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Protein and Kidney Disease: Making Sense of it All
Protein is essential for our bodies to function properly. Protein helps fight infection, build muscle, repair tissues and heal wounds. As with all foods however, there is always a balance. If we eat too much protein, it puts more stress on the kidneys because they have to remove the extra waste products.
Lower protein diets have been shown to help slow down the progression of kidney disease. Diets that are too low in protein however, can be unsafe. Certain risks can occur when there is not enough protein in the diet, called hypoalbuminemia.¹ This means low protein in the blood. Protein is needed in the blood to help our bodies function properly.
There are two types—animal protein and vegetable protein. Both types of protein are considered to be healthy. Animal protein tends to create more waste products in the body that are not easily removed by damaged kidneys. Vegetable protein does not create as much waste products and is more easily removed by damaged kidneys.
Some examples of animal protein include: chicken, beef, pork, fish, turkey and eggs. Some examples of vegetable protein include: nuts, seeds, grains, beans, lentils and tofu. Certain vegetable protein can be high in phosphorus and potassium. A dietitian can partner with you to determine which animal and vegetable protein options are best for you.
The amount of protein your body needs depends on your lab values, other disease states and your stage of kidney disease. It is important that you partner with a healthcare professional when decreasing protein in your diet. Your doctor and dietitian can determine your protein needs. They can individualize a nutrition plan that works best for you. Most likely this will include a combination of both animal and vegetable protein options but will also depend on your personal food preferences.
Talk with your doctor to see if working with a dietitian is right for you. Protein intake does affect the function of the kidneys, so early intervention is key.
- Chronic Kidney Disease Nutrition Management Module 2: Slow Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease Basics. Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. October, 25, 2011.