Best Yogurt for Kidney Disease

Yogurt is a popular food item in many households. You can eat it on it’s own or use it as an ingredient in a lot of recipes. If you have chronic kidney disease, you may be wondering if you can continue to enjoy yogurt in your daily diet, and the answer to that is….probably, but with some caveats. Keep reading to learn more (including the best yogurt for kidney disease).

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Why is yogurt good for kidneys?

Before we talk about some of the concerns with yogurt, let’s start by talking about one of the major benefits of yogurt (aside from enjoying the taste!).

Yogurt contains probiotics. Maybe you’ve heard of probiotics, maybe you haven’t. Probiotics are living micro-organisms (such as bacteria) that produce health benefits when they are consumed. These micro-organisms set up shop in your gut and feed off of things like fiber (which is one reason it is important to get plenty of fiber in your diet). Probiotics have been associated with:

There are more benefits to consuming probiotics beyond what I mentioned above, but hopefully you realize now that including yogurt and other fermented foods in your diet can be really beneficial.

Why might yogurt be bad for kidneys

Protein Content

Traditional dairy-based yogurts are high in protein. If you have Chronic Kidney Disease and are following a lower protein diet, the amount of protein in dairy based yogurts may be too much. If you are on dialysis and have higher protein requirements, the protein content of yogurt may not be an issue.

A typical serving of yogurt can contain anywhere from 8 to 20g of protein. Depending on your protein needs, 20g of protein could be almost 50% of your daily protein allowance for the day! Much like milk, plant based yogurts tend to be lower in protein and are easier to fit into the CKD Diet.

Low Phosphorus Yogurt

Many yogurts (both dairy and plant-based) contain phosphorus additives. Sometimes these are added to the food as a calcium supplement (for example: the tricalcium phosphate in the Yoplait yogurt below) while other times it may be added to improve the creaminess or texture of the yogurt.

Phosphorus additives are more easily digested by your body and can result in your body getting more phosphorus than it can handle. As kidney function goes down, your body is not able to remove extra phosphorus from the blood.

Too much phosphorus in the blood is associated with vascular calcification and other cardiovascular problems, so controlling phosphorus is important for keeping your cardiovascular system healthy.

While many yogurts contain additives, there are plenty out there that do not contain additives. It is important to read ingredient lists when shopping for a yogurt to ensure that you are not purchasing one with phosphorus additives. For some more detailed information about phosphorus additives, you can watch our video on YouTube.

Dairy-based yogurts also contain natural phosphorus. Although phosphorus additives are one of the primary drivers of excess phosphorus in the diet, dairy foods tend to be higher in phosphorus than plant-based yogurt alternatives. A 6 ounce container of coconut yogurt contains only 3.4mg of phosphorus while a 6 ounce container of plain whole milk yogurt contains 162mg of phosphorus.

Non-dairy yogurt alternatives with no phosphorus additives will be the lowest phosphorus yogurt.

Low Potassium Yogurt

Plant based yogurts will be lower in potassium than dairy based yogurts.

Since dairy based yogurts are made from milk, they will contain similar amounts of potassium as milk. In general, higher fat dairy based yogurts will be lower in potassium than lower fat dairy based yogurts, so if you prefer dairy based yogurt and need to be mindful of potassium, then focusing on full fat dairy will help you find a lower potassium yogurt.

potassium in yogurt whole milk vs non fat

If you read food labels, you may find some lower calorie yogurts that are lower in potassium. For example, a 60 calorie Activia yogurt reports having only 210mg of potassium per serving. However, it is important to note that the serving size is 33% smaller than a typical yogurt cup, so having less potassium would be expected.

The regular Activia yogurt cups are even lower in potassium with a reported 170mg per serving, however those yogurt cups are higher in sugar. This is a good example of why focusing too much on finding the lowest potassium food is not always the best strategy. The lowest potassium foods in a given food category will often be the ones highest in sugar. Despite being low in minerals, added sugar is not considered a kidney friendly food.

Many people with Chronic Kidney Disease do not necessarily need to limit their potassium intake. If you have taken our course, you know that there are other things that may be causing your high potassium levels besides food AND that if you are putting all of our strategies into place, it is unlikely that you would have a high potassium diet.

