Using the DASH Diet For Kidney Disease

Should you tweak the popular DASH diet if you have kidney disease?

Managing chronic kidney disease (CKD) usually takes a two-pronged approach. There is what the physician does with the tests and the fancy pills, but then there is what you do at home. And what you do at home is perhaps equally if not more important than what the nephrologist does for you in the office. You need to watch your blood pressure and eat at a kidney-friendly diet.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet eating plan is often recommended for people with high blood pressure. But is it applicable if you also happen to have kidney disease? 

Fresh fruit and vegetables
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

What Is the DASH Diet?

Alarmed at the increasing incidence of high blood pressure (hypertension) in the U.S., the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a multi-center study in 1992 to see how diet influences blood pressure, and what diet plan might be best for keeping blood pressure controlled. It compared typical American diets of the day to other diets, including the so-called DASH diet. In a nutshell, the study found that people who ate the DASH diet showed a significant lowering of their blood pressure in as little as 2 weeks.

The approach emphasizes the intake of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy; while limiting the intake of sodium, sugar, and red meat. It is low in saturated and trans fats and high in calcium, potassium, magnesium, fiber, and protein.

Here is how you should be getting your daily calories if you stick to the DASH plan:

(For a 2000-calorie diet. Table courtesy National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Total fat 27% of calories
Saturated fat 6% of calories
Protein 18% of calories
Carbohydrate 55% of calories
Cholesterol 150 mg
Sodium 2,300 mg
Potassium 4,700 mg
Calcium 1,250 mg
Magnesium 500 mg
Fiber 30 g

Understanding the DASH Diet in Plain English

Knowledge of portion sizes can help the average person understand what to eat and in what quantities. Enter your friendly dietitian, who will put it together for you. Here is what it should look like, based on different levels of calorie intake:

Food group 1,200
Grains 4–5 5–6 6 6 6–8 10–11 12–13
Vegetables 3–4 3–4 3–4 4–5 4–5 5–6 6
Fruits 3–4 4 4 4–5 4–5 5–6 6
Fat-free or low-fat dairy products 2–3 2–3 2–3 2–3 2–3 3 3–4
Lean meats, poultry, and fish 3 or less 3–4 or less 3–4 or less 6 or less 6 or less 6 or less 6–9
Nuts, seeds, and legumes 3 per week 3 per week 3–4 per week 4 per week 4–5 per week 1 1
Fats and oil 1 1 2 2–3 2–3 3 4
Sweets and added sugar 3 or less per week 3 or less per week 3 or less per week 5 or less per week 5 or less per week 2 or less per week 2 or less per week
Maximum sodium intake 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day 2,300 mg/day
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.