Tag Archives: diet

Low Potassium Diet

What is potassium? — Potassium is a mineral found in most foods. The body needs potassium to work normally. It keeps the heart beating and helps the nerves and muscles work. But people need only a certain amount of potassium. Too much or too little potassium in the body can cause problems.

Having too much potassium in the blood is called “hyperkalemia.” This can cause heart rhythm problems and muscle weakness.

Who might need to be on a low-potassium diet? — People usually need to be on a low-potassium diet to treat or prevent hyperkalemia.

The most common causes of hyperkalemia are:

●Certain medicines – Some medicines, including certain ones for high blood pressure and heart problems, might raise the level of potassium in the body.

●Kidney disease – Normally, the kidneys filter the blood and remove excess salt and water through urination (figure 1). They keep the level of potassium in the blood normal. When the kidneys don’t work well or stop working, they can’t get rid of the potassium in the urine. Then, too much potassium builds up in the blood.

Many people who get a treatment called “dialysis” for kidney disease need to be on a low-potassium diet. Dialysis is a treatment that takes over the job of the kidneys.

What does eating a low-potassium diet involve? — Almost all foods have potassium. So the key is to:

●Choose foods with low levels of potassium

●Avoid or eat only small amounts of foods with high levels of potassium

Your doctor will probably recommend that you work with a dietitian (food expert) to help plan your meals. He or she will tell you how much potassium you should eat each day.

To figure out how much potassium you are eating, you will need to look at the food’s nutrition label. You will need to look at the:

●”Potassium” number – This tells you how much potassium is in 1 serving of the food. If you eat 1 serving, then you are eating this amount of potassium.

●”Serving size” – This tells you how big a serving is. If you eat 2 servings, then you are eating 2 times the amount of potassium listed.

What are other ways to cut down on potassium? — Here are some other ways to cut down on potassium:

●Drain the liquid from canned fruits, vegetables, or meats before eating.

●If you eat foods that have a lot of potassium, eat only small portions.

●Reduce the amount of potassium in the vegetables you eat. You can do this for both frozen and raw vegetables. (If the vegetables are raw, peel and cut them up first.) To reduce the amount of potassium, soak the vegetables in warm unsalted water for at least 2 hours. Then drain the water and rinse the vegetables in warm water. If you cook the vegetables, cook them in unsalted water.

Low Sodium Diet

What is sodium? — Sodium is the main ingredient in table salt. It is also found in lots of foods, and even in water. The body needs a very small amount of sodium to work normally, but most people eat much more sodium than their body needs.

Who should cut down on sodium? — Nearly everyone eats too much sodium. The average American takes in 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day. Experts say that most people should have no more than 2,300 milligrams a day.

Ask your doctor how much sodium you should have.

Why should I cut down on sodium? — Reducing the amount of sodium you eat can have lots of health benefits:

●It can lower your blood pressure, which means it can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, and lots of other health problems.

●It can reduce the amount of fluid in your body, which means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to push a lot of fluid around.

●It can keep the kidneys from having to work too hard. This is especially important in people who have kidney disease.

●It can reduce swelling in the ankles and belly, which can be uncomfortable and make it hard to move.

●It can reduce the chances of forming kidney stones.

●It can help keep your bones strong.

Which foods have the most sodium? — Processed foods have the most sodium. These foods usually come in cans, boxes, jars, and bags. They tend to have a lot of sodium even if they don’t taste salty. In fact, many sweet foods have a lot of sodium in them. The only way to know for sure how much sodium you are getting is to check the label.

Here are some examples of foods that often have too much sodium:

●Canned soups

●Rice and noodle mixes

●Sauces, dressings, and condiments (such as ketchup and mustard)

●Pre-made frozen meals (also called “TV dinners”)

●Deli meats, hot dogs, and cheeses

●Smoked, cured, or pickled foods

●Restaurant meals

What should I do to reduce the amount of sodium in my diet? — Many people think that avoiding the salt shaker and not adding salt to their food means that they are eating a low-sodium diet. This is not true. Not adding salt at the table or when cooking will help a little. But almost all of the sodium you eat is already in the food you buy at the grocery store or at restaurants.

The most important thing you can do to cut down on sodium is to eat less processed food. That means that you should avoid most foods that are sold in cans, boxes, jars, and bags. You should also eat in restaurants less often.

Instead of buying pre-made, processed foods, buy fresh or fresh-frozen fruits and vegetables. (Fresh-frozen foods are foods that are frozen without anything added to them.) Buy meats, fish, chicken, and turkey that are fresh instead of canned or sold at the deli counter. (Meats sold at the deli counter are high in sodium). Then try making meals from scratch at home using these low-sodium ingredients.

