Photo: Erin Kunkel
"I was one of those people who would salt a dish before even tasting it," Jessica Goldman Foung confesses. That changed, however, at age 21, when she was hospitalized after an aggressive form of the autoimmune disease lupus attacked her kidneys and brain. Foung underwent three months of intense treatment, including chemotherapy and dialysis. "I survived, but my kidneys did not," she says.
She was placed on a transplant list and had to undergo regular dialysis. "I decided I was going to do whatever my doctors told me to stay healthy and strong," she says. That included following the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and it encourages you to eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce the sodium in your diet to lower your blood pressure naturally.
"A lot of the literature was based on what you couldn't do and what you couldn't eat. That just wasn't very inspiring," she says. "I wanted to make it work for my lifestyle, so I started focusing on how to turn every no into a yes." She also started a blog where she shared her recipes, her tips, and her story.
Almost 10 years later, at age 30, Foung is off the transplant list without having had a transplant. It seems, in part, that her changed eating habits helped her kidneys recover. She doesn't add salt to her food; she eats only naturally occurring sodium, and she's made cooking her passion and her profession. "I discovered that eating was so much more than just sustenance," she says. "Something that could have been so limiting turned into something that was really exciting. I eat better than I ever did in my entire life."
Jessica's Top 5 Tips for Cutting the Salt, Not the Flavor