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Watching what you eat as a CKD patient is essential to protect your kidneys from further damage and manage your condition. Consequently, following a kidney-friendly diet cuts down the amount of waste in your blood.

When your kidney functions are compromised, the kidneys cannot excrete waste buildup from your body.

Note that each CKD patient is unique and has different nutritional requirements, which is why it is important to work with a registered renal dietitian for a tailor-fit renal diet. 

The Basics

Depending on your CKD stage, your dietitian may suggest avoiding or limiting certain foods to slow down your CKD progression. As your disease gets worse, you’ll have to watch the following nutrients:

Sodium and CKD Diet

As a CKD patient or if you have high blood pressure, a good rule of thumb is to limit your sodium intake between 750 mg - 2000 mg per day. Your exact sodium limit should be advised by your primary healthcare provider.

Too much sodium in the body can build up fluid around the heart and lungs. It can also elevate your blood pressure, swell your ankles, legs, hands and face and cause shortness of breath. Keep in mind that Most whole foods-- even fruits and vegetables-- have natural sodium content.

sodium word in paper cut in half

In order to manage your daily sodium consumption you can simply these steps:

  • Skimp on table salt, seasonings and condiments. 
  • Consider the serving size and the milligrams of sodium per serving when reading the food label. 
  • Cook at home, so you have control of your sodium. 
  • Make use of  spices and herbs on your food such as cumin, paprika, thyme, etc. to enhance flavor without use of salt;
  • Cut down on processed and packaged food as they tend to have high sodium content.

Protein and CKD Diet

KDIGO, a non-profit organization advocating for evidence-based clinical practice in managing kidney disease, suggests a lowering protein diet of 0.6 to 0.8 g/kg daily to manage CKD. On the other hand, if you have diabetes and CKD, it is recommended to limit your daily protein intake to 0.8-1 g/kg.

A low protein diet is gentle to your kidneys. Excessive protein can result in nausea, appetite loss, weakness, and taste changes. On the other hand, if you are on dialysis, your healthcare provider may suggest a higher amount of protein in your diet to manage your blood protein level. The dialysis treatment removes protein waste from the blood so following a low protein diet is no longer needed.

protein plant based food

Manage your recommended protein intake through these steps:

  • Minimize consuming high protein foods such as eggs, red meat, poultry and fish.
  • Consider following a more plant-based dietas it could lower blood pressure, cholesterol level, and the risk of heart disease.  
  • Include more plant-based  protein sources  such as beans, legumes, soy products, tofu, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.
  • If you cannot give up animal proteins, consider alternating plant and animal protein sources in your diet.

Phosphorus and CKD Diet

Damaged kidneys cannot remove phosphorus buildup in the blood. This can lead to the weakening of bones, joint pain and calcification of blood vessels.

say no to processed food sign

You can avoid phosphorus buildup in your blood with these tips:

  1. Cut down on cured meats, canned and bottled drinks, processed foods as they are quickly absorbed compared to plant-based phosphorus.
  2. Avoid or limit high phosphorus foods such as Dairy, Beans, Nuts and peanut butter, Bran cereals, and egg yolk. 
  3. Read the nutrition label to become more informed about the phosphorus content of the food.
  4. Steer clear from products that have phosphorus additives including:
  • Calcium phosphate
  • Dicalcium phosphate
  • Disodium phosphate
  • Monosodium phosphate
  • Sodium hexameta-phosphate
  • Sodium acid pyrophosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Sodium tripolyphosphate
  • Tetrasodium pyrophosphate 

Bear in mind that the more processed a food item is, the more likely it will contain an additive.

Potassium and CKD Diet

The National Kidney Foundation suggests that consuming 1,500-2,700 mg of potassium daily can help maintain good health without impacting the kidneys. Consuming too much potassium can result in Hyperkalemia. This condition causes numbness, irregular heartbeat (that could result in a heart attack), poor appetite and difficulty in breathing. A few of the factors that can affect the levels of potassium in the body include a high potassium diet, certain medications, and uncontrolled diabetes.

