Five simple lifestyle tweaks to help keep your kidneys healthy

Keeley Bolger says our kidneys are a filter vital to our health.

OUR kidneys filter waste from our blood, before turning it into urine, and high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes (the biggest cause of kidney failure) can all accelerate kidney damage.

Although certain kidney conditions are not preventable, we can reduce our risk of kidney-related diseases.

“Keeping active, being a healthy weight, eating loads of fruit and veg, having a diet that’s low in fat, low in sugar, enjoying your food and having a variety of foods can all help,” says renal dietician, Harriet Williams.

These are her top tips for kidney health.

REDUCE SALT INTAKE

Cutting back on salt will help your kidneys do their jobs properly.

“The maximum, recommended intake is 6g a day,” says Williams. 

“One of the reasons to keep your salt intake low is to maintain a good blood pressure, and to try and prevent problems with your kidneys.” 

(Salt is a major factor in high blood pressure.) 

Fresh and dried herbs, onions, garlic, lemon juice and spices are all good salt substitutes and will enhance flavour in dishes.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Drinking water regularly (but not excessively), especially when exercising or in hot places, will help your kidneys function properly.

“For most people, two to two-and-a-half litres of fluid a day is enough, but that can include tea, coffee and fruit juice,” says Williams.

“Water is the ideal, because it doesn’t contain any calories. Squashes can be added to help make them more interesting. Limit fruit juice to a small glass; 150ml is about all you need.”

PACK IN PLENTY OF FRUIT AND VEG

By upping the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet, you’re giving your body — and, in turn, your kidneys — the nutrients and minerals it needs to run smoothly.

Fresh is perfect, but if opting for tinned varieties, rinse the vegetables in water before you cook or eat it, to remove excess salt. The same goes for tinned pulses, too.

CHECK LABELS

Read food labels in the supermarket, so you know what you’re eating. Williams suggests comparing brands to see which is healthiest.

“Two brands of the same product might be different in their salt content, and it’s not always the most expensive ones that are better.

“Using the traffic-light food labelling that we have now, and going for products in the green and amber range, rather than red, in terms of salt, would be a good thing.”

MANAGE YOUR WEIGHT

Being overweight can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, which puts pressure on your kidneys and can lead to kidney disease. 

Keep your blood sugar stable by eating well-balanced meals, and exercising regularly — walking and gardening all count.

“There’s a statistic that if you’re overweight and you lose 10% of your body weight, that’s the magic number where you can make a significant difference to your health and your risk of diabetes,” says Williams.

“It would be ideal to get your body mass index in the healthy range, but we’ve got to be realistic, too. Losing 10% of your body weight, if you’re overweight, is a realistic aim.”

For more information see: www.ika.ie 


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