Low-Protein Diets

 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)

A low-protein diet is any diet in which the protein intake is reduced. Anyone diagnosed with kidney or liver disease may be prescribed a low-protein diet.

In any case, a diet which is especially low in protein should only be undertaken under medical direction.

Why is a low protein diet necessary?

Protein is needed, but can cause problems for diseased organs

low-protein-diet

Protein is necessary for a healthy body. When protein is metabolized by the liver and digested, urea is produced as a waste product. If the liver is diseased, then food metabolism is compromised.

If the kidneys, which are responsible for excretion of urea, are not functioning properly (renal failure), or if high levels of protein are continually present in the diet, urea builds up in the bloodstream causing loss of appetite and fatigue. A low-protein diet will reduce the workload on these organs.

It is usually the case that serious liver and kidney disease are accompanied by the need to limit salt or sodium intake due to high blood pressure or fluid retention. Table salt (the primary source of sodium in the diet) should therefore be limited, along with other foods with a high sodium content, as an additional feature of the low-protein diet.

Too much protein can worsen your health

It is generally accepted that a healthy person needs 40-60 grams of protein each day to remain in good health. However, it has been reported that the amount of protein typically consumed by people in affluent societies (American diet typically comprises 12-15% protein) may overtax the kidneys – to the extent that up to 30% of kidney function may be lost by the time someone is in their eighties.

High-protein diets for weight loss often recommend 30% or more protein in the daily diet, and in prolonged use can cause serious metabolic changes leading to bone loss and kidney stones!

Reduced protein intake can improve your health

Low protein diets (4-8% protein) are used routinely to treat patients with liver disease, kidney (renal) failure, and disorders involving the urea cycle, the metabolism, and amino acids.

How is a low-protein diet achieved?

Reduce the amount of protein

Some of each type of protein should still be consumed each day from the two main sources:

  • Animal products (fish, poultry, eggs, meat, dairy products) – considered high quality or complete protein.
  • Vegetable products (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, dried beans) – considered low quality or incomplete protein.

Click Here for over 100 very low protein recipes.

To reduce the amount of protein consumed, protein foods in recipes can be ‘stretched’ (to consume less) or reduced as against more of the low- or non-protein foods (less in proportion), making a smaller amount seem just as satisfying.

Sandwiches
  • Use thinly sliced meats.
  • Fill with salad items like lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, chopped celery, apple, parsley or water chestnuts.
Soups
  • Use lower protein foods (milk substitutes for cream soups, or rice or pasta) to make soups as filling but with less protein.
Main Dishes
  • Make the main dish of vegetables and grains, and treat meat as the side dish to your meal.
  • Use small pieces of meat and more vegetables in kebabs.
  • Make fried rice with vegetables and use less meat or shrimp.
  • For salads use crisp, fresh vegetables and only a few small strips of meat and egg.
  • For casseroles, reduce the amount of meat and increase the starch, pasta or rice. In recipes using soup, use a low sodium mix.
  • Use low-protein pastas and breads in the diet.
  • For cheeses, use smaller amounts of stronger-tasting cheeses (sharp cheddar, parmesan or romano) for plenty of flavor.

Boost calories to compensate

Decreasing protein in the diet may also mean a reduction in calories. To compensate so as to maintain a healthy weight, increase calories by substituting or adding certain ingredients with minimal protein content, such as:

  • Increase heart-healthy fats like monounsaturated vegetable oils (olive, avocado) and mayonnaise-type salad dressings.
  • Use candy and sweeteners (hard candy, gum drops, jelly beans, marshmallows, honey, jam and jelly – even sugar (diabetics need medical advice).
  • Use canned fruits in heavy syrup.

Sample low protein menu

Breakfast
  • Cheerios cereal or equivalent ¾ cup (3g)
  • non-dairy creamer ½ cup (0g)
  • ½ medium banana (.6)
  • orange juice ½ cup (.8g)
Snack
  • 1 cherry fruit roll up (0g)
Lunch
  • 2 slices white bread (1.6g)
  • turkey breast 1 oz/28 g (4.8g)
  • lettuce (0g)
  • tomato ½ cup (.8g)
  • green beans ½ cup (1.2g)
  • mayonnaise 3 tsp (0g)
  • 1 medium apple (.3g)
  • fruit punch 4 fl oz/118 ml (0g)
Snack
  • 1 popsicle (0g)
Dinner
  • lean hamburger 2 oz/56 g (10.5g)
  • white rice ½ cup (2.2g)
  • broccoli ¼ cup (.9g)
  • cauliflower ¼ cup (.6g)
  • tossed salad (1.5 cups) with 2 Tbsp ranch dressing (3g)
  • pineapple ½ cup (.2g)
Snack
  • gum drops 1 oz/28 g (0g)

Sample low protein menu contains

  • Protein: 30.5 grams
  • Calories: 1442
  • Fat: 48 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 237 grams
  • Sodium: 1270 mg
  • Potassium: 2282 mg

See Also

The Kidney Diet – Reveals how Kidney disease can be treated using dietary measures. Includes over a 100 kidney disease fighting recipes.

