What is a low protein diet?
A low protein diet requires one to limit the protein intake each day. Normally, a healthy person is recommended to get 10-15 percent of daily calories from protein to achieve and maintain good health. If you are following a low protein diet, you have to reduce the amount of protein you consume to 4–8 percent of your daily calories. This is equivalent to 20–50 grams of protein per day.
Who should follow a low protein diet?
Protein is a nutrient that is vital to the body for normal growth, repair body tissues, and the ability for our body to fight infection. But some people cannot tolerate high levels of protein.
Low protein diet is recommended for people with impaired liver function and kidney disease. The liver helps you digest proteins while the kidneys take away the waste products of protein digestion. If the body cannot process protein or its waste, these substances build up and cause fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and even symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
This diet is also helpful in easing other disorders that interfere with protein metabolism such as homocystinuria and phenylketonuria (PKU). Following a limited protein diet will reduce the risk of these negative health effects.
There are two main sources of protein in the diet: animals and plants. Higher levels of protein are found in animal products such as poultry, eggs, meat, including fish and other dairy products. Meanwhile, lower levels of proteins are in plant products like grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Dietitians and nutritionists developed the low protein diet to counter the harmful effects that protein can have on people with kidney or liver disease.
Kidney disease happens when the kidneys do not function correctly and they lose their cleaning ability. Two most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure.
People with kidney disease who are not on dialysis can reduce stress on their kidneys and prevent the buildup of urea (a compound that the body produces when a person eats protein) in the bloodstream if protein intake is reduced.
Liver disease refers to any disorder of the liver such as cirrhosis, hepatitis and liver cancer. The liver helps in digestion and removes waste products from blood.
General benefits of a low protein diet
Low protein foods help ease the workload on our kidneys and liver. Its main function is to decrease stress on the kidneys and liver and to prevent worsening kidney or liver disorders. The diet may also reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes as suggested by this research.
Low protein foods:
- Fruits – Apple, banana, papaya, melon, peach, orange, lemon, grapes, etc.
- Vegetables – Leafy greens, carrot, pumpkin, tomatoes, broccoli, etc.
- Grains – Rice, bread, pasta, cereals, etc.
- Fats – Olive oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, butter, margarine, mayonnaise and salad dressing
- Sugars – Candies, cake, marshmallow, lollipop, and granola bars
- Beverages – Water, non-dairy beverages, green tea, soda
High protein foods to avoid or eat in moderation:
- Meat, fish, poultry, eggs
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Soy products
People with liver and kidney related health conditions are recommended to restrict the intake of high amount of proteins in the body. Like any other diets, following a low-protein diet requires careful planning. It may be a challenging for many but with the right planning, a low-protein diet can be healthful and beneficial. If you are considering this type of diet, you should work with your doctor or a dietitian to come up with a plan that’s right for you.
Browse through our blogs to learn more about low protein diet and other health options that will help you with your healthy eating lifestyle.