If you must buy canned or packaged foods, choose ones that are labeled “sodium free” or “very low sodium”. Or choose foods that have less than 400 milligrams of sodium in each serving. The amount of sodium in each serving appears on the nutrition label that is printed on canned or packaged foods.

Also, whatever changes you make, make them slowly. Choose one thing to do differently, and do that for a while. If that change sticks, add another change. For instance, if you usually eat green beans from a can, try buying fresh or fresh-frozen green beans and cooking them at home without adding salt. If that works for you, keep doing it. Then choose another thing to change. If it doesn’t work, don’t give up. See if you can cut down on sodium another way. The important thing is to take small steps and to stick with the changes that work for you.

What if I really like to eat out? — You can still eat in restaurants once in a while. But choose places that offer healthier choices. Fast-food places are almost always a bad idea. As an example, a typical meal of a hamburger and french fries from a popular fast-food chain has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. That’s more sodium than some people should eat in a day!

When choosing what to order:

●Ask your server if your meal can be made without salt

●Avoid foods that come with sauces or dips

●Choose plain grilled meats or fish and steamed vegetables

●Ask for oil and vinegar for your salad, rather than dressing

What if food just does not taste as good without sodium? — First of all, give it time. Your taste buds can get used to having less sodium, but you have to give them a chance to adjust. Also try other flavorings, such as herbs and spices, lemon juice, and vinegar.

What about salt substitutes? — Do not use salt substitutes unless your doctor or nurse approves. Some salt substitutes can be dangerous to your health, especially if you take certain medicines.

Do medicines have sodium? — Yes, some medicines have sodium. If you are buying medicines you can get without a prescription, look to see how much sodium they have. Avoid products that have “sodium carbonate” or sodium bicarbonate unless your doctor prescribes them. (Sodium bicarbonate is baking soda.)

Diet in Hemodialysis

Do people on dialysis need to watch their diet? — Yes. Most people on dialysis need to watch what they eat and drink. Your doctor, nurse, or dietitian (food expert) will tell you if there are foods or drinks that you should limit or avoid. The diet that is right for you will depend on:

●The type of dialysis you have – There are 2 types of dialysis, called hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. People who get hemodialysis at a dialysis center (in a hospital or clinic) need to watch their diet the most. They need to limit or avoid more foods than those who do peritoneal dialysis, or hemodialysis at home.

●How often you have dialysis

●Your health and other medical conditions

Why do people on dialysis need to watch their diet? — People on dialysis need to watch their diet because their kidneys aren’t working. Normally, the kidneys work to filter the blood. They remove excess water, salt, and other minerals and nutrients that people eat and drink.

Dialysis is a treatment that takes over the job of the kidneys. But dialysis doesn’t filter the blood as well as healthy kidneys do. Plus, normal kidneys work all day, every day. People usually have hemodialysis at a center only 3 times a week. So if a person on dialysis gets too much water, salt, or other nutrients through eating and drinking, these things can build up in the body. This can make people feel sick and cause problems.

When you watch your diet, you can help make sure that:

●Too much fluid doesn’t build up in your body between treatments – Having too much fluid can raise your blood pressure, which makes the heart work harder. Extra fluid can also cause weight gain, swelling, or trouble breathing.

●Your body has the right amount of nutrients – Some foods have high levels of certain nutrients. Eating those foods can raise the level of certain nutrients in your body between treatments. This can lead to problems.

●You stay as healthy as possible and don’t gain too much weight

What do I need to watch in my diet? — You will probably need to watch:

●Fluids – Most people on dialysis need to limit the fluids they eat and drink. Any food that is a liquid at room temperature (such as ice cream) is a fluid. Some fruits and vegetables have a lot of fluid in them, including melons, grapes, apples, and lettuce.

●Sodium – This is the main ingredient in table salt. Most people on dialysis need to limit the amount of sodium they eat. That’s because eating a lot of sodium can raise your blood pressure. It can also make you thirsty and cause you to drink more than you should. To know how much sodium is in a food, you need to look at the food’s label. Try to eat foods that are normally low in sodium or foods that say “sodium-free” or “very low in sodium”.

●Potassium – This is a nutrient that affects your heartbeat. Most people on dialysis need to limit the potassium they eat. If too much potassium builds up in your body, it can cause problems with your heart rhythm. Try to eat foods that are low in potassium. Foods that are high in potassium that you should avoid are listed in a different table.

