Kidney Friendly Tortillas

Tortillas are a very versatile food and can be used to make a variety of different dishes. Finding the best tortilla for kidney disease can be tricky, but this guide will help you understand what to look for in a kidney friendly tortilla and where to find them.

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Are flour tortillas bad for kidney disease?

Yes, flour tortillas tend to be very high in phosphorus additives and sodium, which is bad for people with kidney disease. Phosphorus additives can really drive up phosphorus levels, which can damage your cardiovascular system. Too much sodium can cause you to retain fluid and raise your blood pressure.

To clarify, we are talking about standard wheat flour. There are a handful of other types of flour tortillas (like cassava flour) that do not contain phosphorus additives. We did fine ONE flour tortilla brand that doesn’t contain phosphorus (but you do have to cook them before you use them). If you can’t find those and enjoy regular flour tortillas, the best option would be to make the tortillas from scratch.

When making your own tortillas, be sure to make a few adjustments to the recipes:

A typical flour tortilla can easily contain an additional 80-100mg of phosphorus additives. This is because almost all flour tortilla recipes call for the use of baking powder. Baking powder is made of phosphorus (and in some cases, it is 100% phosphorus! Yikes!). We recommend making your own kidney friendly baking powder by combining 1 part baking soda and 2 parts cream of tartar.

We also recommend cutting back on the amount of sodium called for in recipes. This will make your tortillas a bit blander, but I personally think the flavor should be coming from what you put INSIDE the tortillas.

Are corn tortillas good for kidney disease?

Yes, corn tortillas can be an excellent choice for people with kidney disease. Corn tortillas are typically quite low in sodium (some contain no added salt!) and it is usually pretty easy to find a corn tortilla that contains no added phosphorus. Corn tortillas are also gluten free, which is important for anyone who needs to avoid gluten.

Are corn tortillas high in potassium?

No, corn tortillas are considered a low potassium food. Foods containing less than 200mg of potassium are generally considered low potassium foods, and I consider a food to be very low in potassium if it contains less potassium than calories. The nutrition information below is for two La Banderita corn tortillas that have only 52mg of potassium in them.

It can surprise a lot of people that corn tortillas are low in potassium since corn is often considered a high potassium food, but the way in which a food is processed can significantly alter the nutrient profile. In the case of corn tortillas, it seems that a significant amount of potassium is lost during processing.

Are corn tortillas high in phosphorus?

No, corn tortillas are not considered a high phosphorus food. Two corn tortillas would contain an estimated 150mg of phosphorus, and that phosphorus would have very low bioavailability. For plant based foods like corn tortillas, your body only absorbs an estimated 30% of this phosphorus, so they would only have approximately 45mg of phosphorus that is actually absorbed, which is quite low.

What to look for in a kidney friendly tortilla

There are two main things to consider when selecting a tortilla:

Phosphorus

The vast majority of tortillas contain phosphorus additives. In the case of flour tortillas, the phosphorus is typically added as a leavening agent. In our analysis of the USDA food database, we found no ready to eat wheat flour-based tortillas on the market that did not contain any additives (although we did find a couple of sprouted wheat versions, a ready to cook option, and alternative flour tortillas). Similarly, most corn tortillas also has phosphorus additives, however there are still a few options that do not contain additives (which we include below). For some more detailed information about phosphorus additives, you can watch our video on YouTube.

Sodium

Many tortillas contain a high amount of sodium. Too much sodium contributes to high blood pressure and can cause uncomfortable bloating and swelling. An ideal kidney friendly tortilla would more calories than sodium. While there are several brands of tortillas on the market that meet this criteria, you really need to read food labels to be sure that you are not choosing a high sodium tortilla.

Are tortillas okay if I have CKD and Diabetes?

Tortillas are a high carbohydrate food, so these will cause your blood sugars to rise. If you wanted to eat a meal that included tortillas, the tortilla would be considered your starch for that meal and you would need to limit what other starches you chose to eat (e.g. rice or chips).

Also, many of the tortilla options that are low in sodium and contain no added phosphorus tend to be lower in fiber, so be sure that you are filling your tortillas with high fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables and beans. Some tortilla brands will advertise that they are low carb, but these all contain phosphorus additives, unfortunately. There is at least one high fiber option below, however.

