Bowl of oatmeal topped with strawberries and bananas with blog title: Oatmeal and kidney disease - how to choose oats and prepare them over top of image

Oatmeal and Kidney Disease: How to Choose Oats & Prepare Them!

Oatmeal is a classic breakfast that I’m sure you would love to continue enjoying with kidney disease. Or maybe you’re trying desperately to find a way to prepare oatmeal that you’d love to eat every morning! 

I’ve definitely been in that boat! I tried for years to love oatmeal but I just didn’t because I didn’t know what type of oatmeal to buy or how to prepare it! 

I’m Candace Mooney, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in renal nutrition. I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know when choosing oatmeal for kidney disease and the best way to prepare it so it’s enjoyable but also protects your kidney health.

Let’s start with the question everyone wants to know!

*Please note that this post contains clearly identified affiliate links.  If you click on these links and choose to make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Is oatmeal good for kidney disease?

The short answer is YES! 

Of course, there are special considerations when you have kidney disease when choosing any food to include in your diet.

I’ll cover those quickly and then move on to the best ways to cook, prepare, and enjoy your oatmeal with kidney disease!

Special considerations for oatmeal and kidney disease

These are the main nutritional components I consider when determining if a food will fit into someone’s diet with kidney disease:

  1. Carbohydrate and Fiber
  2. Protein and Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL)
  3. Sodium
  4. Potassium
  5. Phosphorus

Let’s go ahead and dive into each one of these a tiny bit deeper!

Carbohydrates and Fiber

Goal: It varies, just make sure you count it while balancing your plate (or bowl!).

When you are planning a meal, you want to make sure it contains some carbohydrates (carbs). Especially if you have diabetes, a good rule of thumb is to try to eat around the same amount of carbs with every meal. 

The amount of carbs recommended could vary from 30 grams per meal to 90 grams per meal, depending on your medical history, height, weight, gender, activity level, and much more. A registered dietitian (like me!) can help you to calculate the ideal amount of carbs for you to eat.

One cup of cooked oats (½ cup dry) gives you around 30 grams of carbohydrate. (1) It contains 4 grams of fiber to help you reach a goal of 25-38 grams of fiber per day. (1, 2)

Oatmeal offers a flexible base for your breakfast because you can pick the right serving size for your carbohydrate goal and you can add even more carbs (and fiber!) to it to get more variety and color in your meal depending on your toppings and mix-ins.

Protein and PRAL

Goal: Plant-based and Negative Value PRAL

For most people with kidney disease, the goal is to eat less protein and to prioritize plant-based protein over protein from animal sources. (3

The total grams of protein is one way to figure out if a protein source is a good fit for your menu; another consideration is PRAL (or, Potential Renal Acid Load).

What’s that, you say? The PRAL value of a food is determined by how much acid (or base) is produced by that food after you eat it. 

The more negative the PRAL value of a food, the more base it makes during metabolism. The more positive the PRAL value, the more acid it makes. (4)

Why does the PRAL matter? When your kidneys aren’t functioning as well as they should, overall eating a positive PRAL diet can make your blood more acidic. (4).

The goal for people with kidney disease is to aim for as low of a PRAL value as possible. It is important to consider the average of all the food you eat for the whole day, not just a single food. This will help your body maintain a correct pH which benefits not only your kidneys but your entire body. (4)

One cup of cooked oatmeal has 5 grams of plant protein. This is considered low protein and leaves you lots of room to add more goodies that include some protein to your oatmeal! (1) This is, of course, dependent on your personal nutrition prescription. 

Find a qualified renal dietitian to help you determine your personal nutrition prescription, including your own specific protein goals.

The PRAL for oatmeal is slightly positive, but much lower than animal protein foods. Oatmeal also gives you the opportunity to add lower PRAL foods like fruits and some nuts to it. This will decrease the overall PRAL value of this meal.

