Mediterranean Diet May Protect Kidneys As Well As Heart, Brain

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • People who are regular members of the HealthCentral community know that I’m a big proponent of the Mediterranean diet. My interest in this diet – which actually is a way of eating for life – comes from a lot of reading as well as research that indicates that this diet may help protect heart and brain health (which is important to people like me, who have seen many relatives felled by Alzheimer’s disease).


    It turns out that this type of eating plan may also offer protection to other organs in your body. For instance, a new longitudinal study out of Columbia University Medical School found that a Mediterranean diet may significantly lower the risk of developing chronic kidney disease, which is a growing epidemic due to risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.

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    The study involved 900 participants who were followed for approximately seven years. The researchers looked at the association between the participants’ adherence to the Mediterranean diet with long-term kidney function. Their analysis found that every increase of one point in a participant’s following this type of eating plan was associated with a 17-percent lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Furthermore, people who followed dietary patterns that most closely matched the Mediterranean diet had a 50-percent lower risk of developing this disease as well as a 42-percent lower risk of experiencing rapid decline in their kidney function.

    This is just another reason why I’d encourage you to consider adopting a Mediterranean diet. "Many studies have found a favorable association between the Mediterranean diet and a variety of health outcomes, including those related to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others," said Dr. Minesh Khatri, who led the Columbia study. He also pointed out that poor diet is associated with kidney disease.

    So what is a Mediterranean diet? According to Oldways, this way of eating is based on consuming traditional foods that are commonly eaten in the countries located around the Mediterranean Sea. This diet was first introduced in 1993 by Oldways, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the European Office of the World Health Organization.

    This diet consists mainly of the following:

    • Fruits, vegetables, grains (mostly whole, such as bulgur, barley, farrow, brown rice, black rice and red rice), olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes and seeds, herbs, and spices. These foods should serve as the base of every meal you eat.
    • Fish (such as tuna, herring, sardines and salmon) and seafood (such as mussels, oysters and clams) at least two times each week, if not more often. 
    • Good fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, olives and avocados.
    • Moderate portions of poultry, eggs, cheese and Greek or plain yogurt daily or regularly during the week.
    • Infrequent consumption of meats and sweets.
    • Water as your main beverage.
    • Red wine in moderation.


    This diet also encourages socialization during meals as well as regular physical exercise.

  • So how can you adopt this diet during the cold winter when the farmer’s market doesn’t have many options? Some tips to help you eat this way during the winter months:

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    • Cook hearty eating stews and soups that have a variety of vegetables, legumes and spices. Use root vegetables as well as frozen vegetables.
    • Use root vegetables in all sorts of ways. I just did this yesterday when I diced up some sweet potatoes, green onions and bell peppers in a bit of olive oil. I topped it with a fried egg, which made for a great lunch. I also like to roast vegetables in the oven and then keep extras in the fridge to throw into salads, omelets and soups.
    • Sneak more vegetables into your daily meals. Try using avocado instead of mayonnaise on your sandwich.
    • When looking for a snack, opt for fruit, nuts or seeds. 
    • Embrace the concept of Meatless Monday. While it sounds hard, it’s actually fairly easy. Try cereal, yogurt and fruit for breakfast, a salad for lunch and pasta for dinner. You might find that you feel so much better that you expand this type of eating to other days.
    • Opt for fruit for dessert. One of my local grocery stores is now offering berry bowls so I scoop out a serving of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, and then sprinkle some almond slices on top.


    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Hampton, T. (2014). Mediterranean diet may help protect kidney health. American Society of Nephrology.

    Mayo Clinic. (2013). Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.

    Oldways. (2009). Mediterranean diet pyramid.

Published On: November 13, 2014