Jun 14, 2020
Plant-Based Eating for Chronic Kidney Disease

Plant-based diets have surged in popularity in recent years. This type of eating has both environmental and health benefits.


When you eat plant-based, you don’t have to cut out all animal products. You can replace some of your meat entrees with plant protein sources.  


A vegetarian diet is one of the most well-known types of plant-based diets. Different types of vegetarian diets include:


  • Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs and the foods that contain them. Dairy products are included.
  • Ovo-vegetarian diets exclude meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products but allow eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets exclude meat, fish and poultry but include dairy products and eggs.
  • Pescatarian diets exclude meat, poultry, dairy and eggs but include fish.
  • Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products as well as all foods that contain these products.


If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), moving to a plant-based, kidney-friendly diet may help you:


  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Many plant-based foods have less calories and more fiber to help you feel full.
  2. Decrease blood pressure. A lot of processed meat products contain added salt, phosphorus and potassium in preservatives and flavoring, which can damage your kidneys and heart.
  3. Reduce risk and symptoms of diabetes. Plant-based foods often take longer to digest. This may decrease the amount of sugar (glucose) that is absorbed into the blood stream, requiring less insulin to keep blood sugars within an acceptable range.


According to a 2016 University of Utah study, an increase in plant protein (to total protein ratio) is associated with a decrease in death among people with CKD. It’s important to continue to maintain a healthy level of protein in a vegetarian diet. The average person needs between 40 to 65 grams of protein each day. Your needs may vary based on body mass, stage of CKD and other factors.


With CKD, the kidneys cannot adequately remove excess sodium, potassium or phosphorus. High potassium levels may result in muscle weakness and changes in heart rhythm. High phosphorus is damaging to bones.

The typical kidney diet limits certain fruits, vegetables, dark colored soda and canned goods to ensure you don’t consume too much of these minerals. But because plants contain fiber and phytates, which are bound to phosphorus, the mineral does not move into the blood stream as quickly as it does from animal protein. Thus, there’s growing evidence that incorporating and monitoring your intake of some fruits and vegetables as part of a plant-based diet can improve your overall health.


If you decide to transition to a vegetarian diet, work with a renal dietitian to ensure you are meeting all your nutritional needs. Ease into this new way of eating. You don’t have to eliminate everything you love all at once. Instead choose one or two meatless meals per week and plan a “favorites” day once week, then once a month. These meatless kidney-friendly recipes may inspire your new way of plant-based eating.