Sodium

Goal: 2,300mg per day

Aim for lower sodium in your food to help improve kidney health outcomes. (5) Luckily, oats are naturally low in sodium! (1)

The more processed your oats, the more likely there will be more sodium in them. Always be sure to check the sodium content of your oats!

Typically, people with kidney disease should shoot for less than 2,300 milligrams sodium per day. (5)

Potassium

Goal: it depends, you may need to monitor it.

Some people with kidney disease may need to monitor the amount of potassium in their diet, especially if you have a history of high potassium in your lab results.

It is also crucial to have adequate amounts of potassium in your diet to help control your blood pressure. Limiting potassium unnecessarily could make it harder to control your blood pressure, causing more damage to your kidneys (6).

The good news is that oatmeal is naturally low in potassium so you can make it meet your potassium needs very easily by adjusting what you add to your oatmeal (1)!

Check with your renal dietitian or nephrologist to determine the right amount of potassium for you. If you don’t have a renal dietitian, you can work with me or find another dietitian that specializes in kidney disease here.

Phosphorus

Goal: avoid phosphate additives

Always read the ingredient list when you have the option! Avoid those pesky phosphate additives to help protect your bones and heart health (3).

Get into the habit of checking ingredient lists when you have kidney disease to help you avoid added phosphates in your food.

Look for any words that contain “P-H-O-S” in the ingredient list – if you see these words, your food has added phosphates and it may not be a good fit to protect your kidneys. 

Oatmeal is no exception to the rule! I have seen some oatmeal with added phosphates, but in general, oatmeal doesn’t have any. 

Is oatmeal a superfood?

Yes!

Eating oatmeal regularly has been linked to better heart health. Oatmeal works to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol by binding to it in your digestive tract. This means that instead of reabsorbing the cholesterol, you eliminate it in your stool. (7)

The fiber in oatmeal has also helped improve blood sugars in people with diabetes! (8)

Now that you know oatmeal can definitely fit into your diet with kidney disease and provide extra protection for you, let’s walk through the different types of oats and how you can prepare them to enjoy them to the fullest!

Types of Oatmeal and Kidney Disease 

If you’re new to the oatmeal world (or even very familiar with it), it may seem confusing that there are several different preparations of oats you can buy. I’ll clear up the difference between them for you now.

You may see your options at the grocery store are steel-cut oats, rolled oats, quick-cook oats, and instant oatmeal. What do all of these mean? And which one is best?

The difference between these is all in how the oat groat is processed before putting them on the shelf. Each one will have a distinct flavor and texture because of how it was processed but most will still have the same nutritional content.

The best type of oats for kidney disease will most likely be the type that you enjoy the most!

Steel Cut Oats

Let’s start with steel-cut oats. These oat groats were simply processed by cutting or chopping them using a metal blade to make them look more round or more like rice. 

They hold their shape well, and can be more chewy and hearty than the other varieties. They are also said to have a more nutty flavor. These oats also take the longest to cook.

A variation of these oats is Scottish or Irish oats. Instead of using a blade, these oat groats are stone ground into a similar shape but less uniform in size than steel-cut oats which gives a different texture.

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are also called old-fashioned oats and they come in different thicknesses, too!  The oat groats are steamed during processing and then pressed to be flat. They look more like flakes of oats.

Rolled oats cook faster than steel cut oats. They still hold their shape well but absorb more water making them a little less chewy.

You can use rolled oats as a hot cereal, baking, and overnight oats. They are the most versatile version of oats.

My personal favorite rolled oats are Bob’s Red Mill Extra-Thick Rolled Oats*. They are able to hold their shape and provide some chewy texture to your bite without getting too mushy.

Quick Cook and Instant Oatmeal

Quick cook oats are processed in the same way as rolled oats but steamed longer and pressed thinner to make them cook even faster for you at home.

You guessed it! Instant oatmeal is steamed even longer and pressed thinner to  instantly cook for you at home!

These oats don’t hold their texture as well and become mushy but they can help you out when you’re in a hurry!

