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The Best Low Phosphorus Meats for Kidney Disease

Looking for some healthy low phosphorus meats for kidney health? Look no further! Read on to understand why phosphorus in meat is important, as well as my low phosphorus meat recommendations.

Meat, Protein & Kidney Disease

First, it is important to know a little bit about meat, protein and kidney disease. This will help you understand more about how to eat low phosphorus meats in a kidney friendly way!

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Protein needs are very different based on what stage of kidney disease you have.

In general, people who have kidney disease stages 1-3a should avoid high protein diets. If kidney disease progresses to stages 3b-5, a low protein diet is ideal. If kidney disease progresses further and dialysis is needed, you actually need a HIGH protein diet. (1)

Learn more about how nutrition is different for people with kidney disease.

Protein needs are also different based on your medical and nutrition history. Ask your dietitian exactly how much protein is right for you.

Is Meat Good for Kidney Disease?

Again, the answer depends on your labs and stage of kidney disease. People on dialysis need lots of protein. So, meat may be a good way to make sure you are getting enough protein.

For people with kidney disease who ARE NOT on dialysis, limiting meat, poultry, fish and seafood may help stop kidney disease from getting worse. (2) (3) People who eat fewer animal products (especially meat) have a slower progression of kidney disease and they are less likely to need dialysis. (4) (5)

However, not everyone wants (or needs to!) follow a diet that is 100% vegetarian. Work with your dietitian to figure out what makes the most sense for you!

I’d also recommend checking out Jen Hernandez’s Plant Powered Kidneys Course – all about how food can slow the progression of kidney disease!

Why Low Phosphorus Meats Are Important

If you do eat meat and have kidney disease, it is important to choose low phosphorus meats. Meat (and most proteins) are a major source of phosphorus in our diet. A high phosphorus diet can damage your heart and bones.

Importantly, high phosphorus levels are also associated with faster progression of kidney disease and higher mortality. (6)

Eating low phosphorus meats can help keep phosphorus levels in check!

Not All Phosphorus is the Same!

Phosphorus from different kinds of food acts very different in our bodies. Only about 30% of phosphorus from plant foods (like nuts, beans, seeds and lentils) is absorbed. (7) (8)

A much higher percentage of phosphorus from meat is absorbed. About 90% of phosphorus in meat ends up in our bodies. Unfortunately, ALL meat has some phosphorus in it. This phosphorus matters quite a bit since we absorb so much of it.

Phosphorus that is ADDED to our food is nearly 100% absorbed. Phosphorus additives tend to be, by far, the biggest concern when it comes to a low phosphorus diet. Learn more about phosphorus additives.

Potassium in Meat

Potassium is an important part of a kidney friendly diet. Some people with kidney disease need to limit how much potassium they eat.

Although fruits and veggies tend to be most known for being high in potassium, meat also adds a lot of potassium to our diet! Meat, poultry, fish and seafood all have potassium in them. Also, potassium is often added to these foods during processing.

If you need to limit potassium, I recommend checking the ingredients for potassium additives.

High Phosphorus Meats

Because those phosphorus additives are so important, any meat that has phosphorus additives in it should be avoided.

Processed meats tend to be the biggest culprit for phosphorus additives. These meats are usually very high in sodium too.

Cartoon pictures of high phosphorus meats: bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli or lunch meat and ham

Meats that tend to have phosphorus additives:

  • Bacon
  • Sausage or hot dogs
  • Bologna
  • Salami
  • Corned Beef
  • Lunch or deli meat (turkey, ham, roast beef)
  • Artificial crab or lobster
  • Rotisserie chicken from the grocery store
  • Meat from fast food restaurants

Some meats that might not seem “processed” can have phosphorus additives. Rotisserie chicken is a good example – it is usually pumped full of phosphorus (and sodium!) solutions to keep it juicy and flavorful. ALWAYS check for “PHOS” ingredients on the food label.

Top 5 Low Phosphorus Meats

Here are some of good low phosphorus meats. Remember, all kinds of meat, poultry, fish and seafood have phosphorus in them. Most natural meats have about 200mg of phosphorus in a 3 oz portion. Any kind of unprocessed, natural animal protein can likely fit into a low phosphorus diet.