Managing your potassium level intake is possible through these steps:

Before making any changes to your diet, make sure to consult with your renal dietitian or healthcare provider. Here are a few of the kidney-friendly foods that are healthy for your kidneys:

Best Foods for CKD

1. Berries

Berries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Berries help in fighting inflammation, protect against heart disease and certain cancers, diabetes. Among the berries that you can enjoy are:

  • Blueberries are rich in fiber, vitamins C and manganese. The antioxidants found in berries help slow down the breakdown of bones.

Serving size: 1 cup
Sodium: 1.5 mg
Potassium: 114 mg
Phosphorus: 18 mg

  • Cranberries have been traditionally used by women to fight off UTI. This fruit is low in potassium, sodium and protein and helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract and bladder. 

Serving size: 1 cup
Sodium: 1.5 mg
Potassium: 114 mg
Phosphorus: 18 mg

  • Raspberries contains ellagic acid, a phytonutrient that helps neutralize free radicals in the body. They may even have properties that stop the growth of cancer and certain tumors!

Serving size: ½ cup
Sodium: 1 mg
Protein: 0.74 g
Potassium: 93 mg
Phosphorus: 18 mg

  • Strawberries’ antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage, protect the heart, and cell structure of the body. This berry is an excellent source of fiber, manganese and vitamin C that have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

Serving size: ½ cup
Sodium: 1 mg
Potassium: 13 mg
Phosphorus: 120 mg

2. Olive Oil

Olive oil, much like fish, is a provider of nutrient-dense, unsaturated fats and considered to be the healthiest of oils.

A study has found individuals suffering from CKD who adopted this diet experienced improvements in both symptoms and survival. The active components in olives improve the life of CKD patients, and will certainly provide kidney support to anyone looking to maintain kidney health.

Serving size: at least 2 tbsp. (27g)
Sodium: 1 mg
Protein: 0 g
Potassium: 0 mg
Phosphorus: 0 mg

3. Garlic

Using herbs and spices is also a great way to manage your sodium without giving up flavor. Garlic has active compounds that can reduce blood pressure and protect against organ damage from heavy metal toxicity.

Serving size: 3 cloves (for garlic)
Sodium: 2 mg
Protein: 0.57 g
Potassium: 36 mg

4. Onion

Onion has vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins, and prebiotic fiber that helps the digestive system. The powerful antioxidant found in the onion protects against many cancers and reduces the risk of heart disease.

Serving size: ½ cup, cooked (for onions)
Sodium: 3 mg
Protein: 0.88g
Potassium: 117 mg
Phosphorus: 23 mg

5. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a famous spice, cinnamon is known for its ability to help regulate glucose levels.   It’s been found that excess glucose from diabetes causes damage to the kidneys.

Cinnamon helps the body manage glucose better and offer protection from blood sugar disorders. Studies also confirm that cinnamon can be used as a supplement without the worry of increasing oxalate risk. Oxalates are naturally occurring substances found in a wide variety of foods that, if not regulated properly, can over-accumulate in the body, especially the kidneys.

Suggested serving size: 1 tsp(2.6 g)
Sodium: 0 mg
Protein: 0.10 g
Potassium: 11 mg
Phosphorus: 2 mg

Fair warning, though, too much cinnamon can cause liver damage, so it's better to stick to the 1-teaspoon-per-day limit

The Bottom line

Embracing a kidney-friendly diet can seem overwhelming and a bit limiting at times but understanding which foods are gentle to your kidneys can make a difference. It is possible to still enjoy a range of delicious and healthy foods that are gentle to your kidneys through the help of your renal dietitian. The kidney-friendly foods above may be great for your kidneys but it is always important to check in with your primary health care to meet your nutritional requirements and manage your CKD.