When you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, your doctor likely gave you several recommendations. Many of those recommendations probably centered on your diet. And it’s true, your diet makes a significant difference in the health of your kidneys. There seems to be a bit of confusion around whether eating fish on a renal diet is recommended. Let’s talk about adding fish to your diet.
Reasons to Eat Fish If You Have Kidney Disease
One of the biggest types of foods that you want to eliminate, or dramatically reduce, are things like cured meats. You also need to avoid foods that are high in sodium, potassium, or phosphorus because your diseased kidneys can’t function and filter when those nutrients are high. However, most types of fish aren’t high in sodium, potassium, or phosphorus and they provide a number of healthy benefits.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Many cold water fish like salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are protective, and they help reduce inflammation. And according to the National Kidney Foundation, omega-3 fats may slightly lower blood pressure on your blood vessels. As high blood pressure is a risk factor for kidney disease, finding natural ways to lower it may help protect the kidneys.
Because people with kidney disease aren't able to make omega-3 fatty acids, they have to come from your diet. Fatty fish are a great natural source of these healthful fats.
Things to Look for In Fish on A Renal Diet
Not all fish is going to be a good addition to your meal plan or renal diet. With kidney disease, as mentioned, there are some nutrients that you want to avoid. The freshest fish is the best option and an excellent source of nutrients because it won’t have any additives or preservatives. Let’s explore what you want to look for in a kidney-friendly diet when choosing between fish species.
Look for Fish that are Low in Phosphorus
Your kidneys have a difficult time filtering phosphorus. Some fish, like sardines, are high in this nutrient. Fish like salmon, sea bass, and tuna tend to be lower in phosphorus. Consider this when choosing your kidney diet.
Keep The Sodium Content Low
If you’re buying canned fish or packaged fish or fish sticks for example, you’ll want to make sure it’s low sodium. Again, fish like sardines tend to be packed in a salty oil. You may read food labels to prevent choosing these products and increase your opportunity for healthy kidneys. Fresh or frozen fish filets are your safest option for keeping sodium and phosphorus low and improving your kidneys and preventing kidney failure.
Be Aware of Potassium Levels
Generally speaking, the potassium in fish isn’t going to be a problem if you’re keeping your potassium level low in other foods. It’s important to be aware of your potassium because your kidneys can’t filter it. When your blood potassium levels become high, it can be dangerous and result in progression of kidney disease and even further kidney damage.
Fish like halibut, tuna, cod, and snapper tend to be high in potassium. Whereas tuna, perch, salmon, and haddock have less.
What Fish to Eat for With Kidney Disease for Patients on Dialysis?
The good news is that most types of fish are good for you, some are better for your kidneys. The following are types of fish that are considered healthy foods for a renal diet and relatively easy to find in a supermarket. (They’re also generally budget friendly and easy to prepare.)
Tilapia – Pan sautéed or baked is the best way to enjoy a tilapia fillet. It’s also low in potassium and phosphorus
Cod – Cod is a cold-water fish which means it’s high in omega 3 fatty acids. It has a light flavor and is easy to add to soups or enjoy baked or broiled.
Sea Bass – This is another fish that is high in omega 3 fatty acids and low in potassium. It has a delicate flavor that’s easy to enjoy.
Salmon – Salmon may be one of the easiest types of fish to find at the supermarket. It has a flavor that most people enjoy and it’s quite easy to prepare. It is packed with omega 3 fatty acids. You can find salmon canned at your supermarket too, just make sure it has low sodium.
Haddock – Like cod, haddock is a cold-water fish that is light, great in soups or plain, and contains a high level of healthy fats.
Tuna – Tuna, canned or fresh, is a healthy and easy to access option. Again, look for low sodium canned tuna.
These are just a few of the many types of fish that you can enjoy on a renal diet. Before we wrap it up, let’s expose one common myth related to fish and kidney function.
Is Fish Bad for High Creatinine?
A large study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease found that fish actually improves the health of kidneys and doesn’t cause protein in the urine. So, while fish may be high in protein, it has protective health benefits for your kidneys.
Choosing A Fish to Eat and Kidney Disease
The bottom line is that a healthy diet matters to your kidney health and your management of your kidney disease. Fish can play an important role in your diet for people with kidney disease. It offers protective benefits including offering healthy fats. It’s also an affordable and versatile protein. And when you’re careful to look at the sodium, potassium, and phosphorus content, you can know that you’re making a good choice for your body.