if there are specific dietary guidelines they need to abide by to better manage their conditions and boost their immune system.
Dietary interventions don’t only help in slowing the progression of your kidney disease, but they may also help strengthen your body’s immunity against diseases. To help you adhere to healthy eating, here are 7 dietary recommendations to keep in mind during this pandemic.
1. Eat More Whole Foods
Natural or whole foods including fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes must take front and center in your meal plans. Cook your meals at home and minimize your intake of takeout foods.
Fresh frozen fruits and veggies are highly recommended before reaching for low-sugar and low-sodium canned options.
As much as possible, skip on sodium-rich processed foods like cold cuts and sausages as well foods and drinks high in sugar including cakes, cookies, juices, and sodas. And stay hydrated, being careful to observe your daily fluid limits determined by your renal dietitian.
2. Go Easy on Your Potassium Intake
People with high levels of potassium in the blood should monitor their potassium levels. When cooking potatoes, make sure to wash, peel, double-boil, and dice them to reduce their potassium content.
3. Keep Your Protein to a Minimum
Remember that more protein waste in the blood means more workload for your kidneys. That’s why dietitians recommend a low-protein diet to people with CKD who are not on dialysis.
Stay within the range of 0.55 to 0.60g of protein/kg of ideal body weight per day to avoid overworking your kidneys. As long as your dietitian allows, incorporate more plant foods to your diet and get your proteins from high quality plant sources.
Common plant-based proteins are:
- Chia seeds
4. Stock Up on Micronutrients
Your immune system is made up of several different cells that require micronutrients to perform their defensive functions.
Overall, your body also needs micronutrients to maintain your brain, muscle, nerve, and circulatory functions. The body only needs small amounts of micronutrients, but a deficiency can put you at risk of contracting illnesses.
Elderly adults are particularly prone to micronutrient deficiency, as they tend to eat less as a result of a declining appetite (a natural occurrence that comes with ageing). Other people may also get insufficient of immune-boosting vitamins and minerals but they have less variety in their diets.
Instead of taking a cocktail of supplements, it’s best to add micronutrient-rich foods in your meals to nourish your immune system:
Whole grain cereals, soy beans, oats, peanuts
Broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, turmeric, spinach, lemons, strawberries
Almonds, sunflower seeds and oil, peanuts, green leafy vegetables
Seeds, legumes, whole wheat
Nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, turmeric, dark chocolate
5. Eat More Fiber to Reduce Inflammation
An imbalance of bacteria in our intestines (known as dysbiosis) can throw off the function of our immune system. In effect, this puts the immune system in an inflammatory mode, making the body prone to diseases and infection.
Based on studies, inflammation and uremic toxins hugely contribute to a number of CKD-related complications including anemia, heart disease, insulin resistance, and even CKD progression.
What you eat can greatly affect your gut flora. Therefore, consuming gut-friendly foods can significantly improve the balance of bacteria in your intestines, reduce inflammation, and eventually improve the absorption of nutrients. Eating fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes is one way to reverse dysbiosis.
Specific foods rich in fiber are:
- Green peas
6. A Balanced Meal is a Good Meal
Always eat a balanced diet to supply your body with the right nutrients it needs. As mentioned, every person with kidney disease has different nutrient requirements depending on their CKD stage, gender, body weight, and other health considerations.
Ideally, a balanced meal for people with CKD (non-dialysis) consists of leafy vegetables, cereals, legumes, and plant proteins. Make sure to follow the appropriate serving and portion sizes for each food group set by your dietitian.
7. Store Foods to Limit Your Trips to the Grocery Store
Fill your pantry with all the foods you need for the week ahead of time so as to prevent frequent trips outside. Also stock up on other pantry staples like beans, pasta, and whole grains.
Keep these tips in mind when storing fruits and vegetables and make them last longer:
A. Blanching (For asparagus, broccoli, beets, beans, carrots, and peas)
- Chop asparagus, broccoli, beets, and carrots into small sizes.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- Put veggies in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain. Putting veggies in boiling water keeps the nutrients intact, rather than submerging veggies in water and waiting for it to boil.
- Transfer the newly boiled veggies to a bowl filled with ice.
- Store vegetables in a tight-lidded container or storage bags, then put them in the freezer.
- Chop fruits in small pieces and put them in a bowl.
- For herbs, chop and place them in ice trays. Pour cold water and freeze. You can also use olive oil or homemade broth for more flavor. Once they’re frozen, put the cubes inside plastic bags. Store them in the freezer. (Note: Avoid chopping sage, thyme, and rosemary)
Now more than ever, people with CKD should keep up with adequate nutrition, along with social distancing and proper hygiene, as they adjust to the new normal. Talk with your renal dietitian and healthcare providers to determine the right steps to take to maintain your health.