If you have type 2 diabetes (T2D) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), figuring out what to eat may feel overwhelming. Your doctor can help you to monitor your nutrient levels through blood work and come up with a balanced eating plan.
Nutrition labels tell you which nutrients are in the foods you eat and in what amounts. Reading and understanding nutrition labels can help you better navigate food shopping, meal planning, and healthy eating.
Here are the main things to look for on nutrition labels when you are eating to manage T2D and CKD and lower your risk of heart disease:
Nutrition labels are standard on packaged foods. They help you understand what vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are in the food.
The serving size lets you know what portion of food contains the amount of nutrients listed on the label.
Of course, you may eat more or less than one serving, which will increase or lower the amount of nutrients you eat.
Ingredients are listed in order from the largest amount (by weight) to the smallest.
If an ingredient is listed near the top of the list, the product has more of it. Ingredients further down on the list are present in smaller amounts.
Sodium is a component of salt, so when we talk about sodium, we’re really talking about salt. Many packaged foods contain added salt.
If you have CKD, you may need to limit your sodium intake. Look for foods with less than 10 percent DV.
Too much sodium can also raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease.
Protein is concentrated in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Protein helps maintain your muscle health. But eating the right amount of protein is important. Too much or too little can affect your kidneys and overall health.
Talk with your doctor or dietitian about the right amount for you.
Phosphorus is found in many foods, including dairy products, meats, and meat alternatives.
Not everyone with CKD needs to limit phosphorus. Regular blood work will allow you and your healthcare team to track your levels.
If you have been told to lower your phosphorus levels, look for products with less than 15 percent DV.
If you have CKD, consider avoiding phosphate additives. These are especially hard on your kidneys.
Check the ingredient list and avoid products with ingredients that end with “phosphate.”
Potassium is found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, bran, nuts, and seeds.
If you have CKD, you’ll likely have regular blood work done to check your potassium levels. When your levels are in your target range, you may not need to restrict your potassium.
If your levels tend to be high, you may need to lower your potassium levels by choosing foods with less than 6 percent DV of potassium.
Many people with T2D monitor their carbohydrate intake. Your doctor can tell you what amount of carbohydrates is recommended for you.
There may be natural and added sugars in products.
Sugars, whether natural or added, are a type of carbohydrate and can raise blood sugar levels, which can negatively affect you if you have T2D.
Sugar can also raise triglyceride levels, which are a type of fat found in the blood. High triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease.
There’s no daily value for total sugars because they can be naturally occurring in foods such as fruits and dairy products.
For added sugars, look for products with little or no added sugar, with 5 percent or less DV, whenever possible.
Fiber is found in foods like whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.
Fiber can help you manage cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Generally, higher fiber foods are healthier. Look for foods that contain 20 percent or more DV for fiber.
Many sources of fiber are also high in potassium, phosphorus, or both. If you’re finding it hard to eat enough fiber, talk with your doctor or a dietitian who specializes in kidney disease.
Saturated fats are found in higher-fat meats and dairy products and coconut oil. This type of fat may raise cholesterol levels.
High cholesterol levels can increase the risk of heart disease.
Managing your diet can be confusing when you are trying to balance T2D, CKD, and heart health. There are many nutrients to consider, and it can get complicated.
There’s no one T2D or CKD diet. Talk with your doctor to find out what nutrients are most important for you to monitor, and use nutrition labels to help guide your food decisions.
Last medically reviewed on June 10, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Jun 10, 2022
Carly Werner
Edited By
Molly McCann
Medically Reviewed By
Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Copy Edited By
Stassi Myer – CE
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