Choosing the Best Milk for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients


Mar 10, 2023

Choosing the Best Milk for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients

Milk Options for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients

If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), you may have wondered about the best milk to consume. While many lists suggest avoiding cow’s milk and opting for almond milk instead, it’s important to consider individual nutritional needs. In this guide, we will discuss the key factors to keep in mind when choosing milk products or non-dairy alternatives, such as almond, oat, or soy milk.

Protein: How Much Is Too Much?

As a CKD patient, you may be following a low-protein diet. Cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein per cup, which can be a significant amount in your diet. Non-dairy milks like almond or oat have less protein, with around 1 gram per cup. Soy milk, on the other hand, contains higher amounts of protein. Choosing a non-dairy milk can help you stay within your protein targets. However, tracking your foods is essential to ensure that you meet or exceed your protein needs.

Phosphorus: A Key Consideration

Phosphorus buildup in the blood is a common problem for CKD patients. Too much phosphorus can lead to weakened bones and hardening of blood vessels. Cow’s milk is a good source of phosphorus, with 237 mg per cup. However, this may be a significant amount if you are on a phosphorus restriction. Non-dairy beverages tend to have less phosphorus naturally, but they may also contain added phosphorus, which should be avoided to prevent weakened bones. Look for the letters “PHOS” in the ingredient list to identify foods with added phosphorus. Remember to read food labels frequently, as manufacturers may change the ingredients often.

Calcium: Meeting Your Needs

Healthy kidneys can activate vitamin D and help absorb calcium. With CKD, however, the kidneys may not produce enough active vitamin D, leading to a calcium deficiency or excess. Cow’s milk and non-dairy beverages contain roughly the same amount of calcium (around 300 mg per cup), making either a good choice for meeting your daily calcium needs. Regular bloodwork can help you determine if you need to adjust your nutrition accordingly.

Potassium: Monitoring Your Intake

The potassium content of non-dairy milk varies, with soy milk containing the highest amounts. Some non-dairy milks may also contain potassium additives, such as potassium citrate or dipotassium phosphate. If you are on a potassium restriction, avoiding potassium additives can help. Check the food label for potassium content to find low-potassium options if needed. Keep in mind that not everyone needs a potassium restriction.

Fat and Sugar: Making Healthier Choices

Both heart and kidney disease are common among CKD patients, so it’s important to choose low-fat products (2% milk fat or less) when consuming cow’s milk. Non-dairy beverages are often a great low-fat alternative. When it comes to sugar, opt for unsweetened varieties to limit added sugars and reduce inflammation.

Working with a renal dietitian can help you plan meals that meet your blood work while preserving your kidney function. Below are some of our favorite non-dairy beverages:

  • Almond Milk: Silk (original, chocolate, unsweetened vanilla, vanilla), Earths Own (unsweetened original, original, unsweetened vanilla, vanilla)
  • Cashew Milk: Silk (original, unsweetened original, unsweetened vanilla), Earths Own (unsweetened original)
  • Coconut Milk: Silk (original, unsweetened original, unsweetened vanilla)
  • Oat Milk: Earths Own (oat original), Elmhurst (unsweetened oat milk)

Choosing the Best Milk for CKD

In conclusion, choosing the best milk or non-dairy alternative for CKD requires careful consideration of individual nutritional needs. Cow’s milk contains high amounts of protein and phosphorus, which may be problematic for CKD patients. Non-dairy alternatives like almond, oat, or soy milk have lower protein and phosphorus levels, but they may contain added phosphorus or potassium. Therefore, it is essential to read the food labels and consult with a renal dietitian to ensure that your diet meets your specific needs.

By keeping protein, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, fat, and sugar content in mind, CKD patients can make informed decisions about milk and non-dairy beverages that can help them meet their nutritional needs and preserve their kidney function.


This blog was based on a post written by Emily Campbell and published here with her permission. The original post can be found here.

Related Article

What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)?

What Do Your Kidneys Do?

Protein and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

Phosphorus and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

Potassium and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

About Emily Campbell

Emily Campbell is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator with a Master of Science in Food and Nutrition who lives in Toronto, ON. Over the years, she has experience working with individuals with a variety of kidney conditions to help them improve their eating; and preserve their kidney function through her career in hospitals as well as her private practice Kidney Nutrition. Not only does she have experience as a renal dietitian with patients, but she also has family members living with kidney disease so she understand the stress and complexities mealtime and celebrations can present. She has been practicing as a renal dietitian for over six years and am also is a two-time cookbook author of The Complete Renal Diet Cookbook and Renal Diet Cookbook for Caregivers.

Patient Education Disclaimer

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the advice or counsel of a doctor or health care professional. KidneyLuv makes every effort to provide information that is accurate and timely, but makes no guarantee in this regard. You should consult with, and rely only on the advice of, your physician or health care professional.

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