Kidney Disease: Getting the Right Amount of Protein

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Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles and bones along with other important body functions. But as the body uses protein, a waste product (blood urea nitrogen or BUN) is produced. If your kidneys can’t filter wastes from your blood normally, the BUN level increases. If the level gets too high, you can become sick. Because of this, you need to control the amount of protein you eat each day. Use this handout to help you.


Measuring protein content

You know how many grams of protein to eat, but most food portions are measured in ounces. Use the chart below to help determine the protein content of some common foods.

Chicken breast

3 to 4 ounces

21 to 28 grams

Chicken thigh

2 to 2.5 ounces

14 to 18 grams


3 ounces

21 grams

Pork chop

2 to 2.5 ounces

14 to18 grams

Roast beef

3 ounces

21 grams


3 to 4 ounces

21 to 28 grams


3 to 4 ounces

21 to 28 grams


1 egg

7 grams


1 ounce

7 grams

Most beans

4 ounces

7 to 10 grams


2 ounces

5 grams

Most nuts

2 ounces

5 to 8 grams

If you eat too much protein

Eating too much protein may cause the following:   

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Fatigue

  • Mental confusion

  • Increased potassium levels

  • Increased phosphorus levels 

  • Increased time on hemodialysis

  • Risk of speeding the loss of kidney function 

If you eat too little protein

Eating too little protein may cause the following:

  • Muscle loss, weakness

  • Fatigue

  • Weight loss

  • Slower wound healing


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