What is the Renal (Kidney) Diet?

An Introduction

The renal diet is a diet tailored to meet the needs of patients with acute kidney injuries, chronic kidney disease, or sometimes other kidney issues in which the kidneys are not able to function properly. The kidneys take waste products which the body does not need and excretes them through urine. The kidneys also release the hormones erythropoietin (which stimulates bone marrow to make red blood cells), renin (which regulates blood pressure), and the active form of Vitamin D known as calcitriol (which is needed for healthy bones and proper chemical balance within the body).
Phosporus, sodium, and potassium are a few of the products in the body which the kidneys regulate; if there is too much, healthy kidneys will get rid of the excess. If the kidneys are not able to function properly and get rid of waste, the waste can build up to toxic levels in the body.


Potassium is a mineral found primarily in fruits and vegetables, but can be found in other nutritional sources such as nuts, for example. When excess potassium builds up in the body, it can affect heart rhythm and even lead to heart attacks.  Understanding which foods contain lower levels and higher levels of potassium can help patients following a renal diet maintain a safer level of potassium in their blood.
Some examples are provided here: http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium.cfm


Like potassium, too much phosphorus can be a bad thing for those with kidney failure. For a list of foods high and low in phosphorus, information on phosphate binders, and details on how phosphorus can affect the body, I recommend visiting DaVita’s webpage on Phosphorus.


Protein is an interesting topic when it comes to renal nutrition. A person’s protein needs depends on many factors, including what stage of kidney function they have, if they are receiving dialysis and what type, and if they have any other protein needs or restrictions.
Typically, when a patient has stage 3-5 CKD, or ESRD, and is not receiving dialysis, they are restricted in their protein intake. If a patient goes on to receive dialysis, they are typically instructed to increase their protein intake. These are general guidelines and only your health care providers can look at your medical status and provide you the best protein recommendations.

Fluid and Fluid Restriction

Some people may be told to restrict their fluids by their health care professionals. Your provider may give you prescribed fluid restriction of 1500mL, for example; but what does that mean?
I find this handout that includes a conversion table from mL to fluid ounces and cups to be helpful. It also includes tips on ways to satisfy thirst and explains what is considered a fluid (you might be surprised!).
Check it out here!

Diabetic, Renal Diet

Following a renal diet can seem complicated to many; however diabetics, who are recommended to follow a renal diet, have special considerations. Not only must they follow the guidelines of the renal diet, but they must also follow the guidelines for the diabetic diet. In some cases, these two diets can feel or seem at odds with each other. For example, a diabetic may have been told to consume whole grains when choosing to eat grains but is now faced with choosing “white bread” instead of “whole grain bread” while managing their blood sugar control. That is one example a diabetic may face but there could be others; this is another reason why seeking out a Registered Dietitian can help you meet your needs and preferences.

Vegetarian, Renal Diet

Helpful Links and Resources

Please check back as I update this post.