Kidney-Friendly Foods from India

India is home to over a billion people. Aside from its enormous population, the country boasts some of the most treasured architecture, landscapes and traditions in the world. From the famous Taj Mahal to the celebrated Hindu festivals including Diwali and Holi, to “The Pink City” in Rajasthan, India is a nation that hosts a multitude of cultures, foods and languages. In fact, India has 20 official languages. The country also was home to one of history’s famous world icons, Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. In the mid-20th century, Gandhi organized campaigns where millions of Indians practiced nonviolent civil disobedience against British rule. India is now the largest democracy in the world.

Many exotic elements, such as the lotus flower, the tiger as the country’s symbolic animal and mangos as a staple fruit in the country’s cuisine represent India. Peacocks flock as the country’s official bird, the banyan flourishes as India’s national tree and New Delhi is marked as the country’s capitol. The country itself acts as a grand destination for people who either want to relax or take in some adventure. Locals and visitors alike can sunbathe on the southern beaches of Goa or climb the highest peaks of the Himalayas. DaVita® renal dietitian Usha, originally from New Delhi, said many vacationers and those who travel on pilgrimages visit the temples and palaces peppered throughout India.  

Usha adds, “Many head to Mumbai, which is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world” and the largest in India. But most of the Indian people live in rural areas and have limited resources. Although many people in India are impoverished, the country is moving along as one of the fastest growing economies in the world behind China. DaVita renal dietitian Shawna says, “The movie industry is huge in India. Bollywood is extremely popular and growing not only in India, but worldwide.” Bollywood is the country’s answer to the U.S. movie industry. India’s Bombay Stock Exchange is Asia’s oldest exchange in existence. India may be busy and heavily populated, but it is also quite lush. The food and how it is prepared is an example of what the Indian countryside can grow.

Usha says, “Mangos and other tropical fruits, spices of all kinds and a variety of vegetables grow in the fertile regions of India. Perhaps the most iconic food products of India that are consumed throughout the world are Darjeeling tea and basmati rice.”

Shawna says Indian foods are “very similar to [those found in] Mexico. Oranges, mangos, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower and watermelon are some examples of commonly grown foods in India.” Many of these are kidney-friendly foods and you can find recipes at DaVita.com/Recipes.

But some popular Indian foods such as beans, nuts and yogurt are not particularly good choices for chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. Limiting or avoiding these foods can be hard for people with kidney disease who reside in India or grew up on the regional foods. “Lentils and beans are huge staples, which are high in potassium and phosphorus,” says Shawna. “We also use yogurt in many dishes.”

The popular foods of India do not stop at beans. “Main dishes such as chicken and mutton curry, meat korma, saag paneer (greens cooked with spices, yogurt and cheese cubes) are very popular,” says Usha. “Rice dishes like Biriyani made with meat or vegetables, nuts, raisins and butter, are also a favorite. Flat breads (made with whole wheat flour) and yogurt are eaten with most meals.”

Many of the dishes that are popular in India are not recommended on the renal diet. Usha explained why many Indian festivals with sweet treats pose a serious problem for people with kidney disease and especially those with dialysis has more challenges to live in a healthy way with kidney disease. One of Shawna’s dialysis patients, Aditya, dialyzed in Bombay, India, for a year before dialyzing in the U.S. Fortunately, says Shawna, he had access to a dialysis center close to his home in the city.

Shawna explains that in India, “People who live in small cities often have to take long bus rides to a dialysis center. It is also very expensive to do dialysis in India. It costs about $20-$30 per treatment, which can be a financial burden to many in India.” Because the population is large, “chronic kidney disease is a difficult challenge,” admits Usha. She adds that India’s “national health ministry is planning to open dialysis centers throughout the country, with a plan to put a center in every district. Transportation to dialysis can be an all-day affair in congested cities in India, and an even bigger obstacle in rural areas. Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is widely prevalent for this reason.” Peritoneal dialysis (PD) is a home dialysis modality that can offer patients more flexibility regarding when they dialyze.

Whether a person receives dialysis in-center or is on an at-home modality, kidney disease patients should work with a renal dietitian  to find ways to modify great Indian recipes into kidney-friendly meals. Shawna says her job “is not just about educating a patient. It takes a lot of creative ideas as far as how to motivate a patient, and this aspect is very challenging for me.”

Shawna says she entered the renal field because, “I felt that renal was an area that a dietitian could make a big impact on a patient’s overall health.” Usha agrees that helping chronic kidney disease patients is extremely rewarding. When Usha is asked what she enjoys best, she says, “Guiding my patients to make the food choices that make them not only feel better, but also enjoy life more.”

Both Usha and Shawna became renal dietitian because they see that eating food should be enjoyable and healthful. Usha and Shawna (and Shawna’s patient, Aditya, and his mother) have provided excellent alternatives for Indian food favorites that include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert.

Usha shares, “India is an extremely varied country culturally. The cuisine of India certainly reflects this, so be sure to sample the food from different regions if you ever have a chance to visit.”

India menu for a dialysis diet

Breakfast

  • 1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites
  • 1 Rice Idli
  • 1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Cilantro Chutney
  • 1/3 cup Sambar
  • 1/2 cup Cream of Wheat
  • 1/4 cup Nondairy Creamer
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Tea

Lunch

  • 3/4 cup Dal Fry
  • 1 piece Roti or Naan bread
  • 1/2 cup Cauliflower and Potato Sabji (leached potatoes)
  • 3/4 cup India Salad (leaf lettuce, spinach leaves, mint leaves, cucumber, red onion, green pepper, chili pepper, fresh cilantro leaves, fresh lemon juice, olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup Mixed Pineapple and Grapes
  • 1 cup Chai Tea (tea, cardamom, cloves, sugar, nondairy creamer)

Dinner

Snacks

India menu nutrient analysis

Meal

CAL

PRO g

CHO g

FAT g

Chol mg

Na+ mg

K+ mg

PO4 mg

Ca++ mg

Fiber g

Fluid cups

Breakfast

539

20

72

19

32

486

452

209

105

5.0

1

Lunch

567

14

94

15

0

581

800

237

134

8.5

1

Dinner

1019

33

116

47

153

869

1273

412

183

7.6

1

Snacks

265

5

23

17

13

287

187

118

75

1.0

1

Day Total

2390

72

305

98

198

2223

2712

976

497

22.0

4

The above table contains average nutrient values for menu portions. Your actual intake may vary based on portions and brand differences.

Your individual nutrient needs may be higher or lower than this sample menu. Always consult your dietitian and refer to your individualized meal plan to determine the amounts to eat.

CAL = Calories, PRO = Protein, CHO = Carbohydrate, FAT = Fat, Chol = Cholesterol, Na+ = sodium, K+ = potassium, PO4 = phosphorus, Ca++ = Calcium

Recipes


View All Articles in Regional Menus


Have no fear, Diet Helper is here

Download a Cookbook

Get a free recipe collection from the DaVita® kitchen.

No-Cost Kidney Health Classes

Find a no-cost, in-person class near you.

Find a Dialysis Center

Over 2,000 across the US.

Advanced Search

Or call 1-800-424-6589 now to speak with a placement specialist.

DaVita

© 2004-2014 DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. All rights reserved. Terms of Use | Privacy of medical information | Web Privacy Policy | Safe Harbor Privacy | FAQs | Site map
This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician.
Please check with a physician if you need a diagnosis and/or for treatments as well as information regarding your specific condition. If you are experiencing urgent medical conditions, call 9-1-1

116