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Protein: Tips for People with Chronic Kidney Disease

​What Is Protein?

Protein is in many foods that you eat. Protein can be found in foods from animals and from plants. Most diets include both types of protein. Protein provides the building blocks that help maintain and repair muscles, organs, and other parts of the body.

Animal-protein Foods:

  • Meat, such as pork, beef, chicken, turkey, duck
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese
  • Fish

Plant-protein Foods:

High Protein:

  • Beans, peas, lentils
  • Soy foods, such as soy milk, tofu
  • Nuts and nut spreads, such as almond butter, peanut butter, soy nut butter
  • Sunflower seeds

Low Protein:

  • Bread, tortillas
  • Oatmeal, grits, cereals
  • Pasta, noodles, rice
  • Rice milk (not enriched)

Why Is Protein Important for People with CKD?

When your body uses protein, it produces waste. This waste is removed by the kidneys. Too much protein can make the kidneys work harder, so people with CKD may need to eat less protein.

Animal protein includes all of the building blocks that your body needs. Plant proteins need to be combined to get all of the building blocks that your body needs.

How Do I Eat the Right Amount of Protein?

Your dietitian will tell you what amount and types of protein are right for you. Here is some general information about protein types and serving sizes:

  • Eat smaller portions of meat and dairy. This will also help you lower the amount of phosphorus in your diet, because phosphorus is found in meat and dairy foods.
    • Meat, poultry, and fish: A cooked portion should be about 2 to 3 ounces or about the size of a deck of cards.
    • Dairy foods: A portion is ½ cup of milk or yogurt, or one slice of cheese.
  • Plant proteins should make up the rest of the protein that you eat. A serving is:
    • ½ cup of cooked beans
    • ¼ cup of nuts
    • a slice of bread
    • ½ cup of cooked rice or noodles

What if I Am a Vegetarian?

There are many good sources of protein for people who do not eat meat or dairy foods. Talk to your dietitian about how to combine plant proteins to be sure you are getting all of the building blocks your body needs.


This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.


February 6, 2013

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