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Is a Plant-Based Diet Good for Your Kidneys?

Plant based diet; Stuffed Butternut Squash with kale, cranberries, quinoa, and chickpeasIn order to understand what types of foods are best for kidney health, it is first important that you understand what the kidneys are designed for in the first place.

The kidneys are designed to filter waste out of the blood, in the process absorbing some nutrients found in it and excreting the waste through urine output. The body is best designed to filter out waste products that are easily extracted, serving as a less taxing task on the kidneys themselves. Taking in processed foods with added preservatives as well as meats that are dense in saturated fats (red meat, most notably) will add strain to the kidneys in addition to their already difficult job.

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

It’s no secret that growing up, many of us are told “eat your vegetables” more times than we could care to count. While we know veggies are good for overall health, many do not understand why.

Consuming plant-based products is a great way to make sure that the body is taking in a wide variety of essential nutrients and vitamins, providing for overall health benefits with normal systemic functions throughout the body. Through taking in all of these nutrients, we are adding a lot of natural and easily absorbable ingredients to our bloodstream.

By subtracting processed ingredients, such as processed sugars and preservatives, a plant-based diet places far less of a strain on the kidneys because they do not need to work as hard to filter the blood. If we think of the kidneys as an engine of sorts, consider using a healthy fuel that the engine can process well without being overly taxed. This will prevent the engine from overheating and breaking down due to firing on all cylinders around the clock.

This transition in diet is especially helpful for individuals who are already suffering from chronic kidney disease. The removal of added harmful wastes in the diet ensures that the kidneys will have a natural means of recovery in addition to the interventions already in place.

Removing other harmful wastes such as alcohol and smoking can further help prevent added stress to the system, helping to promote overall health benefits in the process.

Plant-Based Diet and Kidney Health

When considering the mechanisms through which plant-based diets are helpful, there are a couple of major factors to consider. First, healthy plants with a high dietary index contribute less dietary acidic loads to the system, preventing acidic damage throughout the digestive and urinary systems. Secondly, many of these foods are rich in fiber and micronutrients, causing a better flow throughout the system and less waste that needs to be removed during the filtration process.

Because of the decrease in processed sugars, hypertension throughout the system is decreased causing for an increase in blood flow to the kidneys themselves. Water levels throughout the blood also increase, adding to the flow through the kidneys and urine outputs that are healthy and regular.

How to Eat a Plant-Based Diet

While the transition over to a plant-based diet may seem challenging at first, it is a switch that your kidneys and body as a whole will thank you for. By starting with subtle changes such as adding vegetables to every meal, even to a small degree, in place of preservative dense foods will help you see and feel the benefits.

As kidney health is improved, you will also see increases in energy and improved mood in response to the influx of vitamins and micronutrients being introduced to the body.

Before you begin a plant-based diet, you should consult with all members of your care team including your nephrologist. Because diet and nutrition are an important part of your treatment plan, he or she may recommend that you work with a registered dietician.

To learn more about how you may be able to improve your kidney health through dietary changes, call (919) 477-3005 to schedule an appointment with Durham Nephrology Associates.

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