Kidney Friendly Tortillas you can buy

Whole Foods Cassava Flour Tortillas

low sodium kidney friendly tortillas
  • Calories: 160
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrate: 34g
  • Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 80mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Potassium: 100mg
  • Calcium: 0mg
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugar: 1g
These kidney friendly tortillas are low in sodium and protein. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Mikey’s Cassava Flour Tortillas

low sodium kidney friendly tortillas
  • Calories: 160
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrate: 34g
  • Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 80mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Potassium: 95mg
  • Calcium: 25mg
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugar: 1g
These kidney friendly tortillas are low in sodium and protein. They are also gluten free and come in several other kidney friendly flavors: Super Greens, Golden Turmeric, Purple Power. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

Food for Life Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Flax Tortillas

low sodium kidney friendly tortillas
  • Calories: 150
  • Protein: 7g
  • Carbohydrate: 25g
  • Fat: 3.5g
  • Sodium: 115mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Potassium: 164mg
  • Calcium: 24mg
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Sugar: 1g
These kidney friendly tortillas are low in sodium, however they are higher in protein compared ot the cassava-based tortillas. The protein content is comparable to whole wheat bread, so these can still be included in a CKD diet if they are paired with some lower protein foods or if you have high protein needs, such as with diabetes. They also make sprouted whole grain tortillas and taco sized tortillas with similar nutrient profile that are low in sodium and contain no phosphorus additives. They also make a low sodium tortilla with zero miligrams of sodium! Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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La Banderita Corn Tortillas

low sodium low phosphorus kidney friendly tortillas
  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 3g
  • Carbohydrate: 19g
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 15mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Potassium: 52mg
  • Calcium: 18mg
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 1g
These kidney friendly tortillas are gluten free and widely available at many retailers. They also come in a kidney friendly white corn and street style flavor. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Mi Rancho Corn Tortillas

low sodium low phosphorus kidney friendly tortilla
  • Calories: 70
  • Protein: 2g
  • Carbohydrate: 15g
  • Fat: 1g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Calcium: 188mg
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Sugar: 0g
This kidney friendly tortilla is gluten free and contains zero added sodium. Note that is does contain added calcium in the form of lime (calcium hydroxide), so this tortilla is a bit higher in calcium compared to others. Click the icon below to check prices and reviews for this product.

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Tortilla Land Read to Cook Tortilla

kidney friendly tortillas
  • Calories: 140
  • Protein: 3g
  • Carbohydrate: 23g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Sodium: 210mg
  • Phosphorus
    Additives:
    None
  • Potassium: 30mg
  • Calcium: 0mg
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugar: 0g
These low phosphorus flour tortillas are NOT considered low sodium tortillas, but they are the only flour tortilla on the market that I have been able to find that contains no phosphorus additives. With a bit of planning, many people can still include these in a low sodium diet. These tortillas are not cooked, so you do have to cook them before you use them, but it only takes a few seconds. You will find them in the refrigerator section of grocery stores.

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What should I do if I can’t find one of these kidney friendly tortillas?

  1. Find a recipe and make it from scratch. Just be sure to substitute kidney friendly baking powder (1 part baking soda + 2 parts cream of tartar) instead of regular baking powder in the recipe. You can also consider adjusting the amount of salt called for in the recipe to make it more kidney friendly.
  2. Ask your grocery store to stock this product. Many grocery stores are willing to stock a particular item. You’ll never know until you ask!
  3. Email food companies! This is not a quick solution, but if we all started to advocate more for what we want and need with food companies, I think they would eventually listen. A LARGE percentage of the US population has kidney disease, and I don’t think food companies even realize that some minor tweaks to recipes would make their products more appealing. I don’t think anyone reads a food label and says “Ew, they didn’t use monocalcium phosphate. I refuse to eat this!”, but we know there are a lot of people with kidney disease who see the “phos” and refuse to buy the item (rightfully so!). If this is something you are willing to do, just search for the product manufacturer’s website, go to their contact message, and send them a message. It can be as simple as “Hi – I have kidney disease and would love to buy your [INSERT PRODUCT NAME] product, but unfortunately it has phosphate additives. I really wish you would consider making this product without phosphorus additives so me and the 40 million other people with kidney disease could enjoy it. Thanks!

A kidney diet that limits or avoids phosphorus additives and keeps sodium less than 2300 mg per day is recommended.

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