Small food changes for Hispanics with diabetes & kidney disease

Being part of the American Kidney Fund’s (AKF) Health Initiatives team has allowed me to meet face-to-face with people at AKF’s free health screening events across the country. I have had the opportunity to listen to their concerns about kidney disease and inform them about preventive actions to take, including managing diabetes, the #1 cause of kidney disease.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, 12.2% of Hispanics in the U.S. are living with diabetes, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 50% of Hispanics will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime, compared with 40% of non-Hispanics. Since diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease, this means Hispanics are at greater risk. Hispanics are 1.6 times more likely to develop kidney failure than non-Hispanics because of the high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, the #2 cause of kidney disease, in our community.

Preventing diabetes, or managing it if you have already been diagnosed, is key to preventing kidney disease. That’s because when there is too much sugar in your blood, your kidneys have to work harder to remove that excess sugar. Diabetes can also damage blood vessels and nerves in your kidneys. Over time, this can damage your kidneys and can cause them to stop working as they should.

During recent AKF screening events, I have spoken with many Hispanic individuals who have told me they are prediabetic, diabetic or have a family member who is diabetic. One of their main concerns is how difficult it is to make changes to their eating habits. Either they are not the ones responsible for preparing their meals, or the changes recommended to them do not seem realistic or achievable. Coming from a Hispanic household myself, I understand how challenging it can be to apply the nutrition information you may receive in school or from your doctor into the common Hispanic recipes the entire family enjoys. However, some small and easy food changes can have a lasting impact on our community and our overall health.

What can you do?

One way to fight diabetes and kidney disease is by watching what you eat, which can start with small steps. Here are some helpful options I share with people I meet at AKF screenings:

  • Portions matter. A typical plate may be beans, rice, meat and tortillas or another type of bread. Try cutting back from two scoops of rice to one, and from having two or three tortillas to having one or two.
  • Add more vegetables. Mix in more veggies than you would usually add to a typical meal, like arroz con pollo. This will give your favorite dish a healthy boost.

Big changes all at once can be scary, but you do not have to start off that way. You can still enjoy the same foods you love with some slight changes, which can jumpstart a lifetime of possibilities for a healthier and happier you!

If you have kidney disease, check out AKF’s Kidney Kitchen for tasty recipes and learn tips for kidney-friendly eating. As always, please speak with your doctor and dietitian to come up with a food and fluid plan that is healthy for your unique needs.

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About the Author(s)

Cesia Portillo

Cesia Portillo is a Health Initiatives Assistant at the American Kidney Fund.

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