The other drawback to instant oatmeal is that it can sometimes contain preservatives like sodium and/or phosphates or even added sugar so always check your nutrition label and ingredient list with these types of oats, especially! 

Steel Cut OatsRolled OatsQuick Cook OatsInstant Oatmeal
Protein (g)
12.513.513.711.9
Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL)9.69.78.55.9
Total Carbohydrate (g)70696870
Fiber (g)1210910
Sodium (mg)<2.513220
Potassium (mg)376350358366
Phosphorus (mg)417387458423
Calcium (mg)514647351
Magnesium (mg)129126270128
Based on 100 gram dry portion. Nutrition information sources from USDA. PRAL calculated by http://www.maxmcarter.com/pral/pral_calc_form.php. Instant oatmeal is fortified and plain.

How to Prepare Oats

There are several variations of oatmeal that would make a perfect breakfast for someone with kidney disease! 

Two classic oatmeal versions are either hot or cold. 

Let’s dive deeper into each of these versions!

Hot Oatmeal

The classic oatmeal! Hot oatmeal has been around forever it seems!

The most simple version of hot oatmeal just includes water.

You boil oatmeal and water on the stove, reduce heat, and simmer until the water has been absorbed and your desired texture is reached!

Each type of oatmeal above varies in the amount of time to simmer so it’s best to follow the instructions on the package. Who knew?!? 

Overnight Oats

Overnight oats have been gaining popularity in the last few years and are my personal favorite way to enjoy oatmeal!

You basically mix all your ingredients the night before you’d like to eat it and let it soak for at least 4 hours. The great thing about overnight oats is you can batch-prep them for the week and their texture stays consistent until the end of the week!

My favorite recipe comes from my mom! It’s our best copycat version of a breakfast she ate on Viking’s Blue Danube River Cruise. 

Image of Kidney Friendly Overnight Oats Recipe

Milk Choices

You could make your hot oatmeal with milk, instead of water, to get a fuller, creamier oatmeal.

Overnight oats are always made with some sort of milk. Plant-based diets are often recommended for kidney disease to improve health outcomes so you may want to choose a non-dairy milk.

Some kidney-disease-appropriate, non-dairy milk examples include almond, soy, cashew, rice, coconut, and oat milks.

If you have a history of kidney stones, you may want to choose dairy milk for the natural calcium source and avoid high oxalate milks like almond and soy milk. Learn more about oatmeal and kidney stones.

Also, make sure you read the ingredient list in any milk you choose because they can be notorious (a-hem oat milk) for adding potassium and phosphates!

Toppings

Now this is where it gets fun! As we talked about earlier, you have extra room to add carbs, protein, potassium, and fiber to your oatmeal to make it even more delicious.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds can get you some extra protein and minerals in your oats! Some popular options are mixing 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter into your oats. 

Hemp seeds* can be mixed in to give you a rich, nutty flavor with the added benefits of omega 3 to increase oatmeal’s heart-healthy profile even more!

Chia seeds* also contain omega 3s and can give your oatmeal a fuller feel by making it a little more gelatinous. 

Coconut shavings* are a great way to add calories and change the flavor profile of oatmeal, too!

Fruit

Adding fruit is a great way to add a natural sweetness and increase flavor, fiber, and vitamins in your oats!

You can add chopped apples or pears to your hot oats or shred them to include in your overnight oats! These are great low-potassium options if you need to watch potassium in your diet.

Berries are another great way to add fiber and color to your oatmeal. You can use fresh berries or even have a bag of frozen berries in your freezer to add to your hot oats.

Raisins can also be added to your oats as you’re cooking them or soaking them overnight for a burst of flavor!

You can really let your creative juices flow when deciding how to add fruit to your oats! (hehe)

Spices

The most popular spice to pair with oatmeal is cinnamon, and for good reason! It adds a lot of depth to oatmeal’s flavor.

