Swimming against the water current is not easy but sometimes, it becomes a necessity. Take maintenance of a kidney-friendly diet for example. No one enjoys eating (almost) salt-less food but people with kidney disease or at high risk of getting the disease have no other option.
The Internet is flooded with articles that talk about kidney-friendly protein sources yet only a handful of them scratch the surface. Therefore, we decided to compile a complete guide on protein options for kidney patients to help you and your caregivers.
Protein and Kidney Disease: How Much is Enough?
Kidneys are the filters of our body that help us get rid of waste acquired from our food and drinks. In the case of kidney disease, these filters tend to malfunction and result in the accumulation of waste material in our blood.
Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of protein levels in our body. While too much protein can irreversibly damage our kidneys, too little of it may lead to drastic weight loss and severe muscle
If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), without diabetes, researchers suggest that you must limit your protein intake to a maximum of 0.8 g/kg ideal body weight per day. For example, if your body weight is 60 Kg, you must consume a maximum of 60 × 0.8 = 48 grams of protein per day.
However, if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD) with diabetes and protein loss through urine, you must increase your intake above >1.2 g/kg of body weight per day. For example, if your body weight is 60 Kg, you must consume a maximum of 60 × 1.2 = 72 grams of protein per day.
The protein needs of a kidney patient vary from person to person. Therefore, we suggest you consult Dr. Rajesh Goel, the best nephrologist in Delhi before zeroing down to a dietary plan.
Renal-friendly protein sources
When it comes to the diet of a kidney patient, restrictions are many which makes it difficult to choose the right food. Sometimes it can even become a little overwhelming to keep track of multiple nutrients such as phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.
To make things easier, we have compiled a list of the top 10 healthy sources that will help you meet your dietary needs.:
Top 5 plant-based kidney-friendly protein sources for kidney patients
The vegetable has anti-inflammatory properties and it is also high in fiber which reduces the risk of acquiring diabetes (in men) and cardiovascular diseases.
100g of boiled and drained cauliflower (without salt) contains the following amount of nutrients.
- Protein: 1.84 g
- Sodium: 15 mg
- Potassium: 142 mg
- Phosphorus: 32 mg
Cabbage is yet another delicious food that you can add to your renal diet. Vegetables decrease inflammation, improve heart health, and even support our digestive system. It also has high vitamin C content which prevents serious diseases such as cancer.
100 mg of green raw cabbage contains the following amount of nutrients. (5)
- Protein: 0.96 g
- Sodium: 16 mg
- Potassium: 207 mg
- Phosphorus: 27 mg
- Bell peppers
Bell pepper is yet another nutritious vegetable that offers a wide range of health benefits. It reduces the likelihood of anemia, and risk of cataracts and fights against chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, etc. The nutrient value of bell pepper varies depending on the color.
100g of red raw bell pepper contains the following amount of nutrients.
- Protein: 0.9 g
- Sodium: <2.5 mg
- Potassium: 213 mg
- Phosphorus: 27 mg
Onions are an excellent addition to the renal diet. Adding garlic and onion to a kidney-friendly dish makes it more delicious. Apart from adding taste to the dishes, it offers several health benefits such as regulation of blood sugar levels and increased bone density.
100g of onion contains the following amount of nutrients.
- Protein: 0.89 g
- Sodium: 2 mg
- Potassium: 141 mg
- Phosphorus: 29 mg
Apart from being a delicious addition to the food, garlic has several medicinal benefits. It is known to improve our immune system and prevent diseases such as the common cold, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc. It also helps to effectively regulate blood pressure.
100g of garlic contains the following amount of nutrients.
- Protein: 6.36 g
- Sodium: 17 mg
- Potassium: 401 mg
- Phosphorus: 153 mg
Top 5 animal-based kidney-friendly protein sources for kidney patients
- Egg Whites
Egg whites comprise 90% water and 10% protein. A fertilized egg protects chicken from bacteria and offers nutrients for its growth. The fluid lacks calories but you should not underestimate it because it’s packed with protein.
100g of egg white contains the following amount of nutrients. (8)
- Protein: 10.7 g
- Sodium: 166 mg
- Potassium: 163 mg
- Phosphorus: 15
- Skinless chicken
A protein diet is highly restricted in case of renal disease which makes it important for us to consume food such as skinless chicken. As compared to skin-on chicken, the skinless chicken has low sodium, phosphorus, and potassium content.
