Kidney Diet Tips

Coffee: What’s in Your Cup?

Coffee, glorious coffee! The first thing I do in the morning is turn on Mr. Coffee. One time when we were out of coffee, I found myself driving around at 4 am searching for a Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks that was open.

This coffee lover is not alone. Coffee is one of the most common morning beverages in the US. Average coffee consumption among coffee drinkers is 3 cups per day (1). A U.S. research study found that coffee consumption causes no harm among males (2). However the correlation for females was not as strong, indicating more research is needed. A Korean research study found subjects that consumed at least 1 cup of coffee daily had 24% lower risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) (3). The researchers observed a decrease in blood pressure with increased coffee consumption. This along with the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds in coffee may be associated with the positive effect.

People with CKD often ask, “Is coffee O.K.”? And “Which coffee creamer is best”? The answer is that certain coffee drinks and creamers are kidney-friendly while others are not.

Concerns for People with CKD

People with CKD are advised to choose foods & beverages low in phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Some patients must also limit calcium. Damaged kidneys may not be able to remove these nutrients. Healthy kidneys maintain the right amount of minerals in the blood. Mineral imbalances that result when kidneys are damaged can lead to other health problems, like bone disease and calcium build-up in the arteries.

Phosphate additives that add to phosphorus intake may be present in nondairy and dairy creamers and some coffee drinks. These additives are listed on the food ingredient list. The FDA does not mandate food manufacturers to list phosphorus and potassium on the Nutrition Facts label. However, when the new food labels are available in 2020 potassium will be required.

Making Coffee Drinks Kidney-Friendly

Here is a description of eight of the most popular coffee drinks:

  • Brewed coffee 8 ounces –served black or may have cream or sweetener added
  • Espresso 2 ounces –very strong coffee made with finely ground coffee beans & hot water
  • Americano 8 ounces –diluted espresso and hot water
  • Café au Lait 8 ounces –strong coffee with warm milk
  • Latte 8 ounces –espresso, steamed milk & milk foam
  • Cappuccino 8 ounces –same as a latte except with equal parts of espresso, milk & milk foam
  • Macchiato 8 ounces –ingredients added in this order: steamed milk, espresso & milk foam to create a layering affect
  • Mocha 8 ounces –espresso, milk, milk foam & chocolate

Coffee without added milk or creamers are the most kidney-friendly. Make coffee drinks with milk more kidney-friendly by limiting milk to 4 ounces. You can also swap out milk or cream for soy milk, almond milk or rice milk. This will help keep potassium and phosphorus content lower. Check the label on all milk substitutes because some have added phosphorus or calcium.

Coffee Drinks to Avoid

Some coffee drinks are not recommended on a kidney diet due to phosphate additives or high amounts of potassium, phosphorus or sodium.

  • Instant powdered coffee mixes with nondairy creamer
  • Instant powdered mocha mixes
  • Iced mocha
  • Hot mocha
  • Bottled coffee beverages with added milk
  • Coffee energy drinks

In addition, if you are limiting fluids be sure to track your intake of coffee. Be aware that some drinks, like iced or frozen coffee drinks, contain more liquid due to the added ice in the drink.

Avoid or limit non-dairy creamers, either liquid or powder. Most brands contain phosphate additives. If you use non-dairy creamer, limit to a single portion daily. In addition, some brands of half & half creamer contain phosphate additives. Instead use almond milk, soy milk or rice milk. But even with these substitutes it is important to check the ingredient list for phosphate additives.

For homemade flavored coffee drinks try one of these DaVita coffee recipes.

Caramel Protein Latte

Hazelnut Cinnamon Coffee

It’s comforting to know that your daily cup of Joe can be kidney-friendly. Knowing what’s in your cup can give you peace of mind while you savor its flavor.


1. Coffee Research Institute. Coffee consumption statistics in America website. . Updated 2006. Accessed December 29, 2018.

2. Wijarnpreecha K, Thongprayoon C, Thamcharoen N, Panjawatanan P, Cheungpasitporn W. Association of coffee consumption and chronic kidney disease: A meta-analysis. Int J Clin Pract. 2017; 71(1). doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12919

3. Jhee JH, Nam KH, An SY, et al. Effects of coffee intake on incident chronic kidney disease: Community-based prospective cohort study. Am J Med. 2018; doi: 10.1016/jamjmed. 2018.05.021

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Consult your physician and dietitian regarding your specific diagnosis, treatment, diet and health questions.

Dawn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD

Dawn Johnson, MS, RDN, LD

Dawn Johnson MS, RDN, LD knew she wanted to be a dietitian when she was 18 years old. Now practicing over 20 years, Dawn has worked in various settings with a focus in renal nutrition over 12 years. She is passionate about addressing, examining and resolving people’s ambivalence for change. Dawn resides in Highland, Indiana with her husband and 2 young children. During her personal time, she likes to run, visit her local library and volunteer at church.