March is National Kidney Month. While the kidney might seem like an odd thing to celebrate, it’s a good idea given how few of us know what they actually do. The main job of kidneys is filtering toxins from the bloodstream as they flush excess fluids. Without your kidneys, these toxins would build up in the body and could make you sick, eventually resulting in chronic kidney disease (CKD). The National Kidney Foundation estimates more than one in seven adults are affected by chronic kidney disease (CKD). People with diabetes, heart disease, and a family history are most at risk for this “silent disease.” Unfortunately, because CKD symptoms don’t typically show up in the disease’s early stages, most people find out they have it only when red flags appear in routine blood work. You can, however, reduce your risk of kidney disease by making four important adjustments to your diet.
To Avoid Blood-Sugar Spikes: Increase Your Fiber Intake
Adding ½ cup of kidney beans to your diet boosts your daily fiber intake, a necessary benefit for improving kidney health. According to research published in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating enough fiber each day could reduce CKD risk in the long run. This is likely due to the soluble fiber within legumes protecting against blood-sugar spikes that can damage kidneys over time. Other rich-fiber foods include chickpeas, green peas, peanuts, avocados, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
To Prevent Kidney Damage: Cut Out Soda
Limiting your intake of diet soda may help lower your chances of developing kidney disease. A 2017 study found that participants who consumed more than seven glasses of diet soda per were at the highest risk of kidney disease following the 23-year median follow-up period. A possible reason: Excess sugar and phosphoric acid found in diet sodas are reported to harm kidneys over time. For a fizzy alternative to diet soda, drink seltzer water.
To Boost ‘Good’ HDL Cholesterol: Raise a Glass
Cheers! A 2019 study found that participants who consumed low or moderate amounts of alcohol each week (about one daily drink for women) reduced their risk of CKD during the 24-year median follow-up period. Researchers note that modest amounts of alcohol have been shown to increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, which prevents harmful lipids from collecting in the kidneys.
To Improve Blood Flow: Take Pine Bark Extract
Taking 150 milligrams of the pine bark extract known as Pycnogenol daily may enhance kidney function in six months. This finding comes from a 2011 study as researchers credit this benefit to the herbal extract helping to lower blood sugar levels and boost blood flow to the kidneys. (Note: Be sure to speak to your doctor before supplementing.)
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.