Other popular spice options to elevate your oatmeal include pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, vanilla, ginger, and black pepper. 

My personal favorite addition to hot oatmeal is a garam masala blend*! Mix in some blueberries and viola! 

And the best part is most spices are perfectly fine to eat on oatmeal with kidney disease!

The sky is really the limit!

The Verdict: Oatmeal and Kidney Disease

Oatmeal is a great meal option for kidney disease. 

You should definitely check the nutrition labels and ingredient lists of the type of oatmeal you choose (especially if you like quicker-cooking oats like instant oatmeal). 

Your goal is to avoid extra sodium and avoid potassium and phosphate additives.

Oatmeal provides a great canvas for adding your favorite flavors to make it delicious! 

Add fruits, nuts, seeds, and different milks to improve oatmeal’s nutrition (and flavor!) profile for even more benefits for kidney disease!

Now go have fun with your oatmeal! (and share your favorite varieties below!)

About the Author

Candace Mooney is a board certified renal nutrition specialist. She worked in all types of dialysis where she developed a passion for helping people with kidney disease improve their health outcomes. 

Candace started a virtual private practice, Nourished Pear, in 2022 and accepts clients in all stages of kidney disease (excluding dialysis). She’s located in Tennessee and is licensed to practice medical nutrition therapy in several Southeastern and Midwest states.

26 thoughts on “Oatmeal and Kidney Disease: How to Choose Oats & Prepare Them!”

  1. I have purchased ONE DEGREE ORGANIC FOODS Organic Sprouted Rolled Oats in the past. This seems to be the best option for oats – gluten free, sprouted, organic, non-gmo, and free of glyphosates.
    Is this a highly recommended brand? With most brands, you never know where the oats are harvested and if the crop has been exposed to glyphosates.
    I have heard pros and cons about oats, especially from Dr. Gundry – I doubt what he says about oats.
    What say you?

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      Glycophosphate is really nothing to be concerned about – here is a great article from a fellow dietitian. Any oatmeal is a great option. The biggest concern is keeping whatever sugar you add to it to a reasonable amount. Dr. Grundy makes a TON of misinformation about nutrition and makes dangerous claims based on no or very little data.

    2. so which preparation method should we be using if we have kidney disease? I always thought steel cut because it’s almost in its purest form with good fibre & & essentially no salt ….?
      Can you explain a little more about the PRAL?
      Many thanks
      Paul

  2. Hi Candace!
    Thank you so much for the time, effort, and dedication you have committed to sharing and educating so many on the health of our bodies and the well being of our precious filter, the kidneys!
    We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made as stated in Pslams 139:14!

    I’m 63 female, live in Ky, relatively healthy with healthy diet. Since age 19 I’ve been in health and fitness. I hike, bike, walk, weight train, and swim (when pool is available)
    Serval years ago I was told I have RA, I since developed intolerance to gluten, and most recently (3months) been experiencing lower back pain, & pressure in my abdomen, pain center of back. I’m still having hot flashes (I read May be ass. with low functioning kidneys).

    I don’t have health insurance. I have chosen to manage my health naturally, but would like to know if you would / could recommend a online / OTC kidney panel test.

    Thanks so much!🤗
    Eva

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      Hi Eva! Melanie here. There is no OTC kidney panel test I am aware of. We would need to get your creatinine measured and assessed by a healthcare professional. It would probably be worth paying out of pocket to get this test done. It is routine and likely doesn’t cost much (in the grand scheme of things).

  3. So happy to have you as a trustworthy resource! I did wonder why when you mentioned cinnamon for added flavor you didn’t mention its anti-inflammatory properties!

    1. my mom is a kidney patient. several years ago she have a kidney stone but thanks to the treatment she was fully alright.
      but now her right side kidney is paining but the thing is no body knows why it is paining because her reports are totally fine and also she stickly followed her diet but her sleeping time is 5 to 6 hours .
      so if anyone understand the problem so please tell me…!

