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What is the Renal Diet?

By now, you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet, the paleo diet, and even understand what it means to eat vegan. But, there’s another diet in town, and it’s not just a fad, but a lifestyle for some. It’s called the Renal Diet.

The renal diet (also known as the kidney diet) is necessary for those who are living with kidney disease. 

First, let’s look at kidney disease.

Your kidneys are located on either side of your spine, just below your rib cage, and each is about the size of a fist (fun fact: your adrenal glands sit on top of them!). But for being so small, they have an enormous job. Your kidneys, alongside your liver, are responsible for detoxifying your body each day.

Each day, your body takes in a number of toxins - from foods, drugs (both pharmaceutical and recreational), environmental toxins, and even from your beauty and household cleaning products. These toxins can result in hormonal and nutrient imbalances. It’s your kidneys job to filter this out, balance your hormones, and regulate your blood pressure and control the production of your red blood cells. 

Did you know they also produce the active form of vitamin D (Vitamin D3 in supplements) to promote bone health?! 

When you have kidney disease, all of these functions are at risk. And rather than be forced into a life on dialysis, you can take proactive approaches to keep it under control.

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That’s where the Renal Diet comes in.  

The renal diet has a few basic components:

  1. Reduce sodium intake
  2. Avoid potassium-rich foods
  3. Phosphorus

Sodium

While it is an essential mineral for many, sodium is responsible for keeping in water. If you have a high sodium intake, your body may retain this, and your kidneys will not be able to properly flush it out of your system. 

What should you do?

  • Avoid processed meats like lunch meat, bacon, ham and sausage
  • Avoid most processed foods (chips, frozen dinners, crackers)
  • Check the sodium content on nutrition labels
  • Always read the ingredients! There may be a small amount of sodium that isn’t listed
  • Ensure canned vegetables or beans have “no salt added” listed on the label

Potassium

Potassium is essential for our muscle function, however, with kidney disease, we may experience a buildup of potassium in our kidneys. This buildup can affect our heart muscles and can cause cardiovascular issues. 

Foods you should avoid:

  • Melons (watermelon is okay)
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Cooked greens

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Phosphorus

As you know, when your kidneys don’t function properly, minerals build up. However, with a buildup of phosphorus, calcium can start to leech from your bones, causing a weak skeletal structure.

  • One of the few times you will be told: choose white breads and pastas over whole wheat or grains
  • Avoid beer
  • Avoid soft drinks
  • Some vegetables, and beans have phosphorus
  • Reduce or avoid dairy products

So what can you eat?

There has been significant research around the effects of the Mediterranean Diet. In fact, the European Renal Association-European Dialysis and Transplantation Association now recommends the Mediterranean diet for those living with kidney disease. Especially as the traditional renal diet seems to restrict many essential food groups, vitamins and minerals. While this diet calls for eating a lot of plants, the amount of phosphorus coming from the plant-based foods is much less than what you would consume on a traditional western diet, which is high in animal meats. As well, the number of processed foods in the mediterranean diet is much less than that of the Standard American Diet.

Here are some foods you should add to your diet:

  1. Buy organic if you can. No pesticides, non-GMO foods reduce the stress on your organs.
  2. Eat more veggies than meat
  3. Include antioxidant-rich foods
  4. Add cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower that help promote detoxification in your liver.
  5. Onions and Garlic 

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