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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or diagnosis from a physician.
Twenty years ago very few soy foods were readily available at your local grocery stores. A trip to the Asian market or health food store was the best way to find soy, but that has changed dramatically. Today the offerings at most grocery stores include soy beans (edamame), soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soy protein powder, soy nuts and a large variety of meat analogs made from soy.
So how can soy products fit into a kidney diet? Consumption of soy foods, particularly soy protein, offers several benefits to people with chronic kidney disease (CKD), dialysis patients and those with a kidney transplant. Similar to animal protein, soy is also a high quality protein. Unlike meats, soy protein is cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. Soy is plant-based and contains isoflavones, known to reduce inflammation and act as an antioxidant.
In CKD patient studies, replacing animal protein with soy protein reduces the loss of protein in the urine (proteinuria). Another benefit of soy protein is it lowers LDL cholesterol. Soy has also been shown to reduce the rise in triglycerides following a meal which may be important in reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
Soy products are made from soy beans which are naturally high in potassium and phosphorus. Unfortunately, this information is rarely available on the nutrition facts label. Use the Food Analyzer on DaVita.com to check the amount of potassium and phosphorus in soy products. The amount of sodium in soy foods ranges from low to very high, so reading labels is essential.
People who are allergic or sensitive to soy, and those with thyroid problems, should avoid soy based on foods and drinks. There is also concern about the high level of isoflavones in soy which has an estrogen-like effect in the body. For this reason, it is recommended to keep soy intake to a moderate amount.
There are many soy products available, but not all are suitable for a kidney diet. Work with your dietitian when adding new soy foods to your diet. Learn about some soy products below.
Soy protein isolate
Texturized soy protein (TSP)
Soy foods may be beneficial for people with kidney disease as a low-saturated fat, cholesterol-free meat replacement, and may reduce proteinuria when used as a substitute for animal protein. A registered dietitian can provide information and help people plan individualized kidney-friendly diets including some soy products.
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