These foods can help reduce the risk of this undetected chronic disease: eat this, not that

It’s easy to forget about kidney health, but those two bean-shaped organs are incredibly important to your overall health, responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood, as well as filtering waste and harmful toxins. When the kidneys are not working properly, a person can experience a number of symptoms, ranging from high blood pressure and lethargy to persistent headaches, facial swelling, and lower back pain.

The Meatless Monday team spoke with Gail Torres, MS, RD, RN, senior director of clinical communications at the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) to better understand why more Americans are developing chronic kidney disease (CKD) and how people can reduce your risk. of developing the disease by making a few small lifestyle changes. Answers have been edited for clarity.

RELATED: #1 Best Food For Your Kidneys, Says Dietitian

What is CKD and why is it on the rise in the United States?

CKD stands for chronic kidney disease, which means having a kidney problem for three months or more that can damage the kidneys and cause a gradual loss of kidney function. Kidney damage decreases the kidneys’ ability to filter wastes, fluids, and toxins from the blood, while also affecting other kidney functions that cause high blood pressure, anemia, bone disease, poor nutritional health, and nerve damage. CKD also increases the risk of heart and blood vessel disease.

According to the United States Renal Data System Annual Data Report 2021, rising rates of risk factors that can lead to CKD, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes, contribute to its continued prevalence. The report emphasizes that factors such as a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet may be contributing to the rise in obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes that ultimately lead to CKD.

Why might people with the disease not know they have it?

CKD is known as a “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms until it is very advanced. In fact, of the 37 million adults in the United States who have CKD, 9 out of 10 don’t even know they have it because they don’t feel sick. That’s why it’s so important to have your kidney numbers checked regularly. These simple tests are crucial for detecting CKD early when there are no symptoms, and timely treatments can be started early enough to prevent further kidney damage. For more information on CKD tests, click here: https://www.kidney.org/kidney-basics

What are the symptoms?

As CKD progresses to an advanced stage, symptoms may include:

  • increased fatigue
  • trouble concentrating
  • poor appetite
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sleeping problems
  • Muscle cramps
  • Urinating more or less than usual
  • swollen feet and ankles

How should people eat to reduce the risk of developing CKD?

Low-salt and low-sodium diets that emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, unsaturated and monounsaturated fats, low-fat/low-sugar dairy products, lean meats, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids 3 include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the Mediterranean diet, both of which have been linked to a lower risk of CKD.

These unprocessed, whole food, plant-focused diets can help reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, and therefore CKD, while helping to maintain a healthy weight, which is also associated with a lower risk of CKD. Plant-based, low-animal diets have lower net acid production, which can provide a healthier environment for the kidneys, especially for those prone to kidney stones and gout, two risk factors for CKD.

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What are the best food options for kidney health to include in the diet?

The National Kidney Foundation’s Council on Renal Nutrition (CRN) has compiled a list of foods that are a good place to start, while also acknowledging that preventing or completely managing kidney disease by eating certain foods is attractive, the reality is not so simple. While some foods are certainly more nutritious than others, no food is the magic answer for good health. You can find plenty of guidance on meatless meals at Meatless Monday and the National Kidney Foundation.

The CRN list includes the following foods:

  • spices
  • strawberries
  • Root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips)
  • Beans
  • Nuts and seeds
  • whole grains
  • green leafy vegetables
  • Pumpkin
  • Tomatoes
  • blueberries
  • apples

Interested in learning more about the health benefits of plant-based eating? Check out Meatless Monday for additional recipes, cooking tips, and resources focused on getting more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains into your diet.

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