Kidney Disease and Healthy Eating


Some factors that contribute to kidney disease, like genetics, may not be preventable. However, lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy diet, and regular exercise, which help to manage blood pressure and blood sugar levels, can help prevent chronic kidney disease (CDK) or slow its progression.

In a recent interview with Yumlish, Registered Dietitian Edith Yang shared “If we nourish our body properly, we can prevent chronic disease. Or, if someone already does have a particular condition, we can also utilize food, diet, and lifestyle to prevent the progression of that disease and help improve people’s quality of life.”

Understanding some of the basic nutrients that affect kidney function and what types of protein are best to consume can make a big difference when it comes to managing and preventing kidney disease.

Nutrients that Affect Kidney Health

Certain nutrients that the body needs have a direct impact on kidney function. It may be important to monitor and potentially limit the intake of these nutrients depending on your individual health requirements:

  1. Potassium: Some people may need to limit high-potassium foods such as certain fruits and vegetables like avocados, bananas, oranges, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach to avoid exacerbating kidney issues.
  2. Phosphorus: High-phosphorus foods like dark-colored sodas, brown rice, dairy products, nuts, and seeds may need to be reduced.
  3. Sodium: Aim to stay between 1,500 to 2,300 mg/day to help control blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause additional stress on the kidneys.
  4. Protein: While a moderate protein intake is generally recommended to alleviate excess workload for the kidneys, those with later stages of CKD or on dialysis may have different protein requirements.

Protein Options for Kidney Health

Protein gets a lot of attention for its potential for weight management and its role in maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels. However, with kidney disease, it may be important to balance protein intake with other dietary needs and be aware of the potassium and phosphorus levels present in many common protein sources.

Knowing what types of protein sources are best is crucial for individuals with CDK. The following are some recommended kidney-friendly protein sources:

  1. Opt for fresh meat products to avoid excess sodium and phosphorus. Chicken, which provides a versatile source of protein, pork chops, or burgers made from turkey or lean beef, are high-quality protein options. Higher protein fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, rainbow trout, and shrimp, are great protein options as well.
  2. Consider Cottage Cheese and Greek Yogurt. These are lower in potassium and phosphorus compared to other dairy products and can be included as a meat replacement if it fits within your dietary plan.
  3. Eat more eggs. Egg whites in particular are a great source of high-quality protein and very low in potassium and phosphorus.
  4. Diversify with meat substitutes and plant-based protein sources, such as protein bars or protein powders, and meat substitutes like veggie burgers, veggie sausage, and veggie crumbles, can be convenient sources of protein, though it’s essential to choose options lower in phosphorus, potassium, and sodium with these options.

Additionally, other plant-based proteins such as beans, peas, lentils, soy foods (including soy milk and tofu), nuts, and nut spreads (like almond butter and peanut butter) are also recommended for their lower impact on kidney function.

Follow a Kidney-Friendly Diet

Following a defined kidney-friendly diet can be also useful for preventing and managing kidney disease. It makes it easier to find appropriate recipes and it takes the guesswork out of how to prepare your protein and identify what types of carbohydrates and fats are best as well. 

According to Dr. Staci Leisman, “If we look at the diets that are sometimes called the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet that are high in nuts and whole grains and fruits and vegetables, it looks like that can prevent the onset of chronic kidney disease for patients who don’t have it. And it looks like it may prevent the progression of chronic kidney disease in people who have started getting chronic kidney disease.” For more information, check out our podcast with Dr. Leisman, Kidney Disease with Diabetes.  


Understanding some basic nutrient needs and the best types of proteins for preventing and managing kidney disease, as well as popular diets that are kidney-friendly, is a great way to use nutrition as a way to prevent and manage kidney disease. Please be advised, you should always consult with your healthcare provider or dietitian before making significant dietary changes, especially if you have specific medical conditions or other dietary restrictions.

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