Low-Protein Diet: When to Go Through It

A low protein diet is usually prescribed to help address specific health issues.

Low-Protein Diet

Going on a low-protein diet is not really for the purpose of weight loss. A low protein diet is usually prescribed to help address specific health issues. Some research has also discovered that low protein diets could be the key to longevity and sets up a defensive barrier in the body to fight off chronic diseases.


What Is a Low-Protein Diet?

A crucial macronutrient in foods is protein. Although consuming a  moderate amount of protein in your daily diet is beneficial to gain muscle mass—too much protein in the body can cause some serious health conditions.

A low protein diet basically requires a restricted amount of protein intake based on your recommended daily calorie allowance. This translates to about 4-8% or 20-50 grams of protein only of your daily allowance of calories as the average person would need  10 -15 % of protein a day. Athletes usually require a little more.

Because protein is vital for the body to be in optimum health, reducing the amount of protein for certain people with specific health issues can be just as therapeutic.

It is not as easy to go on a low protein diet as this can lead to some degree of nutritional deficiencies and cause other health conditions. Careful meal planning is required to be able to maximize the benefits of the foods you eat.


Who Needs a Low Protein Diet?

Although the average person typically consumes 10% of protein from different food sources with no issues, some people have trouble tolerating high levels of protein in the body. When an individual has difficulty processing protein and protein waste, these create a build up in the system that can cause several uncomfortable symptoms like nausea and vomiting. To the extreme, it can even lead to brain damage for those with a compromised state of health. Your doctor will require you to go on a low protein diet if you have these specific health issues:

Kidney disease

People suffering from kidney disease and are not on dialysis can benefit from a low protein diet.  This will relieve the stress of processing protein from their kidneys and keeps urea from accumulating in the bloodstream.

Urea is a compound produced by the body when it digests protein. When the kidneys are in good health, urea is normally excreted through urine. However, when the kidneys are impaired, urea builds up in the blood and causes fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite.

A low protein diet can slow the progression of kidney failure and buy more time before one needs to undergo dialysis.

Diabetic Nephropathy

This condition is also another form of kidney disease but is induced by diabetes.  Going on a low protein diet may slow down the symptoms of this condition, however, those in the early stages may not even experience any symptoms  which includes:

  • Swollen feet, ankles, hands and puffy eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Uncontrollable blood pressure
  • Less need for diabetic meds
  • Confusion
  • Protein in urine


This condition is an inherited disorder which hampers the body’s ability to process an essential amino acid called methionine. When methionine begins to accumulate, the individual may start to experience problems with vision as well as deteriorating bone health. A low protein diet is recommended for the treatment of this condition.

Phenylketonuria (PKU)

Although this is a rare condition, a person afflicted with this may have to deal with symptoms coordination and seizures. The disease affects the body in such a way that it does not produce the necessary enzyme to break down phenylalanine which is an essential amino acid. Anyone with PKU who continues to consume a  protein-rich diet encourages the build-up of phenylalanine and cause neurologic symptoms.

PKU treatment entails a lifelong commitment to embracing a very low protein diet.


Benefits of a Low Protein Diet

People without kidney problems may also benefit from a low protein diet. Studies have shown that a low protein diet may reduce the possible development of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, Some report that a diet of low protein and high carbs can help in the protection of the brain and delay the onset of cognitive decline in elderly people.


Possible Side Effects of a Low Protein Diet 

Because protein is crucial to growth and development—protein deficiency may also have ill effects to some degree when one goes on restrictive protein intake. Issues such as impaired immune function, decrease growth in kids and muscle loss are not something you can easily brush off. Anemia, hair loss, bone density loss, and a fatty liver can also follow suit.

Vegans mostly have to deal with these health issues because protein substitutes can only go so far as to cover the nutritional benefits that come from animal protein sources.


What Can I Eat?

Here’s a list of healthy and nutritious low protein foods:

  • Fruits: bananas, grapefruit, apples, berries, pears, peaches
  • Vegetables: legumes, leafy greens, tomatoes, pepper, asparagus, broccoli, and leafy greens
  • Healthy fats: coconut oil avocado oil, olive oil
  • Grains: rice, pasta, oats, barley bread

Stretching the protein you eat fools the body into thinking that the small amount you have been eating is enough to satiate and satisfy you. Here are a few samples of how you can extend protein in recipes.

  • Sandwiches filled with thinly sliced meats and a good mound of lettuce, alfalfa, cucumber, chopped celery, parsley, water chestnuts, and a good ole apple!
  • Soups that contain milk can be done with milk substitutes and even be used to make cream soups or pasta sans the presence of too much protein
  • Entrees. Kebabs are best because are only a small chunk of meat with more veggies on the skewer. Fried rice loaded with veggies and less meat or shrimp goes a long way.

The following is a list of foods to avoid if you are on a low protein diet:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Nuts, nut butter, seeds
  • Soy foods, tofu, and tempeh
  • Fish, shellfish
  • Beans, legumes, peas, lentils
  • Dairy products – milk, cream, and cheese, eggs


Lastly, do remember that only people with kidney-related health issues are required to follow a low protein diet and pack on loads of veggies and a healthy dosage of fats. No doctor will recommend a low protein diet to an individual without any health concerns because nutritional deficiencies may arise from a low protein diet.

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