One of the most important jobs performed by our kidneys is to keep our blood clean by filtering out waste products and returning useful substances back into the blood.  About 120-150 quarts of blood are filtered by our kidneys every day.  The average adult body has about five quarts of blood, which means our blood is filtered about 25-30 times each day.  If kidneys become damaged, then their ability to filter blood is reduced and waste products build-up that essentially “poison” our body.

The leading cause of kidney disease is uncontrolled high blood pressure.  Diet plays a big role in the development of high blood pressure.  Excess sodium in our food is one of the most common culprits.  Fortunately, we have control over what and how much we eat.

This month, try to control the amount of sodium you eat.  Most people think that avoiding the salt shaker is enough.  But most of the sodium we consume (65%) is found in processed foods.  If your diet includes boxed, canned or packaged foods, then check the sodium content by reading the nutrition facts label.  You want to aim for a daily total between 1,500 and 2,000 milligrams (mg) of sodium.

High sodium foods include:

  • Deli meats, canned fish, ham, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, pizza, cheese, cottage cheese
  • Chips, pretzels, flavored popcorn, breads, rolls
  • Flavored rice, noodles, sauces (alfredo, mustard, relish, ketchup, barbeque, soy sauce), bouillon
  • Canned vegetables and seasoned frozen vegetables, frozen dinners
  • Fast foods and restaurant meals are also high in sodium.  A Big Mac cheeseburger has about 1,040 mg of sodium – over half the daily recommended amount

So, how to keep sodium under control?  Try these tips:

  • Eat more real food and less processed foods.  Munch on sliced apples, carrots or cucumbers instead of chips.  Bring a yogurt with some berries, grapes or a banana if you are on-the-go.  Pass on the convenience foods at the local gas station
  • Rinse canned vegetables before eating.  Buy plain rice or noodles and season them at home
  • Select lower sodium cheeses and other dairy products

Cooking a meal?  Use these tasty spices and seasonings as alternatives to salt:

  • Italian herbs, chili powder, lemons/oranges, apple cider or rice vinegar, curry, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, Mrs. Dash, salsa, chutney, chopped dried fruits
  • Sauté onions, garlic, mushrooms in olive/canola oil and add to rice or any dish for a sweet and meaty flavor

Kidneys

image courtesy the 99 cent chef

Whole Grain Pilaf

This kidney-friendly flavorful whole grain pilaf recipe is heavy on the nutrition and light on the sodium.  It can be eaten as a side, snack or main meal with a salad or other brightly-colored vegetables.

Ingredients:

½ cup Brown rice or Quinoa (or favorite unseasoned grain)

1 cup water

¼ cup each chopped vegetables of your choice (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, peas, yams, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, beets)

¼ cup each chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, figs, dates)

½ cup nuts

½ cup cooked beans (optional)

Seasonings (see list above)

1-2 tbsp olive or canola oil

Directions:

Bring water to boil in saucepan, add grain, cover and simmer for 45 minutes (brown rice) or 20 minutes (quinoa), or until done.  While grain is cooking, sauté chopped vegetables in oil to desired softness.  Add seasonings and stir.  When grain is cooked, add to vegetables.  Mix together.  Adjust seasonings.  Serve hot or cold.

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