Not all proteins are created equal. Learn how plant proteins can help compromised kidneys.

Protect the kidneys with plant proteins

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Kidney disease affects one in nine Americans. With early detection and treatment, the progression of this disease can be slowed down. 

There are numerous factors that can take a toll on the kidneys but the top are uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, having a family history of kidney failure and being over the age of 60.

A study from the University of Utah School of Medicine also found that bypassing animal protein may be important in protecting the kidneys.

In this study, folks without chronic kidney disease had a death rate of 11 percent when followed for 8½ years, while the death rate for folks with chronic kidney disease was 59 percent. The researchers found that with an intake of more animal protein, the death rates were higher in chronic kidney disease.

Per one ounce, all animal sources of protein contain the same amount of protein.

Animal protein includes: 

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Red meats    

The big news from this study is that when plant protein replaced animal protein in the diets of folks with chronic kidney disease, death rates were lower.

Plant protein options can include:

  • Nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters
  • Dried beans and peas: kidney, navy, black beans, chick peas. 
  • Soy products: tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milk and cheeses
  • Quinoa

You might think that protein is protein, in other words, no matter the source, if protein is tough on diseased kidneys, all protein might be troublesome. But the plant proteins do not seem to be as hard on comprised kidneys.

The researchers think the reason might be the high rate of intestinal absorption of phosphorus from the animal sources of protein. And high blood phosphorus levels are connected higher death rates in people with and without chronic kidney disease.

Protein switchouts are easy at meals and snacks:

  • Skip the eggs at breakfast and enjoy hot or cold cereal.
  • Have a nut butter sandwich rather than roast beef, cheese or ham.
  • Enjoy a veggie stir fry with tofu chunks rather than fish or poultry.
  • Snack on nuts, seeds and soy milk cheeses.

Recipes to try:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.