Nutrition is one of the key components in maintaining kidney health.

Depending on the type and stage of kidney disease, changing your diet can help delay its progression. Make sure that you discuss about your nutrition needs with your doctor and also a registered nutritionist. There is much advancement in medicine regarding nutrition. Therefore we constantly strive to provide updated information to patients.

Healthy options for kidney disease are protein, egg whites, fish, unsaturated fats, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, apple juice, grape and cranberry juice, light colored soda. The amount of protein intake per day varies depending on the stage of kidney disease. Recommended daily protein intake is:

  • Stage V – 1.2-1.5g/kg body weight
  • Stage I- IV- 0.8-1.0g/Kg body weight

Healthy unsaturated oils are olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, safflower oil and soybean oil.

Foods you should avoid are: certain salt substitutes, trans-fats, processed meats, butter, mayonnaise, high fat dressings, caffeine, fruit punch, alkaline water and bottled ice teas.

You should limit the intake of protein, sodium, phosphorus, alcohol, whole fat dairy products, coconut oil, canned fruits & vegetables, chicken skin and orange juice.

Please feel free to download our Kidney and Heart Friendly Cookbook.pdf today!

Specific Nutrients

Sodium: Salt is one of the most important component in maintaining fluid balance and therefore blood pressure in the body. If you take too much salt and the diseased kidneys are unable to remove water from the body, this can lead to high blood pressure and kidney damage.

It is one of the most used minerals in food and drinks.  Unfortunately, there is an excess of sodium in convenience foods & drinks today. When ingesting food in excess such as packaged/canned foods and drinks, sauces, desserts and even spices, which contain more salt, it can easily be over your recommended daily allowance.

Patients with CKD have to learn to reduce or even eliminate salt from their diet and typically should not have more than 1500mg of salt a day.

 Food/Drinks High in SodiumBetter Options
Table saltHerb mixtures
Vegetable juices and fruit juicesLow sodium or homemade juice
Soft drinksInfused water or seltzer water
Processed meats including bacon, sausage, ham, pepperoni, deli meatsHomemade turkey, chicken and roast beef
Canned meats (including tuna), soups & vegetablesHomemade soups, fresh vegetables
Frozen meals including pizzaCook homemade meals portion and freeze them for convenience throughout the week
CerealLow sodium and low phosphorus cereals with a daily value at or under 10%
Sauces including, soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressings, marinara sauceLow sodium ketchup, bbq sauce and homemade marina
BreadLower sodium breads or homemade bread
Processed cheeseLow sodium cheese, mozzarella, cream cheese, cottage cheese, emmental, monterey jack

Phosphorus: It is essential for bone development and for energy levels and is found in most foods. It is also used commonly in processed foods. The kidney is responsible for removing excess phosphorus and those with kidney dysfunction will not be able to remove it. Excess phosphorus in the body is toxic and can lead to cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke. Discuss with your doctor how much phosphorus you should include in your diet. There is a phosphate binder that will remove some of the excess phosphorus for those on pre-dialysis and currently on dialysis.

Food/Drinks High in PhosphorusBetter Options
Dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt (especially low fat dairy)Rice milk, non-dairy creamer, soy milk, almond milk (check brand labels), greek yogurt
Dark colored soft drinks & beerLight colored sodas or seltzer water
Processed meats including bologna, pepperoni, hot dogsTurkey, chicken, roast beef, lamb & pork chops, hamburger, steak
Fish/Shellfish including oysters, sardines, carp, roe, scallopsMahi mahi, cod, salmon, sea bass, crab, lobster, shrimp
Nuts including almonds pistachios, & cashewsUnsalted popcorn & pretzels
EggsEgg whites
Cheese including romano, parmesan, goat, gouda, light cream cheeseSwiss cheese regular, feta cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese

Potassium: Most of the patients on dialysis will have to limit their potassium intake, as kidneys are unable to remove necessary amount of it. High levels of potassium can lead to complications such as heart attack.

  • Foods high in Potassium: Bananas, oranges, potatoes, tomatoes, brown rice, bran cereals, dairy foods, whole wheat bread, pasta, beans and nuts.
  • Foods low in Potassium: Apples, peaches, carrots, green beans, white bread, pasta, white rice, cooked rice, wheat cereals and grits.

Calcium: A person with kidney disease should not have more than 2,000mg of calcium a day. Balancing levels of calcium is important.

  • Foods high in Calcium: Dairy products, fortified cereals, enriched breads, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, bok choy) and almonds.
  • Foods low in Calcium: Raspberries, kiwis, oranges, black beans, greek yogurt, egg whites and goat cheese.

Iron: Low iron levels can lead to anemia which is common for those on dialysis. This can be managed with supplements and proper nutrition. Iron rich foods are liver, beef, pork, chicken, lima beans, kidney beans, iron fortified cereals and almonds.

Vitamin D: A water soluble vitamin D supplementation is typically recommended for CKD patients. It is important for bone maintenance and also plays a role in phosphorus and calcium levels. Vitamin D rich foods are salmon, mackerel, tuna, portabella mushrooms and fortified cereals.

Folic acid/B Vitamins: These vitamins need to be replenished with supplements as they are important for cell reproduction and are lost during dialysis. Folic Acid/Vitamin B rich foods are beef, turkey, la,b. trout, salmon, broccoli, asparagus and peas.

Zinc/Copper: These nutrients need to be supplemented through vitamins for dialysis patients. Zinc is important for immune function and copper helps the body absorb iron. Zinc/Copper rich foods are beef, lamb, turkey, spinach, asparagus, peas, quinoa, sesame seeds and cashews.

Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a good alternative to the pre-made seasonings that are available in your local supermarket. Pre-made seasonings usually contain a large amount of sodium, which is not advisable for patients with kidney disease. Therefore, homemade mixes of herbs and spices are a much healthier and cost-effective option for patients.

One must understand the difference between an herb, a spice and a seed.

Herbs: Herbs are derived from the aromatic leaves and flowers of plants. Some herbs are derived from the mint family such as savory, thyme, sweet basil, marjoram and oregano whereas other herbs are derived from a type of evergreen such as rosemary and bay leaf.

Spices: Spices are derived from the stem, root, seeds, bark or bulbs of the plant. Examples of spices are cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

Seeds: These can be small whole fruits or seeds. In the parsley family, the fruits are caraway, dill, cumin and fennel. Mustard is the seed of a plant in the cabbage family.

Kidney Friendly Options

The following are some herbs, spices and seeds that safe for CKD patients:

  • Allspice
  • Basil
  • Bay Leaf
  • Caraway
  • Cardamom
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Chives
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Dill
  • Ginger
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Oregano
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Other spices: Chili flakes, Chili powder, dillweed, garlic powder, onion powder

Avoid herbs, spices and blends that contain:

  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Maltodextrin
  • Citric Acid
  • Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Spice Extract
  • Flavoring

Disclaimer: The UCLA Health System cannot guarantee the accuracy of such information. The information is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. Please speak to your Physician before making any changes.