Kidney Diet Tips

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Food Facts Friday: Beans

Beans are a nutrient-dense food with several benefits to offer. But can they be a healthy part of a kidney-friendly diet?

Nutritional Facts and Beans

Beans are legumes and belong to a group of crops known as “pulses,” along with dried peas and lentils. Considered both a vegetable and a protein, dried beans such as black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo and white are high in dietary fiber and contribute plant-based protein to the diet. Pulses are rich in iron, folate and magnesium.

Beans offer a variety of complex carbohydrates and bioactive compounds that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers 2-4. However, they are also high in potassium and phosphorus, two nutrients that many individuals on dialysis or those living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may need to limit. 

A typical serving of legumes is 1/2 cup cooked. While this provides up to 9 grams of protein, it can also contribute as much potassium as a banana – around 422 mg. Therefore, it’s important that individuals with CKD or who are on dialysis are aware of this when determining how often and in what portion to include beans.

Tips for Planning Beans in Your Kidney Diet

Some tips to keep in mind when planning beans in your kidney diet:

  • Know how much potassium and phosphorus is right for you. Work with your nephrologist and registered dietitian to understand how much potassium and phosphorus you can have daily. Some individuals have high levels of these nutrients in their blood and need to reduce how much potassium and phosphorus they eat. However, others may be able to tolerate eating more and benefit from the high-fiber and protein content.
  • Consider any digestive issues. While most Americans could benefit from increasing dietary fiber, some digestive issues could be aggravated by adding fiber to the diet. Checking with your nephrologist or registered dietitian can help you learn how much fiber you should aim for per day. Adding high-fiber foods in moderation instead of all at once is recommended.
  • Don’t forget your medications. If you take potassium-lowering drugs or phosphorus binders, be sure to take them as prescribed.
  • Make healthy swaps when possible. Replacing high-phosphorus processed foods with beans could improve diet quality without increasing overall phosphorus intake. Likewise, consider limiting other high potassium foods when eating beans to stay within your daily limit.
  • Watch portion sizes and frequency. Even if you have to limit your potassium and/or phosphorus intake, you may be able to benefit from a smaller portion of beans or beans included as part of a larger recipe.
  • Read “Beans and Peas in Your Kidney Diet” for more information.
  • Check out renal-friendly recipes that include beans here or try one of the recipes listed below:

Bean Recipes

References:

  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2018. USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies 2015-2016. Food Surveys Research Group Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/nea/bhnrc/fsrg
  2. USA Pulses. Technical Manual: Health Benefits of Pulses. Available at https://www.usapulses.org/technical-manual/chapter-2-general-properties/general-information
  3. Rizkalla SW1, Bellisle F, Slama G. Health benefits of low glycaemic index foods, such as pulses, in diabetic patients and healthy individuals. Br J Nutr. 2002 Dec;88 Suppl 3:S255-62. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12498625
  4. Mudryj AN1, Yu N, Aukema HM. Nutritional and health benefits of pulses. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2014 Nov;39(11):1197-204. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25061763

Additional Kidney Diet Resources

Visit DaVita.com and explore these diet and nutrition resources:

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.

Samantha Raymond MPH, RD, CD

Samantha Raymond MPH, RD, CD

Samantha Raymond, RDN, has been a registered dietitian for nearly 10 years and worked in a wide range of nutrition specialties (including research, communications and long-term care) before focusing on renal nutrition. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and lover of nutrition science as well as health policy. Samantha received her MPH through the University of Illinois and BS in dietetics through Purdue University.