Protein and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet


Oct 7, 2022

Protein and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

Protein and the Renal Hemodialysis Diet

What is the right amount of protein you should be eating on a daily basis?  Prior to starting dialysis treatments, it's very likely you were on a diet low in protein.  However, now that you are  receiving dialysis, you need a higher protein diet. The correct information for each patient is so important to their care and although we live in an information age, we need to be careful about all the misinformation out there!  Your healthcare provider and dietician should always be your number one source of information.

Dialysis removes protein waste from the blood so the low protein diet you may have been following before is no longer needed. Once you have started dialysis, a higher amount of protein in your diet is necessary to help maintain blood protein levels and improve health.

We all need protein in our diet every day.  Protein is used to build muscle, heal, fight infection, and stay healthy.  Without protein our bodies would be unable to heal from injury, stop bleeding, or fight infection. Protein plays a key piece in staying healthy. 

Hemodialysis patients are encouraged to eat high quality protein because it produces less waste for removal during dialysis. Most people on dialysis need to eat at least 6 to 9 ounces of good-quality protein each day. Good quality protein comes from meat, poultry, fish and eggs.. You should avoid processed meats. These have higher amounts of sodium and phosphorus.


In the following video developed by UC San Diego Health, dietician Christy Turner discusses the importance of eating the right amount of protein for patients with Chronic Kidney Disease. The transcript of the video is below.

Video Transcript

Hello, welcome to the University of California San Diego Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) program my name is Christy Turner and I am the registered dietitian. My role is to help our patients understand their diet for kidney disease.  In this module I will review the importance of eating the right amount of protein for your kidney health.

 Eating the right amount of protein is important for patients with kidney disease.  Your body needs protein to help build muscle, hea lfrom injury and fight infection.  If you have kidney disease, you may need to limit how much protein you eat.  Having too much protein can cause waste products to build up in your blood.  A kidney diet is not a protein restricted diet.

The goal is to eat enough protein but avoid eating too much most people need between 40 to 65 grams of protein each day. Most Americans eat far more than the recommended amount of protein each day.  Your recommended daily protein depends on factors such as your body size, your stage at kidney disease and your nutritional status.  Protein intake should not be too low or it may cause other problems such as loss of lean muscle mass.

Your kidney doctor and dietician can work with you to help you understand how much protein you should be eating. There are two types of protein in the food we eat. Animal protein is called high value protein.  It is easier for your body to use.

Examples of high value animal proteins are lean red meat, chicken, turkey, pork, eggs and dairy products.  Vegetable or plant proteins are low value proteins examples of low value proteins are breads, grains, dried beans, ricea nd pastas.

Most protein in your diet should come from high value animal proteins.  Choosing more heart-friendly animal proteins though that are lower in fat and cholesterol is recommended for patients with kidney disease.  Some examples of good choices would include fish and seafood, lean beef, chicken breast and low-fat dairy products.  

True or false?  If you have chronic kidney disease you should avoid eating protein.

False, the goal is to eat the right amount, but not much

True or false?   Chicken breast is a high-value protein.  

 True, chicken as well as other animal proteins are considered high-value proteins.

Congratulations, you have completed the module on protein intake and Chronic Kidney Disease.  Please check our website for additional educational modules on kidney health.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


UC San Diego Health

About the Author

Elizabeth Custer

Elizabeth Custer is a registered dietitian at Huntington Health and USC Arcadia.  She completed her Bachelor's Degree in clinical nutrition at University of California Davis, and dietetic internship at Sacramento State University.  She has worked in many settings including acute hospital, sub-acute, skilled nursing, psychiatric, outpatient, retirement, and convalescent facilities. As a registered dietitian, her primary role includes assessing patients, providing nutrition education, and implementing medical nutrition therapy for a variety of medical conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, and more. Her passion lies with direct patient care and her experience in clinical, food service, and managerial roles has allowed her to deliver high-quality, evidenced-based strategies to promote health, well-being, and manage nutrition-related diseases. Elizabeth presented her research paper on food insecurities among students at the California Association of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Conference in 2018.

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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