It’s Australian World Kidney Day! Kidneys are vitally important to good health and maintaining a good quality of life. They are something we take for granted yet they have to work very hard to keep our bodies functioning as they should. For this reason, we should be mindful of our diets so that we can take care of them right in to the future.
Risk factors for kidney disease
Australian’s are at an increased risk of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) if they:
- Have diabetes
- Have heart disease or high blood pressure
- Have kidney disease in their family
- Are over the age of 60
- Are obese
- Are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
Follow the steps below to keep your kidneys functioning as well as possible!
1. Follow a diet low in salt
There is enough salt found naturally in food to meet our needs. You should aim to consume no more than 2,300mg per day  – many takeaway dinners alone can contain this much! When choosing packaged products, look at the nutrition information panel and choose items with below 120mg per 100g. You may find this difficult as many manufacturers add a lot of salt for flavour and preservation – this is why it is always ideal to prepare your meals from scratch and to limit your use of packaged ingredients. You can also look for items that state they are ‘salt reduced’ or ‘low in salt’. Having too much salt can increase your blood pressure.
Substitute salt in your cooking for herbs and spices and avoid adding it to a meal when served. When eating out you can ask for less salt to be used in your dish.
2. Get a combination of plant and animal protein
To take the best care of your kidneys, ensure your portions of meat are not too excessive and that you are not consuming too much protein over the course of the day. It’s a good idea to reduce some of the meat in your diet and substitute it for plant based protein such as legumes, lentils and nuts!
The protein requirements for an adult are outlined in the table below, taken from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Nutrient Reference Values . As you can see, we don’t actually require a lot of protein in order to meet out nutrient requirements!
3. Keep fluid intake up
Kidneys can only last a few days without water! The kidney’s need water to excrete waste products via urine, add volume to blood and to transport nutrients around the body. Whilst they will still function on a suboptimal water intake, it will be much healthier for them if they don’t have to work as hard to perform the same tasks with less fluid! Not getting adequate fluid can also increase you risk of kidney stones! Remember to also keep your alcohol intake low.
4. Heart healthy foods = kidney healthy foods
Eating a healthy variety of foods that are low in fat will assist in making sure fat does not build up in your blood vessels, heart and kidneys.
- Choose lean cuts of meat
- Remove chicken skin
- Cut any visible fat off meat
- Avoid takeaways
- Avoid processed foods like pastries, chocolates, potato chips
5. Manage your weight
Achieving a healthy weight can prevent the onset of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. These conditions are risk factors for kidney disease so by preventing them, you’re also saving your kidneys!
Potassium and phosphate
Some people who have serious kidney disease have to restrict potassium and phosphate rich foods from their diet! When the kidneys aren’t working properly, these substances can build up in the blood.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.
EAR (Estimated Average Requirement) = A daily nutrient level estimated to meet the requirements of half the healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.
RDI (Recommended Dietary Intake) = The average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97–98 per cent) healthy individuals in a particular life stage and gender group.