That being said, if you do need to limit your potassium intake, then choosing a plant based yogurt may be the best option. Some plant based yogurts report containing zero potassium, however it is important to understand that even if food labels list potassium as zero, they may still contain some potassium.

why potassium label says zero

According to the FDA regulations, manufacturers are not required to list out the potassium content of a food if it contains less than 2% of the Recommended Daily Intake. The RDI for potassium is 4,700mg, so anything containing less than 94mg of potassium can omit it from the label or indicate that the food item is “not a significant source of potassium”. They can even list it as zero!

According to the USDA, coconut yogurt contains 46mg of potassium per 6oz serving (so not exactly “zero”, but still quite low).

Sodium in Yogurt

In general, we consider a food to be low in sodium if it contains less sodium than calories. Since yogurt is made from milk, which naturally contains sodium, most yogurts will contain some sodium.

However, the majority of yogurts do not contain added sodium. Less than 16% of the yogurts listed in the USDA Branded Food database in October 2023 contained added sodium and less than 8% of yogurts reported have more sodium than calories.

Yogurts that are more likely to have more sodium than calories are lower calorie yogurt, such as non fat yogurts. In general, we recommend avoiding products that are advertised as low fat, reduced fat, or fat free. Removing fat often removes flavor from foods, and manufacturers then try to make up for the lost flavor by adding more sodium or sugar to foods.

Additionally, people following a lower protein diet often need to eat more fat to help meet their calorie needs, so choosing lower fat foods is not recommended.

If you’re avoiding low-fat and nonfat yogurts, then it is VERY unlikely that you will come across a high sodium yogurt. The vast majority of yogurts are considered low sodium foods.

Calcium in Yogurt

Most yogurts contain roughly 15% of the daily value of calcium. The calcium content of plant-based yogurt alternatives will vary depending on whether or not the manufacturer chooses to add calcium.

Some people with kidney disease need to be careful to avoid consuming too much calcium. If you are consuming a plant-based diet with limited dairy, it is unlikely that you are getting too much calcium and need to limit it.

If your doctor or dietitian has indicated that your calcium levels are too high, it is unlikely that a single serving of yogurt is what is causing it to be high. A dietitian would be able to do a thorough review of your diet, medications, and supplements to determine the true culprit of a high calcium.

If your doctor or dietitian has recommended that you limit your calcium intake, then review the nutrition labels of different yogurts and choose one with less calcium. Many yogurts contain calcium additives, so choosing a yogurt with no added calcium would be a better option. There are several plant based yogurt options listed below that contain very little calcium.

What type of yogurt is best for diabetes?

If you have kidney disease and diabetes, you will also want to focus on finding a yogurt that is higher in fat. Fat will help slow down the digestion of the carbohydrates and prevent spikes in blood sugar.

You will also want to compare brands to find one that is lower in sugar. Many people with diabetes prefer to purchase unsweetened yogurt so that they have control over adding their own non-caloric sweetener (such as stevia).

People with diabetes should also consider what they are eating their yogurt with. Good things to pair yogurt with would include high fiber fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries. Fiber also help slow down the absorption of carbohydrates to prevent blood sugar spikes. You can also add in kidney friendly nuts for some additional fat and fiber.

free medicare appointments with a dietitian for CKD

Types of Yogurt for Kidney Disease (lowest protein first!)

Is coconut yogurt good for kidneys?

Coconut yogurts are typically low in potassium, protein, and phosphorus (as long as they don’t contain additives). Many coconut yogurts do contain phosphorus additives, so be sure to read ingredient lists to see if there are any ingredients with “PHOS” listed.