●Phosphorus – This is a nutrient found in many foods. Foods such as milk, other dairy foods, nuts, beans, liver, and chocolate have high levels of phosphorus. Most people on dialysis need to avoid foods with high levels of phosphorus. That’s because if phosphorus builds up in your body, it can cause weak bones and other problems. Your doctor might also prescribe a medicine for you to take with your meals and snacks. This medicine can help keep your phosphorus level low.

●Protein – Protein helps your muscles stay strong. Foods with a lot of protein include meat, chicken, fish, and eggs. People who do peritoneal dialysis might need extra protein, because the body loses protein with each peritoneal dialysis treatment.

Your doctor will probably prescribe a vitamin for you to take every day. That way, your body can get the vitamins and minerals that might be missing in your diet.

What if I get thirsty? — If you get thirsty but need to limit your fluids, try these tips:

●Suck on ice instead of having a drink, because ice lasts longer. (But remember that ice is also a fluid.)

●Chew gum or suck on hard candy.

●Eat low potassium fruit that is very cold, such as frozen grapes.

●Rinse your mouth out with water or mouthwash, but don’t swallow.

Gluten Free Diet

What is a gluten-free diet? — A gluten-free diet is a diet that doesn’t contain any gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and (sometimes) oats. Many foods, such as breads, pasta, pizza, cereals, and crackers, have gluten in them. People who are on a gluten-free diet should not eat any foods with gluten.

Who should be on a gluten-free diet? — People with a condition called celiac disease should be on a gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is a condition that affects the body’s ability to break down certain foods. People with celiac disease get sick if they eat foods with gluten. They need to be on a strict gluten-free diet for their whole life.

If you think you have celiac disease, don’t start a gluten-free diet until after you are tested for the disease. That’s because what you eat can affect your test results.

More and more, though, people without celiac disease are eating a gluten-free diet. They might have heard that this diet can help them lose weight or feel better. It’s true that a gluten-free diet can be healthy. But it also sometimes keeps people from getting all the nutrition they need. If you are thinking about being on a gluten-free diet, ask your doctor or nurse if it’s a good choice for you.

How do I get started? — To get started, you will work with a dietitian (food expert) or other professional who has experience with a gluten-free diet. He or she will:

●Teach you which foods are fine to eat and which foods you should avoid

●Help you plan balanced meals so that you get the nutrition you need

●Give you gluten-free recipes

●Help you find gluten-free substitutes for your favorite foods (such as pasta or cookies)

You can get advice and help from other people, too. Ask your doctor or nurse if there is a local support group for people with celiac disease. Or you can look at websites, such as www.celiac.org, www.celiac.com, and www.csaceliacs.org.

It can be hard to learn how to manage a gluten-free diet, especially at first. But it usually gets easier with practice and over time.

Which foods can I eat? — Foods that are gluten free and fine to eat include the following:

●Rice, corn, potatoes, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and soybeans

●Special flours, pasta, and other products made from these foods and labeled “gluten free”

●Fruits and vegetables

●Meat and eggs

●Wine and distilled alcoholic drinks, such as rum, tequila, vodka, and whiskey

Milk, cheese, and other dairy foods are also gluten free. But many people with celiac disease have trouble digesting these foods, especially at first. Doctors usually recommend that people with celiac disease avoid eating dairy products, at least for a short time, while their intestines are healing.

Which foods should I not eat? — You need to avoid all foods made from or with wheat, rye, and barley (table 2). Ask your doctor or dietitian if you can eat oats.

Many types of foods contain or might contain gluten, such as:

●Flour, breads, crackers, muffins, and baking mixes

●Pasta, pastries, and cereals

●Some sauces, spreads, spices, condiments, and salad dressings

●Processed meats and meat substitutes (like vegetarian burgers)

●Beers, ales, lagers, and malt vinegars

To know exactly which foods you can eat, you will have to read ingredient labels. Foods that are labeled “gluten free” or say they are made or processed in a “gluten-free facility” are fine to eat. Foods that contain wheat are not fine to eat. If you are unsure whether a food is gluten free, call the company. Their phone number should be on the package.

Some medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) and vitamin supplements contain a small amount of gluten. But you can still take most types of pills if you have celiac disease. Check with your doctor or nurse if you are not sure.

Will I need to take vitamins? — You might. Celiac disease can keep your digestive system from normally absorbing the nutrients in foods. To get all the nutrients you need, your doctor or nurse might recommend that you take a daily vitamin.

Can I eat out? — Yes. Many restaurants now have gluten-free menus or foods. But always let the restaurant know you can’t have gluten. That way, they can be extra careful when they cook your food.

