The Mediterranean Diet: A Must-Have for 2019

By Jennifer Rose Parker, RDN, CSR, LDN

Now you can eat like an Italian or Grecian local—even while state-side.

Perhaps you have heard that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets of all times, boasting weight loss, improved diabetes management and better health for all. But did you know that even with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), you too can enjoy this diet and reap the benefits?

If living with CKD is new to you, take heart—the Mediterranean diet will give you flexibility and help protect your kidneys. Recent evidence shows that a diet rich in plants slows the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease1-3.

What makes this diet so good? PLANTS. Whole, unprocessed, fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, seeds and oils. And “unprocessed” is key. One of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy is because of fiber-rich plants. Research shows that higher intakes of dietary fiber reduces the risk of developing several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and has been associated with lower body weights.4

Can I still eat meat and dairy? Yes, but not much. This is quite a contrast to the fad diets of late—think Paleo or Keto (which, by the way, can cause kidney damage because your kidneys have to work harder to excrete nitrogen and balance electrolytes). And if you’re reading this and are on dialysis, don’t worry—you can still meet your protein, potassium and phosphorus needs. Do consult with your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) for specific guidance.

So in a nut-shell (pun intended), let’s review this Mediterranean diet…

Less is More

Meatless More-days. Choosing beans, lentils, and veggiebased meals more days is better for your health. Think of meats (including chicken) as a side-dish or even optional to your meal. For those that enjoy seafood, choose heart-healthy tuna, herring, salmon and sardines, but only twice a week. Are you a dairy-lover? You can enjoy some but go easy on portion sizes.

Avoid added sugars. Coming soon, all nutrition facts labels will show how much added sugar a food or beverage has. Until then, read the ingredients and choose foods without sugar listed and above all, avoid high-fructose corn syrup.

Eat Like A Local

Yup, turns out even the those living right on the Mediterranean love their plants. Snack on fresh veggies like baby carrots, grape tomatoes, or bell peppers throughout the day and choose fruit as your dessert.

 Be “Whole”

 Choose 3 servings or more of whole grains like barley, brown rice, whole-wheat cereals or 100% whole wheat bread. Start your morning right with whole-oats, almonds, strawberries and Soy milk.

Fat is Good Afterall

Fat is good. Believe it or not, plant-based fats like walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, olives and avocados are great choices for helping you feel full and cooking a delicious and satisfying meal.

Daily Tips and Tricks for Mastering the Mediterranean Diet

Snacking

• Try air-popped popcorn for a satisfying snack full of fiber and add unsalted garlic or chili powder for a flavor boost!

• Edamame is an excellent source of protein, folate and Vitamin K Cooking

• Save time and money and use an electric pressure cooker to make wild rice, lentils or other affordable dried beans and grains.

• Choose whole wheat pasta, instead of a processed boxed pasta meal like Hamburger Helper. This will add fiber and nutrients while reducing sodium, phosphates, and added sugars.

Shopping

• Choose products with less than 10% Sodium per serving.4

• Frozen fruits and vegetables still have the same amount of nutrients and are often less expensive than their fresh counterparts.

• Buy no-salt added canned beans for an affordable and filling protein that’s also high in fiber. (Tip: rinse canned beans to remove excess fluid and potassium) So, if you’re interested in boosting your health, slowing kidney disease, and enjoying the fruits of mother nature, make the Mediterranean diet your new diet for life!

Jennifer Rose Parker, RDN, CSR, LDN is a Lead Dietitian with Fresenius Kidney Care (FKC) and enjoys helping patients, supporting dietitians and participating in companywide campaigns focusing on eating well with Chronic Kidney Disease and Dialysis since 2010. She completed her B.S. at Florida State University and Dietetic Internship at Barnes-Jewish College at Washington University and has been working in nephrology and diabetes management since 2005. She has presented at NKF’s Renal Professional Forums, ANNA and AAKP conferences, and other FKC corporate wellness programs on both the bioavailability of phosphorus and the positive effects of plant-based eating for CKD and Dialysis. She is an active member of the Academy’s Renal Practice Group and the NKF’s Council on Renal Nutrition. In her free time, she and her husband love traveling and investing in their community through their local church.

Citations

1. Rebholz CM, Crews DC, Grams ME, et al. DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet and Risk of Subsequent Kidney Disease. AJKD. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2016.05.019.

2. Juraschek SP, Gelber AC, Choi HK, Appel LJ, and Miller III ER. Effects of the Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet and Sodium Intake on Serum Uric Acid. Arthritis Rheumatol. doi: 10.1002/art.39813.

3. Dietary Oxidative Balance Scores and Biomarkers of Inflammation among Individuals with and without Chronic Kidney Disease. KJ Marks, TJ Hartman, SE Judd, TO Ilori, KL Cheung et al. Nephron extra, 2018;8:11-23.

4. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://health.gov/ dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/ . Accessed January 18, 2019.