Sugar is known to have a negative impact on cyst growth in PKD; this fact is backed by science and yet isn't quite "common knowledge" within the community.
It's time to change that.
When it comes to your improving your health, I believe knowledge is power. The more you know about what you're consuming, the better armed you'll be to optimize your diet for kidney health.
The tricky thing about sugar is that it's everywhere, even where you least expect it to show up.
So, let's shed some light on some of the most frequently consumed hidden sources to help you reduce your intake of sugar overall - your kidneys will thank you!
1. Flavoured water beverages
We all know that soda is a top source of sugar, but did you know that flavoured sparkling waters can also be fairly high?
While these beverages can act as a great stepping-stone on your path away from high-sugar drinks/sodas, they still may contain more sugar than you realize.
Sharp, eye-catching packaging can be so persuasive so be sure to take the time to read the details when you're making a purchase.
Tip: Consider adding natural flavours to plain sparkling water: berries, citrus fruits, watermelon or cucumber add freshness & flavour!
2. Plant-based milk alternatives
If you avoid dairy for health reasons, you could actually be increasing your sugar intake without even realizing.
Often products like soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk & oat milk are high in sugar and it's tricky to catch-on if you're not careful.
Some product lines will offer a variety of flavours like vanilla & chocolate (obviously sweetened), an "original" (which is actually also sweetened) and an "unsweetened" version, but sometimes you have to hunt for the latter and dig through the shelves to find it.
READ THE LABELS CAREFULLY.
Tip: what you put in your coffee on a daily basis can be hugely impactful to your health - aim for high quality, low sugar.
This is a big one... or rather, a small one with high frequency.
Sauces, dressings, nut butters and jams can have much more sugar than you think. Peanut butter can have added sugar, jam is a top source and 1 tbsp of BBQ sauce can have 6g of sugar!! Even if you eat small amount of these foods, they can add up over time.
Tip: Take a close look at all of the condiments you use regularly; some can be tossed, some can be swapped for better products and others can be used in smaller amounts.
4. Crackers & breads
When choosing crackers & bread products, flip the products over and check both the sugar and fibre content.
Usually, more refined products have much less fibre from processing and they are converted more easily to glucose in the body (ex. white bread); these foods can disturb your efforts to balance blood sugar in support of kidney health.
Additionally, some of these white products actually have added sugar in them. You expect to find sugar in store-bought cookies, but crackers?? That one surprised me.
Tip: opt for higher fibre options with seeds & whole grains to reduce your sugar intake but also to help balance your blood sugar and keep you feeling full for longer.
5. Fruit juice
Fruit juices are notoriously high in sugar, even if they're "all natural."
Juices are not as beneficial as eating a whole piece of fruit because the fruits have had the skins, pulp and fibres stripped away for juicing.
Yes, apple juice may be considered "healthy" but why not eat an apple? This way you get all the wonderful nutrient benefits this fruit has to offer (many of which are found in the skin).
Tip: think of fruit juice as a treat; enjoy it with brunch on the weekends and stick to water during the week.
Lately, there's been more focus on yoghurt due to its effect on gut health (hello, probiotics), but it's really truly beneficial only when it's unsweetened.
As a general rule, yoghurt is full of sugar! Not only is sugar troublesome for the kidneys, it can have a negative impact on gut health as well.
Tip: opt for plain yoghurt and add berries, nuts & seeds to dress it up into a wholesome dish.
7. Breakfast Cereals
Breakfast cereals (including granolas) are notoriously high in sugar and low in protein & fibre, even the more expensive or "organic" versions. Marketing can easily entice you to make a purchase that may not be ideal for kidney health, even if it sounds healthy.
Read the label carefully and try to pick lower sugar options that offer you better fuel (ideally with more & protein).
Tip: Take take it one step further, re-think your breakfast and eat more real food in the morning: oatmeal, eggs, high fibre toast, fruits & veggies.
So, next time you're feeling stuck and wondering what you can do to support your kidneys, re-think sugar.
Check all your most frequently consumed products and ask yourself if they can be improved.
If you want to take things a step further, challenge yourself to reduce your intake of packaged foods all together. The goal is to opt for more real, whole foods that don't come with an ingredient list and won't require the same level of monitoring.
Once you're in control of what you eat, it's amazing how empowered you can feel.
Want to learn more about sugar & kidney health?
Stay tuned! Lots more to come on this topic.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), real food advocate, PKD warrior & advocate