Are oats/oatmeal good or bad for kidney disease?

The question that I get asked frequently by my kidney patients is “are oats/oatmeal good or bad for kidney disease?”

I will answer this question by breaking down different aspects of oats in kidney disease because when it comes to kidney diseases no one size fits all.

Every patient’s condition differs from one other. Therefore, dietary recommendations cannot be generalized.

Oats are a kind of grain that is eaten as a popular breakfast meal. 

Back in the days, oats were mostly eaten in European countries but in recent years, due to increasing awareness of eating healthy, oats have found their way into the diets of Indian households as well.

Are oats good for high creatinine?

According to a study done on chronic kidney disease patients, eating oats did not show any changes in creatinine levels in renal patients.

Oats have a significant amount of certain minerals such as phosphorus and potassium. However, they can still be eaten by kidney patients. 


The phosphorus present in the food does not get completely absorbed into the bloodstream. Therefore, when eating a meal that is naturally high in phosphorus, only a portion of it gets absorbed into the bloodstream because it is bound to phytates (an antioxidant) which do not allow the complete breakdown of the mineral in the digestive system.

However, foods that have been fortified (externally added) with phosphorus might get absorbed completely because they do not come from a natural source and are not bound with phytates.

Difference between oats and oatmeal

Oatmeal is a version of oats that undergoes processing to cut back on its cooking time when compared to whole oats which are not as processed as oatmeal and thus need longer cooking time to become fit for consumption.

Oatmeals also contain ingredients other than oats such as added salt and sugar. They may come in different flavors like chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, etc which involves heavy processing.

Different type of oats

There are different types of oats such as instant oats, steel-cut oats, and rolled oats. The difference between them depends on the average cooking time with steel-cut oats needing the longest and instant oats the shortest cooking time.

Whole Oat Groats

Whole oats are the result of harvesting groats (a grain), removing the hulls, and cleaning them. These kinds of oats take the longest time to cook as compared to others because of the minimal processing that they undergo. You can find these types of oats easily in grocery stores.

Steel Cut Oats

Oats are derived from a grain called groats. When the groats are cut into small pieces with sharp steel blades, the resultant product is called steel-cut oats.

The cooking time for steel-cut oats is shorter in comparison to whole oat groats but still longer as compared to rolled oats and instant oats.

Rolled Oats 

Rolled oats are made when the groats are processed, steamed, flattened, and rolled to form flakes. Rolled oats can be cooked much more quickly in comparison to steel-cut oats because the absorption of liquid allows them to maintain their shape while cooking.

Instant Oats

When the rolled oats are steamed longer, you get instant oats. It is the most processed type of oats. Therefore, also the fastest to cook. It can be cooked in a few minutes. It is also available in the market in the name of ‘one minute oats’ due to the minimal amount of time required for its cooking. 

How oats are good for kidney disease?

Minimally processed oats can be an essential part of a kidney disease diet due to their rich nutritious content. Oats can aid in improving digestive and heart health. Oats are rich in a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan which signals the liver to remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from the blood. 

People suffering from renal diseases may also suffer from digestive issues such as constipation. Since oats are rich in fiber, they can aid in preventing and relieving constipation. 

It contains a soluble fiber that promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. This improves the overall gut health and prevents diseases that arise from the gut.

Oats are also rich in various vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B1 (Thiamine), B5 (Pantothenic acid), iron, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. These are needed by the body to function without any deficiencies. 

How oats can be bad for kidney disease?

A person suffering from chronic kidney disease should be careful while eating a highly processed and packaged type of oats. These may contain high levels of potassium and phosphorus that could put the kidneys of a CKD patient under stress.

A person suffering from stage 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease should try to avoid or limit the processed versions of oats and choose their oats in more of a natural form such as whole oats or steel-cut oats to avoid putting any additional burden on their kidneys. 

Are Quaker oats and other instant oats okay to consume in CKD?

As I mentioned above, instant oats are the most processed version of oats. This means that they are the farthest from their natural form and the highest in minerals such as potassium and phosphorus. The excess of these minerals has to be excreted from the blood by the kidneys. 

Hence, a person with CKD should eat instant oats in moderation and prefer steel-cut oats which take longer to cook but are healthier and minimally processed in comparison to instant oats. 

When it comes to quacker or instant oats, make sure to look at the nutritional information behind the packet and choose the ones with the lowest sodium, phosphorus, and potassium content. Lowering sodium content also helps to keep your blood pressure in check.

Summary

In conclusion, oats can be a part of a healthy diet for a renal patient. Oats are nutritionally dense with many health benefits such as lowering LDL cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.

People suffering from CKD must be careful in their selection of oats and should prefer less processed ones like steel-cut oats because instant oats can be high on certain minerals which are not ideal for a CKD patient. 

108 thoughts on “Are oats/oatmeal good or bad for kidney disease?”