100g of skinless chicken contains the following amount of nutrients. (9)
- Protein: 32.1 g
- Sodium: 47 mg
- Potassium: 343 mg
- Phosphorus: 241 mg
Fishes such as sardines, mackerels, and shrimps are excellent sources of calcium and Iron. It is filled with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B2, and vitamin D. It reduces the risk of heart disease and improves the health of the brain.
100g of sardines contain the following amount of nutrients. (10)
- Protein: 19.8 g
- Sodium: 143 mg
- Potassium: 616 mg
- Phosphorus: 88 mg
- Pork chops
Pork meat is yet another delicacy enjoyed by many. It consists of nutrients such as vitamin B12 and B6 that boost the immune system, help maintain muscle mass, and reduce heart disease.
100g of pork chops contains the following amount of nutrients. (11)
- Protein: 17.8 g
- Sodium: 54 mg
- Potassium: 318 mg
- Phosphorus: 173 mg
Omelet is a tasty dish that is prepared from eggs which have several health benefits such as strengthening bones, preventing heart disease, improving eye health, etc. It is packed with nutrients such as vitamin D, Vitamin B1, etc.
100g of omelets contain the following amount of nutrients. (12)
- Protein: 12.4 g
- Sodium: 129 mg
- Potassium: 132 mg
- Phosphorus: 184 mg
Top 3 dairy-based protein sources for kidney patients
Most dairy products have high amounts of phosphorus, sodium, and potassium which further restricts the diet of renal patients. The good news is that you can still include some dairy products in moderation and enjoy your diet to the fullest. The kidney-friendly protein sources include:
- Skim or low-fat milk
As the name suggests, skim milk has less than 0.5% of milk along with low amounts of minerals such as phosphorus and potassium. Therefore, many experts agree that skim milk or low fat milk can be a good kidney-friendly protein source of calcium and other elements.
You must never completely avoid the milk-consumption because it can further lead to other diseases such as osteoporosis. (13) However, at the same time, you must be mindful of the consumption of dairy products because an increased consumption can eventually lead to high levels of phosphorus and potassium in our bodies.
- Yogurt with low potassium and phosphorus content
If you enjoy consuming yogurt and don’t want to be hindered by your kidney disease, you can choose yogurt that has low potassium and phosphorus. After all, people who consume yogurt have reduced release of albumin in the urine. (14)
Make sure to always check the ingredients before buying the product because not every yogurt is low in phosphorus, potassium, and proteins. Avoid buying from brands that may contain artificial sweeteners or high-level protein (for example – Greek yogurt).
- Low-fat cheese in small portions
Cheese lovers with kidney disease may not have to completely give up on their desires. You can still have cheese and stay healthy, the only catch is that you have to take it in small portions.
Low-fat cheese can deliver important nutrients such as protein, calcium, and vitamin D.(15) However, one must always be mindful of cheese because even low-fat cheese can still be relatively high in sodium and phosphorus.
Protein supplements for kidney patients: what you need to know
When it comes to renal disease, protein is a double-edged sword. Its excess can lead to over-straining of the kidney while its deficiency can result in muscle wasting and weight loss. Not only this, kidney patients must also be mindful of the phosphorus, potassium, and sodium content in their food.
Needless to say, this makes it difficult to choose the right food. If you are going through this issue, you should consider switching to protein supplements. It is
one of the amazing kidney-friendly protein sources that are designed to provide the body with the necessary protein without putting excess strain on the kidneys.
However, it is essential to know that not all protein supplements are the same and some can do more harm than good. Therefore, choosing the right protein supplement is crucial.
Read more – Boosting Kidney Health with Protein Supplements for Kidney Patients: What You Need to Know
Types of protein supplements
- Whey Protein:
This is one of the most popular protein supplements in the market because this product contains complete protein. Like every other oral supplement, it helps to prevent malnutrition. (19)
It is typically used by athletes who generally look for a supplement option that is quick to absorb in the body. However, it cannot be used by lactose-intolerant people.
- Casein Protein:
Casein protein is yet another protein supplement that is derived from milk. The product contains all the essential amino acids our body requires for muscle recovery and growth.
The supplement is used by people who want to maintain a steady flow of protein for a long time, such as during sleep or fasting. Like whey protein, casein protein cannot be used by lactose-intolerant people.
- Soy Protein:
Soy protein supplement is derived from soybeans. Several studies confirm that intake of soy protein can help prevent and control chronic kidney diseases. (20)
The supplement contains all the essential amino acids and it is a preferable option for people who are vegan, vegetarian, and lactose intolerant. Although there are no contraindications for this protein supplement, it is always advisable to consult your dietician or physician on the matter.