    References:

  • Kopple, J. D., Levey, A. S., Greene, T., Chumlea, W. C., Gassman, J. J., Hollinger, D. L., … & Zimmer, G. S. (1997). Effect of dietary protein restriction on nutritional status in the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Study. Kidney international, 52(3), 778-791. link
  • KOPPLE, J. D., & COBURN, J. W. (1973). METABOLIC STUDIES OF LOW PROTEIN DIETS IN UREMIA: I. NlTEOGEN AND POTASSIUM. Medicine, 52(6), 583-595. link
  • Fouque, D., Laville, M., Boissel, J. P., Chifflet, R., Labeeuw, M., & Zech, P. Y. (1992). Controlled low protein diets in chronic renal insufficiency: meta-analysis. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 304(6821), 216. link
  • Fouque, D., Laville, M., & Boissel, J. P. (2009). Low protein diets for chronic kidney disease in non diabetic adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 3. link
 By Mizpah Matus B.Hlth.Sc(Hons)
Last Reviewed: December 10, 2014. Disclaimer

95 Comments

  1. Lorena may 7 mins ago

    Hello please help I want to lose weight am a post renal transplant patient.i want go on a low protein diet.how much protein am I supposed to eat in my condition?

    Reply
  2. Ravi Myatra

    Uric Acid is detected in my blood report docter has asked me take low protein diet can u plseae suggest me a what are fruits and vegetables that have low protein and what other things are good for me.
    Thanks

    Reply
  3. Dennis Strahan

    Have had diabetes since two yrs old am now forty nine doc says I have kidney damage and should get on a low protein diet thanks for your input.

    Reply
  4. Ms. S

    Just bought the Kidney Diet Secrets and although it contains some good info I found it confusing that it touts a low protein diet (less than 25g) and yet their daily sample menu’s are 70g of protein.

    Shouldn’t the daily sample menu’s provide menus for a diet of less than 25g of protein?

    I wouldn’t buy this book if you are looking for help and sample menus for a low protein diet.

    Reply
  5. Jake Ross

    I started having some kidney problems 3 years ago and my crea abruptly dropped to very dangerous levels. I thought surgery or dialysis was the only way to go but the good thing is, I found nurse rachelle gordon’s “Kidney Diet Secrets”. I tried it started getting results after 3 weeks or so.

    I highly recommend her guide ebook for anyone who has kidney disease as its very thorough and it comes with recipes and diet plans.

    If you need more help, let me know. Ill be coming back to this site. 🙂

    All the best,
    Jake R.

    Reply
  6. Eric

    General principles are good. How about diet for diabetic with somewhat more, but high quality calories — no candy, etc. I would also like to see sample diets for a few days, not just one day, to help me determine more acceptable food options for such a low protein diet, since I will have to eat according to its principles for the rest of my life.

    Reply
  7. Linda Page

    I had my right kidney removed 30 yrs ago and half of my left kidney removed 6 months ago due to cancer. Since I only have a partial kidney left and I am 65 yrs old, I have to watch my protein intake because as a normal part of aging our kidneys lose some function and urea can create serious problems for our kidneys. So I am on 30 grams of protien or less daily as a preventitive measure to keep my remaining partial kidney working for as long as I can. So just because a person consumes a high amount of protein daily and has healthy checkup now does not mean that the person will continue to have healthy, funtioning kidneys and other organs as that person ages. We have to think about the longevity of our bodies and not just how we feel today. I limit myself to 4 ounces of meat/fowl/fish twice a week and eat only vegetables the rest of the time. I also limit my intake of carbs and sugar because I do not need to add a risk of diabetes to my overall health. There are lots of vegetables and fruit out there to keep me healthy as I plan on living to be at least as old as my mother is now which is 94. I drink lots of water, restrict salt and use herbs/spices instead, no caffeine, use sugar substitute and read all food labels.

    Reply
  8. Mom of a kid on low protein diet

    @ Steve, I believe the article out line some danger of a too high protein diet. My daughter is on a strict low-protein diet due to a metabolic disorder. What the article suggests is what we have followed for hte past 13 years and she is in great health. For those individuals that a low-protein diet is benefical, it would serve them well to look into how a lower protein diet could help their health. It is great to hear that you are in prefect health, but a high protein diet is not good for everyone. The suggested menu is a well around plan for those looking to lower their protein. There are some great websites and low protein products that you can research because at some point you may have to stop eating as much protein espcially if your muscles become less active with age or lifestyle. Just my two cents

    Reply
  9. grace

    I need help making a menu 4 myself for a low protein, low sodium and low potassium diet..jus need an example for a week…pleas help thank u 🙂

    Reply
  10. ron rivers

    im on a low protein low sodiue diet can you please send me a 7 day meal plan and tips on snacking,i always feel hungry,i currently have sirrosis to the liver

    Reply
  11. Steven

    Its actually hilarious, popsicles, white rice, its as if you’re telling people to spike their insulin continuously until they’re insulin resistant and type 2 diabetic. Folks dont listen to these liars.

    Reply
  12. Steven

    I’m calling Bull@*$t on that its unhealthy to eat a lot of protein. I eat about 30% of my diet in protein and have done so for years. I semi annually get a comprehensive bloodtest and have been doing so for 6 years and my urea is high but who cares, it doesnt matter. On another note in your opinion high urea causes liver and kidney problems, however my liver and kidneys function perfectly and have perfect blood levels. My doc even says that high protein diets are healthy and that protein being bad for you is made up. I digress, but I thought I’d speak my mind and let you hear the lunacy in the statements given in the page above. BTW what have our ancestors ate for millions of years? High protein, high fat diets, with barely any carbs so there.

    Reply
  13. JAN RUNYON

    My brother has been diagnosed with liver failture and his doctors stress low protein diet. Do you have a sample 7-day low or no protein diet that a single sick man can follow?

    Reply
  14. SHAHUL

    pls advice, i have skin problem since 2 years, when i checked the blood, infection in liver, they are saying body produce more toxin
    pls advice

    Reply
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