The keys to eating low phosphorus meats are:

  • Choose meats without phosphorus additives
  • Eat the right portion size. All meat has some phosphorus in it. Even a low phosphorus meat can become a high phosphorus meat if you eat enough of it! Ask your dietitian what is right for you.

Chicken

Most unprocessed chicken breast, legs or thighs are low in phosphorus. One 3oz portion of chicken breast has 196mg of phosphorus. As always, check the ingredients for any sneaky phosphorus additives!

Tilapia

Tilapia, or other white fishes such as cod or whitefish, are heart healthy low phosphorus meats. One 3oz portion of tilapia has 175mg of phosphorus.

Pork Loin

Pork loin tends to be leaner than pork chops and other cuts of pork. It can be a good low phosphorus meat choice. Without additives, a 3oz portion of pork loin has 190mg of phosphorus.

Cartoon pictures of low phosphorus meat choices: chicken, shrimp, salmon, pork loin and tilapia

Salmon

Famous for it’s heart health benefits, salmon can be a kidney friendly low phosphorus meat. A 3oz portion of salmon has 315mg of phosphorus. Try this honey mustard salmon recipe – seriously one of my favorites!

Shrimp

Who doesn’t love shrimp!? A 3oz portion of shrimp has 200mg of phosphorus. But, be especially careful of phosphorus additives in shrimp and other seafood!

The Best Low Phosphorus Proteins for Kidney Disease

Ultimately, the best low phosphorus proteins for kidney disease are plant proteins. Because most phosphorus in plant foods is not absorbed, plant proteins are the best low phosphorus protein!

Here are some of my favorite plant proteins for people with kidney disease:

  • Beans (black, pinto, kidney, navy – really any kind of bean will do!)
  • Nuts (look for unsalted or lightly salted options!)
  • Seeds (buy unsalted or lightly salted options here too!)
  • Tofu
  • Whole grains (yes! whole grains tend to have surprising amounts of protein in them!)
  • Green peas
  • Lentils

As always, a healthy diet for kidney disease must be individualized to YOU based on your lab results and medical history. Ask your dietitian how to healthfully eat these plant proteins!

Phosphorus & Plant Based Meats

Many people ask about the many “plant based” meat alternatives available at the grocery store. Plant based meats such as Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger are becoming increasingly popular!

Even though these products are “plant based”, they are not as healthful as unprocessed plant proteins, like beans or lentils. Many of these products are FULL of sodium, and many even have phosphorus (and potassium!) additives.

Also, many of these products have JUST as much (if not more) protein as meat. This is a downside for people with kidney disease who are not on dialysis who may need to limit protein. Unprocessed plant foods like beans and nuts tend to have less protein in them compared to meat.

Bottom line, occasionally having a plant based meat replacement is probably fine. However, I don’t recommend that people with kidney disease include them on a regular basis. I’d MUCH prefer the focus be on whole, unprocessed plant proteins for a healthy plant based diet.

Happy Eating!

Melanie

10 thoughts on “The Best Low Phosphorus Meats for Kidney Disease”

  1. Midhat Abraham

    Great ideas and very informative information. I have learned a lot as i have bee looking all around the internet to for my own diet for my stage 3 CKD. Even my primary care doctor would not recommend a plan. Did you ever develop a diet plan for CKD such as what best to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack.

    Thank for all what you do to help in this very important health issue and problem.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hello! Thank you so much for your comment. I’m so glad you’ve found my site helpful. I don’t work with individual patients, but do have a list of other wonderful kidney dietitians I recommend on my resources page.

  2. Thank you. This made the most sense out of everything I have read about phosphorus. Very helpful. Thanks

  3. Thank you for this great article. I had questions about these very proteins so you have answered many of my questions. Thanks!

  4. I have been struggling for a while, trying to find information on what to eat while dealing with diabetes and kidney stones. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this information available to us. Life it’s hard enough when you are diagnosed with a chronic disease, but it is harder not to know how to properly manage your condition. I think I can get a better handle of my life now. Thanks again, Melanie! 🙂

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Thank you SO much Barbara! I’m SO SO happy that you’ve found my site helpful and it is helping clarify a “kidney” diet for you! Hearing things like this truly makes my day and keeps me motivated to keep going! Thank YOU for being here!

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