Want To Prevent Kidney Stones? Say Goodbye To Animal Protein
Kidney stones are no joke – and they are affecting about 1 in 11 Americans. These teeny-tiny crystals can cause excruciating pain. If you have ever had one before, you absolutely never want one again. But the problem is this: they often do come again.
While there are quite a few methods, supplements, and lifestyle choices that can help prevent a stone from forming, one of the biggest contributors comes from diet change.
Science has shown that one very specific type of food brings up the odds of developing a kidney stone. And it is one that you are, unfortunately, probably eating every single day – even multiple times a day.
Animal protein. AKA: meat, eggs, milk, and dairy. For many people, limiting a staple food source like animal protein may seem disheartening. But the science truly does back up its effectiveness. The reward is fewer (or no) kidney stones.
I am going to show you the studies linking animal protein to kidney stones, and then we will go over some great non-meat protein sources to add to your diet.
Why You Need To Say Bye-Bye To Animal Protein
Let’s start by looking at a population study released all the way back in the late 1970s. The researchers found that eating more calcium or oxalate or magnesium did not increase kidney stones. This is fairly surprising considering so many stones are made up of substances like calcium and oxalate.
Kidney stones are no joke – and they are affecting about 1 in 11 Americans.
But you know what the study did show? The connection between higher animal protein intake and higher risk of kidney stones. Not just any protein, but animal protein in particular. So the protein you would get from beans or quinoa do not yield the same negative results.
In the same decade, researchers looked at six men with normal health. They had each of the men eat an extra 34 grams of animal protein everyday. What does 34 grams of animal protein look like?
- About 4 ounces of 95/5 ground beef
- Around 8 slices of bacon
- Approximately three ounces of chicken breast
Not that much.
At the end of the study, researchers measured the subjects’ urinary calcium, oxalate, and nitrogen. They determined the risk of kidney stones had gone up by 250% – just by adding those extra 34 grams of animal protein.
This idea was confirmed once again in 2014. A population study of over 51,000 peopled showed vegetarians had lower risk of developing kidney stones than those who consume animal protein.
(Study Side Note: Beyond limiting animal protein, this study also showed that too much zinc could also lead to more kidney stones. On the opposite side, fresh fruit, whole-grain cereals, and magnesium were shown to have the opposite effect. So a bowl of oats, berries, and sliced almonds is a great breakfast choice to ward of kidney stones!)
Which Meat Is The Worst Choice?
If you are wondering which animal protein options have the highest consequences for kidney stones, you will not get a super clear answer.
Fish causes uric acid to go up a bit, and beef may increase “stone forming propensity” only marginally, but overall – all meats are relatively similar when it comes to upping your kidney stone odds.
This means a pescatarian (vegetarians who also eat fish) can potentially have the same problems by eating their meat of choice as a full meat-eater will. The goal should be to limit all meats, eggs, and dairy products.
Best Ways To Get Enough Vegetarian Protein
If you are kidney stone prone, you now know to lay off the meat. But that does not mean you should quit the protein altogether. Protein is essential for overall health – including kidney health.
Below you will find some great vegan alternatives. I will also add their protein content based on an average serving size. All of these are naturally gluten free as well.
- Lentils: 18 grams of protein in 1 cup
- Black Beans: 8.9 grams of protein in 1 cup (cooked)
- Kidney Beans: 8.7 grams of protein in 1 cup (cooked)
- Great Northern Beans: 8.3 grams of protein in 1 cup (cooked)
- Quinoa: 8.14 grams of protein in 1 cup (cooked)
- Peas: 8 grams of protein in 1 cup
- Peanut Butter: 7 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons
- Almonds: 6 grams of protein per ounce
- Spinach: 5 grams of protein in 1 cup (cooked)
- Artichokes: 4.2 grams of protein in 1 (medium sized)
- Guava: 4.2 grams of protein in 1 cup
- Chia Seeds: 2.5 grams of protein in 1 tablespoon
- Hummus: 1.1 grams of protein in 1 tablespoon
Other great swaps are:
- Coconut milk or almond milk (instead of regular cows milk)
- Flax seed “eggs” for baking
When you have been cooking with animal protein for so many years, it can be difficult to figure out how to start making vegetarian/vegan meals. Here is a video of 3 tasty vegan sandwiches to get you started. If you are inspired, her entire YouTube channel is full of vegan meal ideas:
Animal Protein, Kidney Stones, and You
Some people only limit animal protein intake. For example, they may commit to vegan lunches. (After all, remember how much of a difference only 34 grams of animal protein can make). Others take it all the way into full veganism.
The level you get rid of animal protein is up to you and the medical professionals in your life. But no matter what – do not confuse all of this with eliminating protein altogether.
Exactly how much protein you should be getting each day depends on you, your lifestyle, and your individual body. Talk to your doctor, naturopath, or nutritionist about the amount they recommend for you each day.
If you still find yourself with a kidney stone, make sure you drink plenty of water to help it pass. You should also try taking Chanca Piedra, which means, “stone breaker.” This supplement can help break up a kidney stone so it passes more quickly and with less pain.