Submitted by Sara Chan and reviewed by Dani Renouf, RD MSc
In the past, vegetarian diets were thought to be incompatible with kidney disease. However, with our growing understanding of meat and plant proteins, there are encouraging prospects for diversifying renal diets with more plant-based foods.
The longstanding recommendation for dialysis patients was to consume meat for adequate protein. Although meat can serve as delicious and excellent sources of complete proteins, there are also downsides. For example, our bodies respond to red meat by producing a chemical (trimethylamine N-oxide), which is linked to higher rates of renal insufficiency. Also, the form of phosphorus found in the body, phosphate, is also absorbed at higher rates when bound to animal protein than plant protein. Fortunately, meat is not your only option and practitioners have been rethinking dietary advice for renal patients.
Research indicates that kidney patients can meet their protein needs with plant-based foods while reaping additional health benefits. You have likely been told to limit your consumption of nuts, seeds and legumes due to high levels of potassium and phosphorus. However, animal protein can be a significant contributor of potassium too! Among haemodialysis patients, chicken and beef were among the top 5 contributors of potassium. Also, plant proteins offer dietary fibre, which promotes the production of anti-inflammatory compounds in your gut and reduces uremic toxins. This fibre can also prevent constipation and limit the opportunity for the body to reabsorb potassium.
There is a reason why you might have heard conflicting messages about plant-based proteins for renal diets. The last set of dietary guidelines for kidney disease and dialysis patients (Kidney Disease Improving Global Outcomes, KDIGO) was released in 2000. In the meantime, there has been a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the safe and nutritious adoption of more plant-based proteins for renal disease and dialysis patients. Thankfully, the updated guidelines (National Kidney Foundation Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative, KDOQI) that have reflected the past 20 years of research were recently released, which reflect guidelines with more possibilities, including beans and legumes to meet your dietary protein needs.
Check out the recipe below for a plant-based meal or side dish featuring quinoa, a nutritious whole grain and complete plant protein.
Time: 5 minutes
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cucumber, quartered and sliced
- 1/8 cup parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- In a large bowl combine the cooked quinoa, chopped tomato, chopped cucumber and chopped parsley.
- In a small container with a tight-fitting lid, add the red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano. Add the lid and shake vigorously.
- Pour the dressing over the quinoa salad and mix well.