  1. Thank You for your information.
    I have 3rd stage Kidney disease.
    I’m looking for a good healthy diet
    Thanks
    Flash

    Reply
    • Just an FYI: Phosphate additives in processed food are particularly challenging to kidney patients. Food processors are not required to include phosphorous in the nutritional values section of packaging labels. So the consumer has no idea if or how much phosphorous he/she is consuming. Naturally occuring phosphorous in food has about 30 to 60% bioavailability, whereas phosphorous additives have 100% bioavailability. If a food contains a phosphate additive it must be included in the list of ingredients but not required to state how much. So the consumer is again in the dark. Best practice: If the letters “pho” appear anywhere in the ingredient list just don’t eat the food. It’s probably loaded with phosphate preservatives.

      Reply
      • There are many articles on this site that will guide. Please consult a dietician/nephrologist to get a tailormade chart.

        Reply
  2. I have read CKD sufferers must not have milk. What can you suggest for making oats with that doesn’t detract from its taste. Can we use coconut milk ?

    Reply
  3. Thank you very much. This article was extremely well written and very helpful 👏👍👌.

    Sincerely,
    Maria Beatriz Garcia, R.N.

    Reply
  4. I’ve had 6 kidney surgery’s with in a year. And I’m full of stones again. I’ve been drinking water( I need more) trying to stay on low oxilate diet. Do not smoke, do not drink,no soda,or tea.i have 1cup of coffee a small portion of a donut each morning… That’s my worst. I have thyroiditis,liver levels are to high , calcium level high, LDL high,HDL high, etc…..I feel ill inside like my body doesn’t function well.my doctor does nothing for me but does blood test every 3 months for thyroid.either to high or to low. Is my thyroid causing my stones. Please help.

    Reply
    • Thyroid diseases cannot cause stones directly. There are other glands called “parathyroids” which can cause stones.

      Reply
  5. I have stage 3 kidney disease and PBC. fingers food for both is difficult. Steel cut oats sounds good. Will it work for PBC also?

    Reply
  6. My dog has kidney failure. She is 10years old. I know you are not a veterinarian. Can you by any chance tell me if my dog can have/ eat oatmeal in her diet?
    Thank you

    Reply
  7. My husband underwent a nephrectomy surgery about 9 months back and is left with only one Kidney. He has controlled diabetes and S. Creatinine is 1.78 recently. He is on a diabetic diet and consumes rolled oats ( about 1.5 cups) every day for breakfast. Is it a good option?
    Thanks for your early reply.

    Reply
  8. Kidney disease can be very overwhelming. Thanks for providing some concise information concerning CKD diet. You may never know how many CKD patients your information may have helped. I wish to thank you on behalf of all the people who have found your article helpful.

    Reply
  9. I am new at this condition! Medically induced no less! This has been very informative and am looking forward to eating better and have started feeling better since I have been looking at articles and good suggestions by persons like you!
    Thank you, you give me hope.

    Reply
  10. Thank you for your article. Recently developed stage 4 after being in stage 3 for 20 years. Now almost afraid to eat anything. My nephrologist says that don’t need special diet but everything I eat seems to be bad trying hard to learn moderation

    Reply
    • You would need to follow a renal diet for stage 4 which is different for Stage 1 to 3 and meet with a dietician to set up a proper diet to ensure that you keep your electrolytes in check. Also other health issues can arise from this, eg diabetes. So the dietician will check bloods and other items, iron etc, and develop diet to ensure there is no muscle loss, or other health conditions that arise.

      Reply
  11. Thank you for the great info. I take 100 mg Lorsatan each day for 6 months, and started having foamy urine for about 3 weeks now. Could Lorsatan damage my kidneys after I was dehydrated for a few days?

    Reply
    • Losartan can cause issues when dehydration is present. Need to check at least potassium and creatinine levels in blood.

      Reply
  12. Thank you. I enjoyed this important information. Very well explained. I am correcting my life as I type this. So much research in making the right choices with diet. Your article helps me tremendously. Thank you for taking time to inform me and others.
    ~BB Nashville

    Reply
  13. I am a newly diagnosed Stage 3 ckd patient. I have been buying gluten free whole grain rolled oats and preparing them with almond milk as overnight oats…Please advise if that is not a good idea.
    Thank you so much-

    Reply
  14. How do we CKD3 dieters maintain nutrition with all the precautions (HPB) on food intake: protein, calcium, phosphorous, etc. Will smaller portions more often be our saving grace? Dieticians do not confer with medicare providers and i have yet to see a kidney specialist. I feel I am on my own, and no one is guiding me. Focusing on my aging bones, poor blood circulation, dry skin, fatigue, etc. These I can manage. But nobody is watching my progress cuz medicare exams, blood tests, happen once a year. A lot can happen in one year. Are we the forgotten healthcare patients? No group therapy, no specific exercises or therapy….. What’s going on? My medicare doctor had the nerve to send me an email inviting me to let her know what meds I want to choose? My dietician did not have a clue what “binders” were and was quick to tell me she does not make recommendations on meds for CKD? What is an aging female to do? A lot of us are alone without family. I refuse to accept “one foot in the grave” mentality. I want to “live” my final journey with dignity. I miss the Mayo brothers. They believed in preventative medicine. All my medicare doctors over the last four years never said a word about my kidneys. All of a sudden I am the next step to dialysis? We are being thrown out like babies in the bath water!