Oui by Yoplait Dairy Free Yogurt

  • Calories: 150
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrate: 19g
  • Fat: 8g
  • Sodium: 20mg
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium: 0mg
  • Calcium: 125mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 12g
The Oui line includes several different flavors of coconut based yogurt that are all kidney friendly. These have only 1g of protein and zero potassium (so they are great for anyone who truly needs to watch their potassium intake). This brand is fairly high in sugar for anyone who is trying to watch their sugar or carb intake. If you have diabetes, you would want to be sure to pair this yogurt with a high fat item like nuts and a high fiber fruit like berries to create a diabetes and kidney friendly meal. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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So Delicious Coconut Yogurt

  • Calories: 130
  • Protein: 0g
  • Carbohydrate: 22g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Sodium: 30mg
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium: 0mg
  • Calcium: 230mg
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugar: 15g
This is probably one of the more common brands that you see at grocery stores. They are all low protein, low sodium, and low potassium. The catch? MANY flavors contain Phosphorus Additives. Be sure to check labels. The kidney friendly yogurt flavors we found without phosphorus additives include: Coco Almond Crunch, vanilla (but not the unsweetened version), strawberry, strawberry banana, raspberry, plain (but not the unsweetened), Peach, Key Lime, Chocolate, and Blueberry. Also note that these products are higher in carbs/sugar and lower in fat than some other coconut yogurts. If you have diabetes, you would want to be sure to pair this yogurt with a high fat item like nuts and a high fiber fruit like berries to create a diabetes and kidney friendly meal. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Culina Coconut Yogurt

  • Calories: 220
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carbohydrate: 11g
  • Fat: 17g
  • Sodium: 25mg
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium: 180mg
  • Calcium: 25mg
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Sugar: 9g
This kidney friendly yogurt is a bit pricier than some of the other coconut yogurts, but you are getting MORE calories with each tub, so it may actually be a better value than the others. These are higher in plant-based fats while still being low protein, low sodium, low potassium, and very low in calcium. If you have CKD and Diabetes, then this yogurt is a great option due to the lower carbohydrate content and higher fat content. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Is almond yogurt good for kidneys?

Almond based yogurts tend to be a bit higher in protein than coconut yogurts, but the main problem is that (at the time of writing this post), they all appeared to contain phosphorus additives. These are NOT kidney friendly yogurts.

Is cashew yogurt good for kidneys?

Cashew yogurts are typically low in potassium, protein, and phosphorus (as long as they don’t contain additives). Many cashew yogurts do contain phosphorus additives, so be sure to read ingredient lists to see if there are any ingredients with “PHOS” listed.

Forager Project Cashew Based Yogurt

  • Calories: 140
  • Protein: 3g
  • Carbohydrate: 19g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 10mg
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium: 2mg
  • Calcium: 14mg
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 12g
These kidney friendly yogurts come in a variety of flavors that are all low protein, low sodium, and low potassium. These are higher in carbs and sugar for anyone who needs to be watching their intake of those. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Is milk based yogurt good for CKD?

All milk-based yogurts will tend to be higher in protein. If you love milk-based yogurt, talk to a dietitian about how you can incorporate these into your diet. People who have CKD and diabetes may have higher protein needs and can more easily incorporate a milk based yogurt into their diet. However, many of the lower protein milk-based yogurts are high in added sugars, so people with diabetes would need to keep that in mind.

Dairy based yogurts will also tend to be higher in potassium, which may be a concern for some people with kidney disease. Be sure to read labels to determine whether a yogurt contains phosphorus additives.

Is Oat yogurt good for CKD?

Oat based yogurt seems to be the newest type of non-dairy yogurt. Currently, there is just one type of oat based yogurt that does not contain phosphorus additives.

Nancy’s Oatmilk Yogurt

low phosporus low potassium oatmilk yogurt
  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 5g
  • Carbohydrate: 11g
  • Fat: 6g
  • Sodium: 55mg
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium: 40mg
  • Calcium: 150mg
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Sugar: 0g
This plant based yogurt has more protein that other plant based yogurts, but may still be an option for the CKD diet. It is low in potassium and contains no phosphorus additives. It also contains more fiber than other yogurts and has zero sugar, which would make this a very diabetes friendly yogurt. To find a store, you will need to check the manufacturer’s website as it does not appear that this yogurt is available in major retailers like Amazon just yet.

Is Greek yogurt good for CKD?

Greek yogurt is known for being the highest protein yogurt, which means it is not a kidney friendly yogurt for people with CKD and not on dialysis. We recommend that you avoid this kind of yogurt (including the plant based Greek-style yogurt!) if you are following a lower protein diet.

If you are on dialysis, then Greek yogurt may be a good option. Talk to your dietitian about your calcium and potassium needs.

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