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The Mediterranean Diet for Kidney Disease

The Mediterranean diet is a plant-heavy diet eaten by people living around  the Mediterranean Sea. It places a focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables and good fats from healthy oils, nuts, and seeds. It emphasizes moderate protein intake and leans away from things like pork and red meat and toward fish and beans, though it doesn’t exclude anything. Processed foods and sweets are rarely eaten, but not completely restricted either. 

The diet also includes regular exercise. You don’t have to lift weights or run a 5k or anything. Just 20 minutes of aerobic exercise daily can provide health benefits!

Cheese, salmon, grilled vegetables, and greens rest on a cutting board.
The Mediterranean diet is plant-heavy and loaded with healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants.
The Pillars of the Med Diet:

  • Focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole-grain bread products, and potatoes

  • Dairy, fish, and poultry are consumed regularly, but not daily

  • Extra-virgin olive oil is primarily used

  • Eggs are eaten about half of the days of the week

  • Red meat is not commonly eaten - think once a week or less

  • Wine is consumed regularly with meals, but not excessively

  • Sweets are uncommon and usually saved for special occasions.

This sounds like the layout for a pretty healthy diet, but is it healthy for kidney disease?

The Mediterranean Diet for Kidney Disease 

The Mediterranean diet is a fantastic plant based diet for kidney disease! It isn’t a cure all. But, the nutrients found in the diet like fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants can all contribute to improved kidney health. When followed by people who have CKD or end-stage renal disease, the Med diet has been linked to:

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Increased blood sugar control

  • Decreased inflammation

  • Decreased progression to later stages of CKD

  • Improved bowel movements

  • Decreased potassium in the blood

  • Decreased phosphorus in the blood

  • Decreased mortality

It likely helps kidney patients because it limits highly processed foods that may be high in sodium and additives made with potassium and phosphorus. These additives are easily absorbed by the body and can build up in the bloodstream when the dysfunctional kidneys can’t get rid of the excess. 

The Med diet is naturally low in sodium and contains minimal additives. So, the potassium and phosphorus that exist in the diet are naturally occurring and are not absorbed as well as those that are added to foods during processing. This can result in improved labs, lower blood pressure, and less stress on the kidneys which can slow down the progression of kidney disease.

Mediterranean Diet for Diabetes

Nearly half of people living with kidney disease also have diabetes. In fact diabetes — especially when it is uncontrolled — can cause kidney disease! It’s important to make sure that that diet that you’re following for your kidney disease is also going to help you to control your diabetes. 

The Mediterranean diet has been found to decrease HgA1C by up to .6% in people living with type 2 diabetes. This improvement is likely due to the high fiber content and the anti-inflammatory benefits of the Med diet.

The Mediterranean Diet vs DASH diet for CKD

You may have also heard of the DASH Diet. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet — I know, it’s a mouthful. I didn’t name it! — was developed by the National Institute of Health in 1997 to — you guessed it! — stop hypertension. 

Much like the Med diet, the DASH diet focuses heavily on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and encourages limiting fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and added sugars. It also recommends alcohol rarely, if at all. But, it doesn’t make any specific recommendations for what you should drink.

Nutritionally speaking, the two diets are nearly identical. Both diets yield similar results: improved blood sugar control, blood pressure, kidney function labs and decreased inflammation. What matters is which one works for you!

The DASH diet, because it was developed by a panel of government-appointed healthcare professionals and scientists, has guidelines that I’ve linked to this article. These guidelines may make the DASH diet a better fit for some people who want a solid set of rules — especially people who like to meal prep. 

But, because the Med diet is just the eating pattern of people who live around the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a bit more forgiving and doesn't really have a list of rules. Personally, I prefer the Med diet because I don’t feel like I’ve done something wrong when I have a cookie. It’s just become my “occasional sweet” and I move on with my life and don’t think about it anymore. But, that’s just what works for me.


The Mediterranean and the DASH diets are both really great for kidney health. I usually recommend the Med diet to my kidney patients because it’s a bit more flexible, and for some, that’s a bit easier to maintain. But, if you like a solid list of rules, the DASH diet may work better for you. And when it comes to kidney disease, the best diet is the diet that you’ll stick with.

So, whether you like the more solid guidelines that the DASH diet provides or a looser set of pillars that the Mediterranean diet has, there’s a diet that can help you eat well and take control of your kidney health. If you like the Med diet, but you’re not sure where to start, check out my 7 day meal plan for kidney disease with a Mediterranean twist!


Brandy Winfree, RDN smiling at the camera.

I'm Brandy Winfree, RDN.

When I was working in dialysis, I saw so many patients who had no idea that diet plays a HUGE role in kidney health.

I decided then that I needed to pass my knowledge onto people with kidney disease BEFORE they went into kidney failure. Not after.

That's why I became a board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition and why I started this blog. 

You deserve to take care of the kidneys that you have now and I want to share my knowledge with you to make that happen.

Are they any topics that you'd like to hear my thoughts on?

Shoot me a message here.

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