Healthy eating for diabetes and chronic kidney disease

Healthy eating for diabetes and chronic kidney disease

Diabetes and chronic kidney disease (CKD) affect millions of Americans. Nearly 1 in 3 American adults who has diabetes also has CKD.1 While there is currently no cure for either of these diseases, following a healthy eating plan may help you better manage your symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes overview

Most people diagnosed with diabetes have type 2 diabetes. With this type of diabetes, your body does not respond to insulin the way it should. As a result, there is too much sugar in your bloodstream, which may lead to serious health problems.2

However, type 2 diabetes can be managed by staying active and eating healthy. A healthy eating plan for diabetes is rich in fruits and vegetables and includes healthy fats and lean protein. Limiting salt, sugar, and any food high in refined carbohydrates (such as cookies and crackers) also helps contribute to a healthy meal plan.

CKD overview

It is estimated that at least 1 out of every 7 American adults has chronic kidney disease, which means their kidneys are damaged and unable to filter blood as they should, preventing the complete removal of excess fluid and waste from the body. CKD may lead to other health issues such as heart disease and stroke.3

As with diabetes, healthy eating can help manage CKD. The specific eating plan you should follow depends on whether you’re in early-stage or late-stage CKD, and if you are on dialysis. Individuals with CKD should speak with their doctor, and/or meet with a registered dietitian trained in CKD nutrition to make the healthiest choices.3

If you have CKD, you should limit the amount of sodium in your diet. Lower sodium intake helps lower blood pressure and decrease the buildup of fluid in your body, a common side effect of kidney disease. Eating more fresh and homemade foods, and fewer packaged and restaurant foods, are an easy way to reduce sodium intake.

Depending on your diagnosis, you may need to limit the amount of phosphorus, potassium, and protein you eat.1

  • Phosphorus helps keep your bones strong. However, with kidney disease, too much can weaken bones and damage the blood vessels, eyes, and heart. Foods high in phosphorus include meat, dairy, beans, nuts, whole-grain bread, dark-colored sodas, and many packaged foods.
  • Potassium can be beneficial to your muscles and nerves. Yet if you have CKD, consuming too much potassium can cause it to build up in your blood, potentially leading to heart problems. Eating fewer foods high in potassium like oranges, potatoes, and tomatoes, and reaching for foods that are lower in potassium, like apples, carrots, and white bread will help limit potassium intake.
  • It is important to eat a balanced amount of protein. Too much protein may worsen CKD by making your kidneys work harder.
Healthy options for both diseases

If you have both diabetes and CKD, it may feel overwhelming to choose foods that help manage the symptoms of both diseases. It’s always a good idea to double check with your doctor, but there are many foods recommended for people with both conditions, such as1:

  • Fruits such as berries, grapes, apples, and plums
  • Vegetables such as cauliflower, onions, and eggplant
  • Proteins such as lean meats, fish, and eggs
  • Carbs in moderation, such as white bread, bagels, and pasta
  • Drinks such as water and unsweetened tea

Although there is no cure for diabetes or CKD, managing these diseases through healthy lifestyle choices can make a significant impact on your life. Understanding which foods to eat and which to avoid for both diseases will help you come up with an eating plan that will improve your overall health. Work with your doctor to create a plan that is tailored to your individual health needs.



  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Diabetes and kidney disease: what to eat? February 1, 2019. Accessed February 25, 2019.
  2. Diabetes Basics. July 20, 2017. Accessed February 25, 2019. 
  3. Chronic Kidney Disease Basics. December 6, 2018. Accessed February 25, 2019. 

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