This FAQ will give you information about foods to choose if you have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Some people may have medical reasons why they need different information. Always follow advice from your own dietitian or doctor.
Most people with CKD will benefit from a healthy diet. Simple changes to your eating will help to control your blood pressure, blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. This can help protect your kidneys from further damage and help you to feel well.
What should I eat to help my kidneys?
The NHS Eatwell Guide on the NHS website shows how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group for a healthy, balanced diet. You don’t need to get this balance with every meal or snack but try to get the balance right over your day.
Graphic - Public Health England in association with the Welsh government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland.
Starfruit can be harmful to people with kidney disease and you are recommended to avoid eating it.
Drink plenty of fluids, unless your doctor has advised otherwise. The Eatwell Guide recommends 6-8 cups or glasses a day. If you have CKD aiming to drink at least 8-10 cups a day can help the kidneys by diluting your urine
Should I eat less salt?
Yes – most people eat too much salt. Eating less salt can improve your blood pressure and slow down worsening of your kidney function. If you have been advised to limit how much you drink, eating less salt reduces fluid build-up in your body (oedema) and makes you less thirsty.
Around ¾ of the salt we eat comes from salt in manufactured foods. This salt FAQ will give you more information.
Salt substitutes such as LoSalt, Saxa So Low and Solo are not recommended for people with kidney problems.
Do I need to lose weight?
Getting to and staying at a healthy body weight will help you to control your blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels which can help to protect your kidneys from further damage. Check if you are a healthy weight on the NHS live well bmi calulator.
Following the Eatwell Guide will help ensure you follow a healthy diet whilst losing weight. If you would like more detailed information there is an NHS 12 week weight loss guide.
What about alcohol?
What if I have diabetes?
Managing your blood glucose levels is important to reduce the risk of more damage to your kidneys.
Good control of your blood glucose levels can give you more energy, restful sleep, healthier skin and gums and prevent problems with your nerves, eyes, feet and heart. Find out more about Complications of diabetes at www.diabetes.org.uk
It is important to follow any diet and lifestyle advice you have previously been given to help control your diabetes. The recommendations for eating well with diabetes are based around the The Eatwell Guide on the NHS website. This is the same healthy diet that is recommended for the general population and should be combined with aiming to get to or stay at a healthy weight. Find out more about diet and diabetes at Healthy eating with Diabetes and at Diabetes UK.
If your kidney function reduces or you start dialysis, you may be advised to follow other dietary advice such as a low potassium or low phosphate diet. Balancing this can be difficult so you can ask to speak to a dietitian.
What about protein?
Protein foods include meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese, lentils, beans, Quorn and tofu. These foods are important for maintaining your strength, repairing muscles, healing wounds and fighting infection. Most people eat too much protein. When you eat these foods the kidneys need to get rid of the waste. If your kidneys are not working well, this waste will build up in the blood which can make you feel less well.
As part of a balanced diet, it is recommended to:
• Keep to 2 to 3 medium sized portions of protein foods a day
• Eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables
• Base your meals on starchy foods e.g bread, rice, pasta, potatoes. Choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions where possible
• Use The Eatwell Guide on the NHS website and the Portion sizes food fact sheet which is available at www.bda.uk.com to get the right balance between the different food groups
Do I need to eat less potassium?
Not all people with kidney disease need to follow a low potassium diet. It will depend on your blood potassium levels and kidney function. You don’t need to reduce potassium in your diet unless you have been advised to by the doctor or dietitian. This potassium FAQ will give you information about foods to choose if you have high blood potassium levels.
Do I need to eat less phosphate?
This will depend on your kidney function and if the level of phosphate in your blood is above the normal range. Eating less high phosphate foods can help you to control the level of phosphate in your blood. You don’t need to reduce phosphate in your diet unless you have been advised to by the doctor or dietitian. This phosphate FAQ will give you information about foods to choose if you have high blood phosphate levels.
If your blood levels stay high, you may also be prescribed tablets called ‘phosphate binders’. These are taken with food to reduce the amount of phosphate absorbed from food. The dietitian, doctor or pharmacist can tell you how and when to take these tablets.
Should I take a multivitamin supplement?
No, do not take any multivitamin or mineral supplements unless you have discussed this first with your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian. A healthy balanced diet should provide you with all the essential nutrients you need.
What should I do if I have lost my appetite?
Eating well is important to help you feel better and cope with any treatment you may need. Many people find the following can help them to eat more:
• Eating little and often throughout the day
• Eating small nourishing snacks between meals such as cereal and milk, cheese and biscuits, cakes, biscuits, desserts, pastries
• Having a snack, sandwich or a milky drink if you cannot manage your normal meal
• Trying easy to prepare high protein meals such as cheese, scrambled egg, poached egg on toast or omelette
• Using full fat and full sugar versions of foods and drinks such as full fat milk, full fat yoghurt instead of diet or low fat ones
• Trying to eat more on days or at times you feel better
• Spreading butter, margarine ,honey, jam and marmalade thickly on bread, croissants, crumpets
• Adding honey or sugar to cereals and puddings
• If you have diabetes or you are limiting potassium or phosphate speak to your dietitian for more information