By: Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN, PatientsLikeMe Contributor
Has Dr. Google told you that you can’t eat beans when you have chronic kidney disease? If so, you are not alone! One of the most common things I hear from those with chronic kidney disease is that they avoid beans at all costs. Before you start avoiding beans with CKD, let’s talk about why beans can fit into a kidney-friendly diet!
All about beans
Beans are a powerhouse of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They contain fiber, protein, potassium, phosphorus, carbohydrates, healthy fats, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and more. Because of this, they are often demonized in the kidney disease community. One thing that you need to know is that beans are not off-limits when you have CKD! In fact, they can be a great part of a kidney-friendly diet. It’s important to talk about the different nutrients in beans first so that you can better understand why beans can fit into your diet.
Potassium – Beans have potassium in them, which is why many people say they are a food to avoid if you have CKD. However, that is poor advice because many other foods also have potassium in them, like chicken, fish, beef, and dairy products. If you swap your chicken or beef for beans, you will be including more plant-based foods and fiber in your diet while still getting in a similar amount of potassium. A more plant-based diet rich in fiber has been shown to help better manage overall kidney health. Remember, not everyone with chronic kidney disease needs to limit potassium in their diet so it’s important that you check with your doctor and healthcare team before making any dietary changes. Try working with a renal dietitian to better understand your nutritional needs!
Phosphorus – Beans have phosphorus in them, but this phosphorus is not well absorbed in the body due to their bioavailability. The suggested absorption rate of plant-based forms of phosphorus is estimated to be about 30-50%. This means that you could eat a food that states it has 100mg of phosphorus in it and really only be getting about 30-50mg of phosphorus from it.
Protein – Beans contain plant-based protein as opposed to animal proteins like chicken, fish, beef, and dairy products, which contain animal-based protein. Studies have shown that a plant-based diet can help to manage kidney health, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight better than an animal-heavy diet. If you are new to including beans in your diet, try swapping out a more animal-based meal once/a week for a more plant-based meal. For example, try making black bean burgers instead of beef burgers.
Sodium – Canned beans often contain sodium, so it’s important to look for lower sodium options. Try to choose canned beans that say “low sodium” or “lightly salted”. You could also buy raw beans and cook them yourself to avoid any added sodium.
What beans can you have if you have CKD?
All beans can fit in a kidney-friendly diet but keep in mind that many vary in potassium content. Check out these bean options with their corresponding potassium content below:
- Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans (~190mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
- Kidney beans (~350mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
- Navy beans (~350mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
- Black beans (~305mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
- Pinto beans (~375mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
- Great northern beans (~340mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
- Lima beans (~475mg potassium per ½ cup cooked)
How much can you have?
Everyone has different nutrient needs, and therefore it’s hard to say how much beans every individual should have. A good serving size of beans is ½ cup to 1 cup of cooked/canned beans. This may vary depending on your hunger levels, medical history, bloodwork, and more. Be sure to check with your renal dietitian before making any changes to your diet.
Recipes with beans
- Zucchinii, black beans, and rice: https://www.davita.com/diet-nutrition/recipes/vegetables/zucchini-black-beans-and-rice-supper
- Low sodium pinto beans: https://lowsorecipes.com/low-sodium-pinto-beans-recipe/
- Low sodium refried beans: https://losofoodie.com/low-sodium-refried-beans-recipe/
- Low-sodium veggie burger with beans: https://www.thekidneydietitian.org/low-sodium-veggie-burger/
- Low sodium chickpea burger: https://www.hackingsalt.com/low-sodium-chickpea-burgers-tahini-sauce/