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Why is good nutrition important?

When on dialysis, what you eat and drink affects your body significantly since your kidneys can't process toxins. When you are diagnosed with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and are on dialysis, your diet will change. Examples of changing your diet include reducing your sodium intake and maintaining a healthy protein level.

The foods you eat will help you control your blood pressure and manage other medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease. Good nutrition provides energy, improves strength and helps you maintain a healthy weight. It can also help you prevent infection and avoid excess toxin build-up.

Here are some suggested foods that will help you stay healthy on dialysis.


Nutrition Handouts

Renal Ventures is dedicated to giving our patients helpful ideas on healthy diets. Below are handouts to give you information on nutrition.

Nutritional Basics Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24.png

Diabetes Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24.png

Protein Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24.png

Phosphorus Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24.png

Nutrition Basics

Three-RVM-cookbooks_horizontal.jpgWhen you reduce your sodium intake, maintain a healthy protein level, and make other dietary changes, you'll feel better. Good nutrition provides energy, improves strength, helps you maintain a healthy weight and prevents toxin build up.

You should limit your intake of phosphorus, sodium, and fluids.  Protein and potassium are essential to your diet, so work with your dietitian to find the right balance.


Phosphorus is a mineral that, along with calcium, supports bone strength. Normal functioning kidneys remove extra phosphorus from the blood. Extra phosphorus depletes calcium from the bones, making them weak and brittle. In addition, it can lead to dangerous calcium deposits in your blood vessels, lungs, eyes and heart.

dark_chocolate.PNGFoods high in phosphorous:

  • Processed meats    
  • Dried beans, nuts and seeds
  • Chocolate   
  • Dark soda
  • Dairy products
  • Phosphorus-laden preservatives

How to control phosphorus levels:

  • Consult with your doctor and dietitian
  • Avoid foods and beverages high in phosphorous
  • Consider phosphate binder medications taken with snacks


salt_v1.pngLess than 1500 mg per day of sodium is more than adequate for your body's needs. Too much sodium causes thirst, swelling, and high blood pressure. It can also lead to other problems, such as left ventricular hypertrophy - a thickening of the muscle of the left ventricle of the heart - which can be a reaction to high blood pressure.

How to control sodium levels:

  • Avoid processed meats
  • Use fresh herbs and salt-free spices
  • Choose "no added salt" and unsalted snacks
  • Homemade meals vs. fast food or prepackaged meals
  • Limit your portions




Protein comes primarily from animal sources, such as meats and fish, and is used by the body to make muscle tissue. The average person needs to eat between 40 and 65 grams of protein each day. However, too much protein can increase toxin build up. Your dietitian will be able to tell you how much protein is right for you.

- More information on protein




bananas_v1.pngPotassium is an electrolyte found in many food sources and is essential for proper muscle and nerve function. Potassium levels may increase when kidneys are unable to secrete what the body does not need.

Potassium levels that are too high (hyperkaleimia) or too low (hypokalemia), can lead to cardiac arrhythmias. Signs and symptoms of abnormal potassium levels are fatigue, difficulty breathing, or palpitations. It is very important to eat the right amount of potassium. If your potassium becomes too high, it can cause an irregular heartbeat or a heart attack.

- More information on foods high in potassium

Fluid Restricted Diet

Your doctor will let you know if you should be on a fluid restricted diet. Some of the symptoms that may prompt this recommendation include weight gain in excess of one pound a day, swollen ankles/feet/face, decreased urine output, and difficulty breathing.

To determine what your ideal fluid intake per day should be, add four cups to how much urine you produce. A fluid is defined as anything that is liquid at room temperature. One way to limit fluids would be to cut your salt intake, which causes you to be thirsty.

Nutrition Summary

Eating right and adhering to a special diet can not only make you feel better, it can help with your treatment. Eat moderate levels of protein and watch your consumption of sodium, fluids, potassium, and phosphorous.

Your Renal Ventures nutritionist can help you to understand the importance of your diet. Your doctor will follow your progress with lab tests, blood pressure tests, weight monitoring and more to ensure that you are eating right.