Maria Adams, MS, MPH, RD
A low-protein diet limits the amount of protein that you can eat each day.
This diet may be recommended if you have liver or kidney disease. The liver helps in protein digestion, and the kidneys are responsible for removing the waste products of protein digestion. If your liver or kidneys are not fully functioning, they will have to work extra hard to handle the protein that you eat. If you eat more protein than your liver or kidneys can handle, waste products will build up in your blood stream, causing fatigue and a decreased appetite.
If you have chronic
kidney failure, adhering to a low-protein diet can delay your need for
for up to a year. With kidney failure, you may also need to make other dietary changes, such as limiting the amount of salt, potassium, phosphorous, and fluid. Work with a registered dietitian to come up with an eating plan that meets your nutritional and medical needs.
Dietary protein comes from two sources: animals and plants. Animal products are higher in protein and provide us with complete proteins. Complete proteins contain all of the essential amino acids that our bodies need to live and that we have to get from the food we eat. Plant products are lower in protein and provide us with incomplete proteins. Both types of protein should be a part of a healthful, low-protein diet.
The following chart categorizes food by group and lists the amount of protein per serving. Your doctor or dietitian will let you know how many grams of protein you can consume each day. On this diet, it is important that you work with a dietitian to make sure that you are within the recommended protein range and meeting all of your nutrient needs.
One serving = 7 grams protein
One serving = 4 grams protein
One serving = 3 grams protein
One serving = 2 grams protein
One serving = 0.5 grams protein
Pure fats and sugars contain no protein. But, foods made mostly of fat or sugar, such as cake, cookies, ice cream, snack chips, and fried foods tend to be high in calories and low in nutrition. There are some fats that are healthy in moderation, including olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts. Ask your dietitian about how foods from this group can fit into your diet.
Here are some suggestions to help you with eating a low-protein diet:
American Dietetic Association
National Kidney Foundation
Dietitians of Canada
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Controlled protein and sodium diet for kidney disease. Ohio State University Medical Center website. Available at:
http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/pdfs/PatientEd/Materials/PDFDocs/nut-diet/nut-kid/controlled-protein.pdf. Accessed April 25, 2007.
Diet for kidney disease. University of Utah Health Sciences Center website. Available at:
http://uuhsc.utah.edu/pated/handouts/handout.cfm?id=858. Accessed April 25, 2007.
Low-protein diet postpones dialysis. John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/1999/FEBRUARY/990215.HTM. Accessed April 25, 2007.
Low-protein recipes. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/enjoy.cfm . Accessed April 24, 2007.
Nutrition care manual. American Dietetic Association website. Available at:
http://nutritioncaremanual.org/auth.cfm?p=%2Findex.cfm%3F. Accessed January 3, 2009.
American Dietetic Association Guide to Eating Right When You Have Diabetes.
Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc; 2003.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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