Using the DASH Diet For Kidney Disease

Should you tweak the popular DASH diet if you have kidney disease?

Fresh fruits and vegetables
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Managing chronic kidney disease (CKD) usually takes a two-pronged approach. There is what the physician does with the tests and the fancy pills, but then there is what you do at home. And what you do at home is perhaps equally if not more important than what the nephrologist does for you in the office. You need to watch your blood pressure and eat at a kidney-friendly diet

Let's take a moment to talk about the popular DASH diet eating plan that is probably the most recommended diet plan for people with high blood pressure. But is it applicable if you also happen to have kidney disease? 

WHAT IS THE DASH DIET EATING PLAN?

Alarmed at the increasing incidence of high blood pressure (hypertension) in the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a multi-center study in 1992 to see how diet influences blood pressure, and what diet plan might be best for keeping blood pressure controlled. It compared typical American diets of the day to other diets including the so-called DASH diet. In a nutshell, the study found that people who ate the DASH diet showed a significant lowering of their blood pressure in as little as 2 weeks.

The DASH acronym stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The approach emphasizes intake of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy; while limiting intake of sodium, sugar, and red meat. It is low in saturated and trans fats and high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.

Here is how you should be getting your daily calories if you stick to the DASH plan:

(For a 2000-calorie diet. Table courtesy National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Total fat 27% of calories
Saturated fat 6% of calories
Protein 18% of calories
Carbohydrate 55% of calories
Cholesterol 150 mg
Sodium 2,300 mg
Potassium 4,700 mg
Calcium 1,250 mg
Magnesium 500 mg
Fiber 30 g

Understanding the DASH Diet in Plain English

Knowledge of portion sizes can help the average person understand what to eat and in what quantities. Enter your friendly dietitian, who will put it together for you. Here is what it should look like, based on different levels of calorie intake:

Food group 1,200
calories
1,400
calories
1,600
calories
1,800
calories
2,000
calories
2,600
calories
3,100
calories
Grains 4–5 5–6 6 6 6–8 10–11 12–13
Vegetables 3–4 3–4 3–4 4–5 4–5 5–6 6
Fruits 3–4 4 4 4–5 4–5 5–6 6
Fat-free or low-fat dairy products 2–3 2–3 2–3 2–3 2–3 3 3–4
Lean meats, poultry, and fish 3 or less 3–4 or less 3–4 or less 6 or less 6 or less 6 or less 6–9
Nuts, seeds, and legumes 3 per week 3 per week 3–4 per week 4 per week 4–5 per week 1 1
Fats and oil 1 1 2 2–3 2–3 3 4
Sweets and added sugar 3 or less per week 3 or less per week 3 or less per week 5 or less per week 5 or less per week 2 or less per week 2 or less per week
Maximum sodium intake 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day
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