      1. I’m just wondering if your mom had lithotripsy to blast the kidney stone? This is what pretty much destroyed that kidney, though got rid of the (12mm) stone – resulting in my stage 4 CKD. Could this be her story? I often have sharp little pains there.

  4. I was told to take almonds out of my diet including almond milk and almond flour due to their high oculars count. You haven’t mentioned those as being taboo. I switched over to oat milk for my smoothies but just read oat milk is not the best choice. I try to be as gluten and dairy free as possible. Cashew milk is not much better. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  5. Is there a listing of the PRAL number for all foods? Do you know of the book by Lee Hull Stopping Kidney Disease Food Guide? If so what is your opinion?

    1. Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      Hi Karla! I really try to steer people away from COUNTING PRAL in their diet. Goodness knows the LAST thing kidney patients need is more numbers to track. Instead, think about PRAL as a big picture reason WHY it is so important to avoid too much animal protein and eat PLENTY of fruits and veggies. ALL fruits and vegetables will have a negative PRAL value and ALL animal protein (other than dairy) will have a HIGH positive PRAL value.

      I am aware of this book, but not familiar enough with it to give an honest review.

  6. I have stage 3 a kidney desease and have just been diagnosed with pre diabetes, I find the diets for both conditions can conflict…. What foods are best avoided with the two conditions please?
    Thanks.

  7. Kathleen Bennett

    I can’t gag down any oatmeal or milk. I eat eggs or egg whites most for breakfast, many times with 1/4 C. white or red onions, Low fat Feta cheese & 1/4 cup fresh tomatoes, or omelet with low fat sharp cheese. Sometimes soft egg on white toast, but now I looked on the bread bag & it does mention “monocalcium phosphate”, but not how much. I have CKD stage 3 & so does my husband. My regular Dr. does not seem bothered by that!! I was never told that I had it. I just happened to notice it on my “going home” papers after my yearly check up a couple years ago. Recently read that we can reverse the stage, but I don’t believe we are careful enough about our diets. We are both up in age/seniors. I have had a kidney stone for about 15 years that is somewhere that they don’t want to break it up, apparently. I’m now sure if I should be writing all this here, or if there is a way to privately send to you. I want to be more proactive for our health. I lost 25 lbs last year on “17 DAy diet plan” book over 4 months. but I’ve gained 18 pounds back & feel like my stomach is even bigger.

  8. Jeanette Marlatt

    I’m confused on the PRAL for rolled oats and quick oats -are they as drastically that much higher than steel cut or instant? Or are they less than 1.0?

  9. In the chart the PRAL is almost the same for instant and steel cut, but rolled and quick are 100 times higher. Is it possible it’s a typo and the decimal if in the wrong place? Also, I make steel cut oats in the Instant Pot, 3 minutes in high pressure, then let it release naturally. i makes enough for 4 or 5 days and just put individual bowls inn the fridge, then add blueberries and walnuts or alminds when eating them. I lost about 40 pounds slowly by just removing processed foods from my diet.

  10. Great new ideas for an oatmeal lover like me!
    Questions –
    The steal cut packages I was eating said they had 10% daily phosphorus, which I assumed was the natural amount (not added) but wasn’t sure about that. Also, does a natural amount have to be listed if 10% or higher, and which is the U.S. 100% used (I’ve seen 700, 1000 and 1250!) ? Last question – what percentages of phosphorus in oats just go right through us vs being absorbed in the gut?
    Many thanks for any/all info!!!
    JS

    1. Betz MS, RD, CSR, FAND

      I’m so glad this was helpful! Both natural and artificial phosphorus will be included in that actual AMOUNT of phosphorus on the label – this is why we really do not recommend people actually COUNT phosphorus anymore – since there is such a large difference in how much of that phosphorus will be absorbed based on source. Like all plant foods, only about 30-50% of phosphorus will be absorbed – this article is a good one to check out to learn more!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

X
Scroll to Top