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Can Plant-Based Diets Help Prevent Kidney Disease for People with Type 2 Diabetes?

Choosing soy protein (such as tofu and soy beans) and other vegetable protein sources instead of meats may mean a lower risk of kidney disease for people with Type 2 diabetes. Vegetarian diets may decrease the amount of protein lost in urine, the renal acid load, and renal hyperfiltration. This is thought to possibly help prevent kidney disease. The research is considered preliminary and based on small studies however.

There are other benefits of following a vegetarian diet. They may help in weight control, diabetes control, and preventing heart disease as well as certain types of cancers. Soy proteins may also help decrease blood pressure. Meats contain saturated fats and cholesterol, whereas vegetable and soy proteins are generally low in fat and saturated fat, and plant foods do not have cholesterol in them. Vegetarian diets also contain more fiber, and may have more phytochemicals: disease fighting substances found in many fruits, vegetables, and plant foods.

Some people also choose to limit meat for ethical reasons, as well as to help protect the environment: less energy is needed to produce vegetable protein than meats and milk.

These are some ideas of vegetarian foods you may wish to try*:

  • Whole wheat wrap with hummus (chickpea spread) and vegetables
  • Lentil and vegetable soup or minestrone soup
  • Tofu, nut, and vegetable stir-fry with rice (Tofu is soy bean curd. It is white and mild flavored, and can be firm or soft)
  • Chili made with beans
  • Lasagna with vegetables, tofu, or soy cheese
  • Sietan or wheat gluten
  • Tabbouli - a middle eastern wheat bulgur salad
  • Enchiladas or burritos with black beans
  • More plant-based recipes

*This article is intended to help prevent kidney disease. If you've been told to limit your potassium or phosphorus or are on dialysis, discuss your personal dietary needs with your dietitian or nephrologist.

Want an easy way to start eating less meat? Go Meatless Monday every week, and get regular tips and recipes by following #MeatlessMonday and learning more at

Jenkins DA, Kendal WC et al. Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2003; 78 (suppl): 610S-6S

Last Reviewed: 07/24/2018
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