The Power of Protein on Your Kidneys

a serving board showing Sources of healthy protein - meat, fish, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and grains

Written by: Jennifer Snyder and Hanna Kim, dietetics and kinesiology students from the University of British Columbia. Reviewed by Dani Renouf, RD, MSc

Knowing how much protein to eat when you have kidney disease is important for protecting and preserving your kidney function. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering and releasing wastes created from food to help maintain the right level of nutrients in your body.

Including the right amount and types of protein in your diet is important for keeping you healthy, preserving muscle mass, protecting from infections, and transporting nutrients throughout your body.  However, consuming too much protein can be harmful for people with kidney disease as the kidneys will need to work harder to remove protein waste from the body, which puts added stress on the kidneys and further impairs their functioning. In contrast, eating insufficient amounts of protein may result in muscle wasting, impaired nutritional status and immune function, all of which can also impact progression of kidney disease.

Your protein needs are dependent on your age, size, physical activity and the stage of your kidney disease. Ask your dietitian for more information on how you can incorporate the right amount and types of protein for your body!

Protein in the diet can come from both animal and plant-based sources. Animal-based sources of protein include: fish, shellfish, canned fish, eggs, egg whites, poultry, pork, lamb and beef. Plant-based protein sources include: beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and tofu. Eating more plant-based proteins is encouraged to keep your kidneys healthy.

Some protein sources contain lower-quality protein, and often have too much salt and potassium and phosphorus additives. Try to limit these sources of protein:

  • Certain deli and other processed meats (ham, bacon, pepperoni and sausages)
  • Certain deep fried/breaded meats (chicken nuggets and fish sticks)
  • Smoked/dried meat (fish, jerky)

Incorporating good-quality sources of protein each day is important to keep you healthy, but remember that too-much and too-little protein can be harmful for your kidneys. Your dietitian is here to help you find the right amount and sources of protein that fit your needs!

Try this protein packed plant based recipe: Eggplant Tofu Stir-Fry