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A DASH is all you need for kidney health

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

DASH diet prevents kidney disease

The kidneys are one of our body’s most important organs. They detox us daily and ensure our cells absorb all of the nutrients they need to promote good health throughout the body. Yet many people don’t take proper care of their kidneys -- as is evidenced by recent statistics showing that kidney disease and the prevalence of kidney stones are on the rise. The solution? Go on a DASH diet. According to Leslie Beck, a Toronto dietitian, the diet can stave off years of bad health and kidney pain.

Woman drinking milk

What is the DASH diet?

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet is believed to lower blood pressure and improve kidney health. According to Beck, the goal is to eat two to three servings of low-fat dairy products, four to five servings of vegetables, and four to five servings of fruit, every day. The dietitian also suggests choosing 100 percent whole-grain foods and to include nuts and beans in your diet four times a week.

More ways to DASH diet for kidney health

1Drink enough fluids

Adequate fluid intake helps flush away substances that can cause crystals to form in the kidneys. If you've already had a kidney stone, drink 12 cups (three liters) of water in divided doses throughout the day. In hot weather, drink an additional two to four cups to make up for fluid lost through sweating.

2Limit oxalate-rich foods

Although foods don't contribute much oxalate to the urine, studies do show that spinach, rhubarb, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran and strawberries increase oxalate excretion the most. These should be avoided if you're at risk for calcium oxalate kidney stones.

3Meet calcium needs

For years, the standard prescription for calcium-containing kidney stones has been a low-calcium diet. However, restricting dietary calcium is no longer recommended. Many studies have found that eating a calcium-rich diet -- such as the DASH diet -- is associated with a lower risk of kidney-stone formation. If you don't get all your calcium from food, take a supplement. Since calcium reduces the absorption of oxalate from foods, take your calcium supplement with, rather than apart from, meals.

4Don't push protein

Overeating protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs can increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine. Keep your meat and poultry portions to three ounces (90 grams). Substitute vegetable protein such as beans and nuts, since these may reduce the risk of kidney stones.

5Control your weight

Studies suggest that being overweight or obese increases the risk of kidney stones. Excess weight is linked with altered acidity of the urine and higher uric acid levels in the blood, two factors that can trigger stone formation.

6Reduce vitamin C

Large amounts of vitamin C can increase the risk of calcium oxalate since the vitamin is converted to oxalate in the body. If you have had a calcium oxalate kidney stone, don't take high-dose vitamin C supplements (500 to 1,000 milligrams). Instead, focus on getting your vitamin C from foods such as citrus fruit, kiwi, mango, cantaloupe, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and bell peppers.

For more information, visit www.lesliebeck.com.

DASH diet success story

DASH diet is decidedly heart healthy

Watch the success story of Trudy Thome while on the DASH Diet and learn how it changed her life.

More on the DASH diet

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