Protein in a Plant-Based Diet for Kidneys

Vegan and vegetarian diets are becoming more popular these days. Some people choose these diets to help the environment, lessen our dependency on animal-based proteins, or promote well-being of animals.

But can this work for those with kidney disease?

A common concern is if one will get enough protein if they're focusing primarily on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - all different types of plants. The short answer is - most likely - yes!

Protein is a unique and necessary part of a healthy diet. However, protein creates waste that must be filtered by the kidneys. Depending on your kidney function, you may benefit from more or less protein.

There are five stages of kidney disease. (For more information on the different stages of kidney disease, check out this other blog article.)

Generally speaking, stages 4-5 benefit from limiting protein to prevent excessive strain on the kidneys. Those with end stage kidney disease on dialysis require extra protein due to the dialysis process removing protein. Interested in learning the specific amount of protein you should be aiming for? Book a package so I can teach you about your specific needs!

We typically think of high-protein foods as chicken, fish, beef, eggs, and other animal-based sources. These foods can provide excellent high-quality protein, but they’re not the only options. In fact, some studies show that following a plant-based diet, even with kidney disease, may help with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Many plant- and non-animal-based foods provide plenty of protein! When making a meal, even foods with smaller amounts of protein still add up and contribute towards our overall protein intake. Plant-based proteins also provide other health benefits such as less saturated fat. Here are some great plant-based sources of protein.

Tofu, 4 oz = 18 grams
Edamame, 1 cup cooked = 18 grams
Green Peas, 1/2 cup = 4 grams
Garbanzo Beans, 1/2 cup = 7 grams
Lentils, 1/2 cup = 9 grams
Cottage cheese, 1/2 cup = 12 grams
Quinoa, 1/2 cup = 4 grams
Egg, 1 large = 7 grams
Ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup = 12 grams

Keep in mind some of these foods may have high amounts of other nutrients that may need to be monitored, such as potassium and phosphorus. Each individual should have a tailored diet to match the health requirements of that person.

The free My Food Coach site available from the National Kidney Foundation also provides a huge database of recipes that can be filtered by vegan and vegetarian options. Once you create your profile, it will even help look out for other nutrients such as sodium, potassium, and carbohydrates. Check out the Layered Vegetable Enchiladas, with 17 grams protein per serving. Even the Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese has 14 grams of protein per serving!

Plant-based proteins can be very budget-friendly, too! A can of chickpeas, which provides 3.5 servings, is around $1.50 (that less than $0.50/serving!) compared to a pound of chicken that provides about four servings and costs about $3 - that’s about $0.75/4-oz serving. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but that $0.25 can add up quickly, especially when cooking for a family of four.

Even if you aren’t committed to a fully plant-based diet, cutting back on animal-based proteins and adding some of these protein alternatives can continue to provide the protein you need, as well as other nutrients like fiber! Focusing more on other food groups fits well with the D.A.S.H. diet recommendations.

Keep in mind these foods have other nutrients that may factor into your own diet, such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Some may benefit from a multivitamin with B12, but it’s necessary to consult your physician or registered dietitian before starting any supplements. Interested in learning how a plant-based diet can fit into your lifestyle? Let's work together to discuss where to start!



Disclaimer: Information provided by Jen Hernandez RD LLC is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information is intended for general consumer health and understanding. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult with your doctor prior to starting or changing your diet or medications.