Steps to a more kidney friendly diet: Animal versus Vegetarian Proteins

By Kelvin Au, Student and Dani Renouf, RD, MSc, CDE

Persons living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are often asked to lower protein in their diet to improve kidney health. But how much protein is too much or too little? How do animal-based proteins compare to plant-based? A dietitian can answer these important questions.

Most North Americans consume more protein than recommended for their individual needs. However, healthy kidneys can process the extra protein waste efficiently. In chronic kidney disease, the kidney cannot cope with the excess protein. Thus, the protein’s waste products build up in the body, leading to poor health outcomes. For those with kidney conditions, watching protein consumption can ensure the kidneys have a lower, manageable workload with less waste build-up in the body.

Recent studies have found that foods with animal-based proteins produce more waste products than foods with plant-based proteins. Consuming more plant-based proteins can help lower the build-up of waste products. Additionally, plant-based proteins are more easily retained by the body, leading to lower protein loss in urine.

Phosphate is another dietary component that many people with chronic kidney disease strive to lower. Generally, plant-based protein foods contribute to a lesser degree to blood phosphate levels, as the phosphate found in these foods is not as readily absorbed by our body. Specifically, if you replace 3 ounces of ground meat at a meal with one cup of beans, you get the same amount of protein, but less phosphate.

Various plant-based protein foods can replace most animal meats in the diet. Additionally, these foods are often cheaper than their animal meat counterparts! Instead of chicken, tofu can be substituted for a more kidney-friendly diet. Tofu fingers can be used in lieu of chicken nuggets. Lentils are another great plant-based protein source. A dal fry is an excellent source of kidney-friendly plant-based proteins that can replace many ground beef dishes. Various beans can be substituted in recipes that call for the use of ground meat. For example, a can of garbanzo and a can of kidney beans can replace 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef in your favourite recipes.

Many other healthy kidney-friendly recipes low in potassium and phosphate are all available in our recipe section!

CKD background information was gathered from


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