What if my child is on a gluten-free diet? — If your child is on a gluten-free diet, let his or her caregivers, teachers, and school know. Tell them which foods your child can and can’t eat. If your child goes to school, you might want to leave a gluten-free treat with the nurse or teacher. That way, your child will have a safe treat when the class has a party.

Healthy Diet

Which foods are especially healthy? — Foods that are especially healthy include:

●Fruits and vegetables – Eating fruits and vegetables can help prevent heart disease and strokes. Eating them might also help prevent certain types of cancers. Try to eat fruits and vegetables at each meal and for snacks. If you don’t have fresh fruits and vegetables, you can eat frozen or canned ones instead. Doctors recommend eating at least 2 1/2 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits each day.

●Foods with fiber – Eating foods with a lot of fiber can help prevent heart disease and strokes. If you have type 2 diabetes, it can also help control your blood sugar. Foods that have a lot of fiber include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, oatmeal, and some breads and cereals. You can tell how much fiber is in a food by reading the nutrition label. Doctors recommend eating 25 to 36 grams of fiber each day.

●Foods with folate (also called folic acid) – Folate is a vitamin that is important for pregnant women and women who plan to get pregnant. Pregnant women need to get enough folate so that their unborn baby can grow normally. Folate is found in many breakfast cereals, oranges, orange juice, and green leafy vegetables.

●Foods with calcium and vitamin D – Babies, children, and adults need calcium and vitamin D to help keep their bones strong. Adults also need calcium and vitamin D to help prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes bones to get thin and break more easily than usual. Different foods and drinks have calcium and vitamin D in them. People who don’t get enough calcium and vitamin D in their diet might need to take a supplement. Supplements are pills, capsules, liquids, or tablets that have nutrients in them.

What about fats? — There are different types of fats. Some types of fats are better for your body than others.

Trans fats are especially unhealthy. They are found in margarines, many fast foods, and some store-bought baked goods. Trans fats can raise your cholesterol level and your chance of getting heart disease. Try to avoid eating foods with these types of fats.

The type of polyunsaturated fats found in fish seems to be healthy and can reduce your chance of getting heart disease. Other polyunsaturated fats might also be healthy. Experts used to think that monounsaturated fats were good for you and saturated fats were bad, but newer research suggests that might not be true. In fact, these fats do not seem to have much effect on your chance of getting heart disease.

When you cook, use oils with some healthier fats, such as olive oil and canola oil.

What about alcohol? — People who drink a small amount of alcohol each day might have a lower chance of getting heart disease. But drinking alcohol can lead to problems. For example, it can raise a person’s chances of getting liver disease and certain types of cancers.

Most doctors recommend that adult women not have more than 1 drink a day and that adult men not have more than 2 drinks a day.

How many calories do I need each day? — The number of calories you need each day depends on your weight, height, age, sex, and how active you are.

Your doctor or nurse can tell you how many calories you should eat each day. If you are trying to lose weight, you should eat fewer calories each day.

What if I have questions? — If you have questions about which foods you should or should not eat, ask your doctor or nurse. The right diet for you will depend, in part, on your health and any medical conditions you have.

High Fiber Diet

What is fiber? — Fiber is a substance found in some fruits, vegetables, and grains. Most fiber passes through your body without being digested. But it can affect how you digest other foods, and it can also improve your bowel movements.

There are 2 kinds of fiber. One kind is called “soluble fiber” and is found in fruits, oats, barley, beans, and peas. The other kind is called “insoluble fiber,” and is found in wheat, rye, and other grains.

Both kinds of fiber that you eat are called “dietary fiber.”

Why is fiber important to my health? — Fiber can help make your bowel movements softer and more regular. Adding fiber to your diet can help with problems including constipation, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea. Plus, it can help prevent “accidents” if you have trouble controlling your bowel movements.

Getting enough fiber can also help lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. That’s because fiber can help lower cholesterol and help control blood sugar.

How much fiber do I need? — The recommended amount of fiber is 20 to 35 grams a day. The nutrition label on packaged foods can show you how much fiber you are getting in each serving.

How can I make sure I’m getting enough fiber? — To make sure that you’re getting enough fiber, eat plenty of the fruits, vegetables, and grains that contain fiber. Many breakfast cereals also have a lot of fiber.

If you can’t get enough fiber from food, you can add wheat bran to the foods you do eat. Or you can get fiber supplements. These often come in a powder and should be added to water or another liquid.

What are the side effects of fiber? — When you start eating more fiber, your belly might feel bloated, or you might have gas or cramps. You can avoid these side effects by adding fiber to your diet slowly.

Some people feel worse when they eat more fiber or take fiber supplements. If you feel worse after adding more fiber to your diet, you can try decreasing the amount of fiber to see if that helps.