Food tips

Five healthy food tips for your kidneys

Several health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, all of which are prevalent in South Africa, put a strain on the kidneys. This can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and ultimately kidney failure.

This week is National Kidney Awareness Week and ADSA spokesperson Dr. Zarina Ebrahim shares simple tips for healthy eating for your kidneys:

Eat a variety of foods – Keep your diet as natural as possible by limiting foods with additives such as processed foods and ready meals eg pies, pastries, patties, sausages such as Viennese pastries, burgers, ready meals, entrees to take away and the sachets of soups. Instead, focus on a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, small amounts of healthy fats, and lean proteins.

Fiber is very important for kidney health – Fiber helps improve the profile of the gut microbiome. It increases healthy gut bacteria and reduces unhealthy bacteria. Each day, aim for at least two to three servings of fresh fruit (avoid fruit juice) and two to three servings of vegetables. Increase your intake of legumes such as beans and lentils, as well as whole grains, especially oats, wholemeal bread and cereals.

Reduce salt intake – Limit the addition of salt at the table and to food during cooking. Also avoid salty foods like potato chips, biltong, soup packets and other processed foods. Avoid using salty mixed spices such as barbecue and chicken spices. Instead, use natural spices to add flavor to your food, such as cumin, coriander, pepper, turmeric, paprika, chili powder, fresh garlic, ginger, lemon juice, parsley, celery and other herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint and basil. .

Protein is important, but should be portion controlled – If you want to prevent kidney disease, be careful not to consume excessive amounts of protein on a regular basis. Choose low-fat protein options like low-fat dairy, skinless chicken, fish, and lean meats. Incorporate more plant-based protein from beans, lentils, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and chickpeas into your family diet.

Focus on food preparation – Avoid take-out meals and ready meals high in fat and salt. Instead, choose healthy cooking methods at home like steaming, sautéing, baking, and boiling, and don’t fry foods.

Reduce excessive sugar consumption – limit sugar and sugary foods in your diet, especially those from cold drinks, sweets and chocolates. These contribute to unnecessary energy intake in the diet and can lead to the progression of CKD.

What to do if you suffer from IRC?

Registered dietitian Zama Khumalo, who is also a spokesperson for ADSA, points out that people at any stage of CKD need specialist nutritional support to help them manage their condition optimally.

“Pay attention to the protein, potassium, phosphate and sodium content of the foods you eat. The goal is to support the kidneys by reducing toxins in the blood that can be caused by high intake of these nutrients to slow disease progression.

“However, it’s important to note that patients at all stages of CKD need an individualized approach to their nutrition based on their health assessments, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Generally, elements of the Mediterranean diet can be applied to people with CKD. The focus should be on reducing phosphate intake by avoiding processed foods that typically contain phosphate additives. Whole foods and fiber-rich foods should be increased, regardless of their potassium content, unless the patient is hyperkalaemic, which means you have higher than normal blood potassium levels. In this case, limit the consumption of foods very rich in potassium.

By becoming salt conscious and eating fewer processed foods, you can achieve naturally low sodium levels. Try to eat the right amount and types of protein. Too much protein can further damage kidney function, but not eating enough protein can lead to muscle loss and malnutrition. People on dialysis may need a higher protein intake. The best sources of protein include beans, lentils, soy, eggs, chicken, lean meat, and dairy products instead of highly processed meat products, but proper portions will be guided by your dietitian.

Ultimately, people with CKD should have a dietician on their healthcare team to help them optimally manage CKD and prevent malnutrition associated with progressive kidney disease.

To find a dietitian in your area, visit