15 Kidney-Friendly Protein Foods for Keeping Albumin Up

Albumin is a protein found in the blood, and is essential in maintaining growth and repairing tissues. A healthy albumin for people with kidney disease is 4.0 g/dL or higher.

You can maintain or improve albumin by knowing how much protein to eat, and by including protein-rich, kidney-friendly foods each day. If you’re not on dialysis and are on a lower-protein kidney diet, at least half your daily protein allowance should come from high-quality protein sources. It’s important to make sure your protein intake comes from high-quality sources, such as these foods:

1. Burgers

Made from turkey or lean beef, both of these protein sources give you iron to help prevent anemia. A 3-ounce cooked burger has 21 grams of good-quality protein.

2. Chicken

Protein from chicken can range from 14 to 28 grams. Use fresh meat products and avoid pre-made roasted chicken and other processed meats, which often contain large amounts of sodium and phosphorus. This excess sodium and phosphorus isn’t good for patients with chronic kidney disease.

3. Cottage cheese

Compared to milk, yogurt and cheese, cottage cheese is lower in potassium and phosphorus. Sodium is still a concern, but it’s easy to create a meal low enough in sodium to include cottage cheese when it’s paired with low-potassium fruits such as berries or peaches.

4. Deviled eggs

Snacking is a great way to sneak in extra protein. One deviled egg contributes 6 grams of protein.

5. Egg omelet

Try the DaVita.com kidney-friendly Denver Omelet recipe, which has 17 grams of high-quality protein.

6. Egg whites

Egg whites are a great, easy source of protein. Two egg whites provide 7.2 grams of protein.

7. Fish

Fish, such as salmon, mackerel and rainbow trout, and even shrimp, are great protein choices. A 3-ounce portion of cooked fish has approximately 15-21 grams of protein.

8. Greek yogurt

When eaten as a meat replacement, Greek yogurt may work into your meal plan, with a cup adding 22 grams of protein to your diet. Ask your dietitian for individual recommendations.

9. High-protein smoothie

Smoothies are quick and easy to make. In addition to your favorite fruit, include a low-potassium milk substitute and protein powder or pasteurized egg product.

10. Meat substitutes

Veggie burgers, veggie sausage and veggie crumbles are easy to find meat substitutes. Be sure to watch out for higher sodium, potassium or phosphorus, and check with your dietitian to learn about the best choices.

11. Nutrition drinks

Nepro®, Suplena®, NovaSource Renal®, Nutren Renal® and ReGen® are some kidney-specific nutrition drinks available for dialysis diets or CKD non-dialysis diets that are also good sources of protein. Often these products are used as dietary supplements when a person is unable to eat enough.

12. Pork chops

In addition to high-quality protein, pork chops are a good source of iron and thiamine. A 3-ounce cooked chop provides 20 to 26 grams of protein.

13. Protein bars

Pure Protein®, Premier Nutrition®, Balance Bars®, Zone Perfect®, EAS Myoplex®, ProMax®, PowerBar® and Atkins Advantage® offer several kidney-friendly bars. Look for bars that contain more than 15 grams of protein, below 150 mg phosphorus and less than 200 mg potassium and sodium.

14. Protein powder and liquid protein supplements

Protein powders and liquids provide a concentrated protein source that can be added to foods or beverages. Check with your dietitian before consuming protein powder or liquid protein supplements.

15. Tofu

Tofu, made from soy beans, comes in varying textures, and can be an acceptable protein alternative to meat, poultry and fish. A 1/2 cup of tofu can have 7 to 13 grams of protein.

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Eating Out

See kidney-friendly food and drink choices to consider when eating out at your favorite restaurants. Choose from 12 cuisine types.