When it comes to health advice, our hearts are often in the spotlight. However, as equally vital organs, our kidneys shouldn’t be neglected. Our kidneys work extremely hard to dispose of the excess salt and water we consume. During this process, they also eliminate toxins that would otherwise accumulate and negatively affect our bodies. In addition, our kidneys control blood acidity and blood pressure levels.
When kidneys fail, the body is literally overwhelmed by excess water, salt, and toxins, which defeat every other organ and body system. The kidneys’ job may not be glamorous, like the heart, but it is every bit as important.
Here are nine ways to boost your kidney health:
Eat more antioxidants
Researchers are discovering more links between chronic diseases, including chronic kidney disease (CKD), and foods’ role by forming free radicals or protecting against chronic inflammation through antioxidants. Chronic inflammation results in permanent damage, for instance, in blood vessels in the heart and kidneys, that causes damage. Antioxidants found in fresh fruit and vegetables are the ‘firemen putting out the harmful flames’ of inflammation caused by these free radicals.
Reduce intake of fatty red meat
Do you regularly eat plenty of fatty red meat? Unfortunately, you’re putting your kidneys at risk – they must work much harder to get rid of the excessive waste generated from digesting these animal proteins. Substitute fatty meats for legumes, tofu, and nuts, or alternatively for fresh/unprocessed fish or poultry.
When you carry a bit of extra weight, your kidneys have to work harder – they need to filter more blood than usual to avoid the risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the long term. People who are overweight or obese are seven times more likely to develop renal disease than those with normal weight.
If you have a family history of CKD or renal failure, this should raise a red flag that you need to focus on the health of your kidneys. In addition, if you are overweight, you need to lose weight to reduce the stress on your kidneys.
In 64% of chronic kidney disease (CKD) cases in South Africa, the prime culprit is undetected or uncontrolled hypertension. Protect your kidney health by having your blood pressure regularly tested, following your treatment plan (if you’re on one), and making lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure in check.
Eat more green
Give preference to a plant-based eating pattern, including lots of fresh, whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. You can also substitute red meat for plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts, and tofu.
Drop the high-salt, trans-fat takeaways, and convenience foods. Instead, cultivate interest and enjoyment in cooking from scratch with fresh, healthy ingredients- it also means you’ll know what you’re eating, so you won’t be at risk for hidden salt and sugar.
It’s much more delicious and good for your kidneys.
Choose your fats wisely
Fats are not created equal, and you need to be careful about the ones you choose to eat. For example, go for extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil to protect the blood vessels in your kidneys.
Forget the convenient fads
Convenient, sugar-sweetened drinks and treats, fast foods, processed and red meat are bad for your kidneys. If your diet consists of processed junk food, it could cause similar damage to type 2 diabetes. A study published in the Experimental Physiology journal showed that regularly eating junk food, such as fizzy drinks, burgers, cakes, biscuits, and fast food, causes similar blood sugar levels as type 2 diabetes. It causes an accumulation of sugar, or glucose, in the blood, which can have severe long-term consequences for organs, including the kidneys, and lead to diabetic kidney disease.
Nuts are a great way to provide healthy fats and fibre to your diet. So boost your intake of both nuts and legumes.
Consult a registered dietitian for individualised and patient-specific nutritional advice and guidance.
Registered Dietician Gerlia Venter, Woodhill Dieticians https://www.woodhilldieticians.co.za/