- Pea Protein:
Pea protein is a plant-based supplement that has become popular in recent years. Apart from being nutritious, it is also environmentally friendly, making it an even better option.
Their plant-based supplement is typically used by vegetarians and vegans. It is safe for most people but people with allergies must always be cautious. As it may lead to unnecessary issues.
- Egg Protein:
Egg protein is not exactly what you think. This supplement does not involve egg yolk instead, it only has egg whites. Like whey protein, egg protein is also easily absorbed and utilized by our body.
So, it is often used by athletes and those who want a rapid intake of protein. It is also good for people who want to increase their protein intake without contributing to their overall calories.
Choosing the right protein supplement
Choosing the right protein supplements for kidney patients is one of the crucial parts of a kidney-friendly diet. Here are 5 factors that you must consider before choosing a protein supplement:
- Types of protein supplement
There are several different types of protein supplements, each with its unique features and drawbacks. Some supplements may have high sodium and potassium content while others may be slow to digest. You must choose an option that aligns with your nutritional needs and personal preferences.
- Protein Quality
Protein quality refers to the ability of supplements to meet the protein requirements of our body while supporting the synthesis of protein in our body. Protein supplements such as egg protein, whey protein, casein protein, and pea protein perform this job well.
- Protein content
The amount of protein offered by each supplement may vary among brands.
Some protein supplements may contain 10 grams per serving while others may contain 30 grams per serving. Therefore, it is important to choose an adequate amount of protein.
- Protein digestibility
As people with kidney disease have impaired renal function, it impacts the ability to digest and absorb protein. Supplements that are slow to absorb (such as casein protein) put more strain on the kidneys and result in further complications. Therefore, you should try to go for products that can be easily absorbed and utilized by your body.
- Sodium and potassium content
To put it simply – electrolytes and fluid buildup are bad for kidney patients because it impacts kidney function. While choosing the right product, ensure that the sodium, potassium, and phosphorus content are present in low amounts.
3 healthy recipes to incorporate kidney-friendly protein sources
Cooking for kidney patients is not easy because most of the time you need to master the art of less is more. Here are 3 healthy recipes to incorporate high-quality protein into your food.
- Grilled chicken and vegetable skewers
- 2 chicken breasts
- Cute 1-inch pieces of 2 bell pepper (of any color)
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 red onion, cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
Step 2: Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and season with oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Step 3: Add the vegetables such as bell peppers, onions, and chicken pieces on skewers.
Step 4: Grill the skewers for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.
And the dish is ready to eat.
- Lentil soup
- 1 cup dried green or brown lentils
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 full onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Rinse lentils and pick out any stones or debris.
Step 2: In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and sauté until vegetables are tender for about 5 minutes.
Step 3: Add cumin, coriander, and other masalas and stir until fragrant for about 1 minute.
Step 4: Add lentils and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
Step 5: Season with salt and pepper to taste.
And you can savor the dish!
- Chickpea curry
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 chopped medium onion
- 2 minced cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 425 grams drained and rinsed chickpeas
- ½ chopped medium tomato
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Step 1: In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.
Step 2: Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Step 3: Add the minced garlic and grated ginger, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Add the curry powder, cumin, coriander, and cayenne pepper to the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Step 5: Add the chickpeas, diced tomatoes, and vegetable broth to the pan and stir to combine.
Step 6: Bring the mixture to a simmer and let it cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are tender and the sauce has thickened.
Step 7: Season the curry with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 8: Serve the chickpea curry hot, garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.
You can eat this chickpea curry with rice and naan bread!
Navigating the world of kidney disease isn’t easy. With the internet bringing a wave of misinformation on various renal diseases, it is only becoming more and more difficult.
However, this article has included everything that you need to know about kidney-friendly protein sources. In such a situation, the safest bet is to consult Dr. Rajesh Goel, the best kidney doctor in Delhi. With 18+ years of experience in the field, he can help you manage and treat your renal disease. Contact him today.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Which fruit is good for kidney creatinine?
Fruits with low potassium, phosphorus, and sodium along with antioxidant properties are considered as good kidney-friendly protein sources. For example – cranberries, kiwis, apples, etc.
- What are the best sources of protein for kidney patients?
There are several best sources of protein for kidney patients. Some of them include – cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, onion, egg whites, fish, skinless chicken, etc.
- What protein is easier on the kidneys?
When compared to animal proteins, plant proteins are considered to be kidney-friendly protein sources because it is much easier on the kidneys. It means that eating less meat has greater benefits.