PKD Nutrition Blog
September 19, 2023

Cardiovascular Health and PKD | Kidney Nutrition with Emily Campbell

KN_cardio_1.pngThe kidneys, while two bean-shaped organs that play a role in filtering waste products from our body, also have important roles in a number of other body systems like the cardiovascular system. Cardiovascular health is a big umbrella term for the health of your heart and blood vessels. As a result, making nutrition changes to manage PKD and cardiovascular health is important with PKD, because heart disease may be associated with PKD.

Lifestyle changes for cardiovascular health

“Lifestyle changes” just means making changes to your nutrition and activity levels, to help improve your risk of heart disease. In fact, the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to get moving and walking; did you register for the Walk to END PKD? Activities like that might be a good place to start. Walking helps to improve the heart and lungs, but can also help with our fitness, including muscle and strength. Aim for at least 30 minutes of light-to-moderate-effort walking each day; this can help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Here are some other strategies to get you started with walking. But remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new activity routine.KN_cardio_2.png

  • Talk a walk at lunch. If you are short on time, even three 10-minute walks per day can help.
  • Park your car further away from your destination and walk in.
  • Do an extra lap of the store, like when grocery shopping, or at the mall.
  • Take the stairs, even if it is just down.

What are the best foods for cardiovascular health?

You may be wondering, what are the best foods for cardiovascular health? In fact, certain foods can influence our cardiovascular health.

At the end of the day, a heart-healthy diet includes choosing certain foods like vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and plant-based proteins, while limiting saturated fats, sodium and added sugars.

KN_cardio_3.pngFibre and cardiovascular health

Fibre is important in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, but also for PKD. Canadians should aim for:

  • 38 g fibre for men 19-50 years
  • 30 g fibre for men over 50 years
  • 25 g fibre for women 19-50 years
  • 21 g fibre for women over 50 years

Most diet patterns showing benefits with PKD are also diets that are high in fibre. We get fibre from a variety of sources like whole grains, vegetables, and fruit, as well as plant-based proteins. Higher-fibre intake has been shown to reduce death, inflammation, cardiovascular and kidney disease, as well as having beneficial effects on lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.

Here are the common amounts of fibre in foods:

  • Apple 1 small with skin 2.8 g
  • Barley ½ cup cooked 2.0 g
  • Cauliflower ½ cup raw 1.0 g
  • Kale ½ cup raw 0.9 g
  • Oatmeal 1 cup cooked 4.9 g
  • Romain Lettuce 1 cup raw 1.2 g
  • Tomato 1 small 1.1 g
  • Strawberries ½ cup raw 2.0 g
  • Wild Rice ½ cup cooked 1.6 g
  • Zucchini ½ cup cooked 1.0 g

Understanding your fibre intake can help you to meet your fibre needs. Check out the Nutrient Value of Some Common Foods here to see how much fibre you are eating.

KN_trail_mix_1.pngPlant-based proteins: nuts and seeds for PKD

Nuts and seeds are great plant-based proteins that are easier for the kidneys to filter. But what exactly are they? Nuts are the seeds of plants, like trees or legumes, and are often grown inside a fruit. Some examples include almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. Seeds, on the other hand, come from vegetables, flowers, or are grown as crops: think chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds.

Nuts and seeds sometimes get a bad reputation, because they also have fat. But it is a good fat – a heart-healthy fat called unsaturated fat – which helps to lower cholesterol.

Nuts and seeds provide many different vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, selenium, calcium, and omega-3, just to name a few.

KN_trail_mix_3.pngSome of the health benefits of nuts and seeds are:

  • Reduces the incidence of heart disease and diabetes
  • Can positively impact blood pressure, visceral fat, and metabolic syndrome
  • Helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce risk of heart disease
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • May help with weight loss
  • Helps to curb or reduce hunger, because of the combination of fibre, protein, and fat as a convenient snack idea
  • A great way to add crunch and flavor to your foods, like salads or soups

Here are my top nuts and seeds for PKD:

  1. Pecan
    ¼ cup: 2.6 g fibre, 2.7 g protein, 82 mg phosphorus 118 mg potassium, 0 mg sodium, 10 mg oxalate
  2. Pistachio
    ¼ cup: 3.1 g fibre, 6.5 g protein, 146 mg phosphorus, 314 mg potassium, 2 mg sodium, 14 mg oxalate
  3. Flax seed
    ¼ cup: 11.6 g fibre, 7.8 g protein, 274 mg phosphorus, 346 mg potassium, 13 mg sodium, 0 mg oxalate
  4. Pumpkin seed
    ¼ cup: 3.7 g fibre, 17.2 g protein, 676 mg phosphorus, 454 mg potassium, 10 mg sodium, 4.3mg oxalate
  5. Sunflower seed
    ¼ cup: 3.6 g fibre, 6.3 g protein, 375 mg phosphorus, 276 mg potassium, 1 mg sodium, 3 mg oxalate

You might be wondering, How much should I be consuming? A typical portion size is about ¼ cup per day. Next time you are looking for a snack, make it a heart-healthy snack with this kidney-friendly trail mix recipe, below. Plus, this recipe can be taken with you to activities like the Walk to END PKD.

¼ cup unshelled pistachios, roasted, unsalted
¼ cup pecans, roasted, unsalted
¼  cup sunflower seeds, roasted, unsalted
¼ cup pumpkin seeds, roasted, unsalted
½ cup dried cranberries, unsweetened


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Tip: You can add different flavourings, like ½ tsp cinnamon for something sweet, or ¼ tsp rosemary and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper for something savory.

Makes 6 servings. Each serving (1/4 cup): 134 calories, 8 g carbohydrates, 3 g fibre, 11 g fat, 4.0 g protein, 4 mg sodium, 157 mg phosphorus, 178 mg potassium, 8 mg oxalate

Written by: Emily Campbell, RD CDE MScFN is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master’s Degree in Foods and Nutrition. Emily specializes in renal nutrition helping those with kidney disease overcome the confusing world of nutrition to promote health. Emily can be found at