    Reply
    • Hello Ms. Clark. Sorry to know about your difficulties. I’m sure that the situation will improve with time and you will get proper advice. CKD is a prolonged, chronic disease and I can empathize that you feel forgotten. But it is also not difficult to manage in stage 3. See if it is possible to follow-up with a nephrologist quarterly. That should suffice for now. Take care.

      Reply
    • Patricia, I’m also on Medicare. I was recently diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease after my Rheumatologist noticed unusually high protein in a urinalysis. (I have had PCKD for over 15 years but never saw kidney doctor til recently). The RA doctor referred me to a Nephrologist who diagnosed me stage 3 after doing another UA and bloodwork. I see my rheumatologist 4 to 6 times a year and he has me do bloodwork each visit. So far I have seen my kidney dr twice in 6 weeks and he has ordered blood work each visit as well. He also had me get an ultrasound and a biopsy and put me on blood pressure medicine, since my kidney disease has caused high blood pressure. He also referred me to a nutritionist and a cardiologist, who had me do labs, an ekg, an echocardiogram and a stress test. I’m still waiting on results for my tests and my 1st appt with nutritionist is a month away. Anyway, Medicare, so far, has approved everything. As far as getting frequent labs done I think if you have a good doctor and they feel there is cause for concern they will order labs more than once a year. And if Medicare deems the labs necessary, as in the doctor saying the labs are necessary, you should be able to get them more than once a year. Definitely get a referral to a Nephrologist so they can look further into your kidney disease (amount of protein in urine, creatinine levels, etc). You may also consider getting a referral to a rheumatologist for your bones since kidney disease can affect them as well I believe. They can order a bone density test and if you have osteoperosis get you on something like Alendronate to help decrease risk of fracture. May wanna keep tabs on your blood pressure; you can buy a monitor at Walmart. If your bp is consistently high, your kidney specialist will most likely start you on medication for that as well, since high bp affects kidneys. Also, a doctor will refer you to a physical therapist if it’s needed. Just be sure to ask. Unfortunately, most of the time we have to be proactive, research and ask doctors about our concerns. I’ve started looking at my blood tests and other labs and making a note of anything high or low to ask my doctors about cause sometimes they just skim it, only looking for one or 2 things. I also ask if certain things would be beneficial, such as asking my rheumatologist for a bone density test and a physical therapy referral. He agreed those would be good and did them but if I hadn’t asked he wouldn’t have mentioned them. As far as diet, I’m unsure like you. Waiting to see nutritionist but in the meantime I’m scared to eat anything. I’ve just been trying to signifigantly reduce salt, eat more veggies and stay hydrated. I am also trying to walk 30 minutes a day in hopes to lower blood pressure, strengthen bones and keep me in a better mind set. But, yeah, start with getting a referral to a kidney doctor. They will be able to do more for your kidney disease than a pcp. Best of luck!

      Reply
    • Depends on many factors like creatinine levels. potassium, phosphorus, etc. Will advise you to get a personalized diet chart from a dietician/nephrologist.

      Reply
  15. Thank you for showing me how to eat oatmeal, I have stage 3 – I love oatmeal and I have been eating steal cut , I cook it in water,but first I let it soak for about 15- 20 minutes,it also helps me Control constipation, I am 82 years old. I also like the taste better then regular five minute cook quaker oats. Thank you so much, I was very curious, I was hoping that the steel cut oatmeal wouldn’t damage my kidneys any further. Thank you

    Reply
  16. I am in stage three kidney disease. I was just about to have a bowl of oatmeal. But now I realize I need to go to the store and get steel cut oats. This was very informative thank you very much

    Reply
    • Oats have acceptable potassium and a little high amounts of phosphorus. Still, they can be consumed as part of a balanced diet plan.

      Reply
  17. Many thanks for this information Dr Prasanth, I have been recently diagnosed with CKD 3b, my the moment hunting for CKD friendly diets. This page was very useful.

    Having oats with boiled water, frozen blueberries and walnuts

    Reply
  18. Well written n informative. My husbandcin stage 5 does eat some oats. As you say essential minerals are available in oats. We use almond milk. What quantity of quacker oats in tablespoon of dry oats could one recommend.

    Reply
    • Hello Ms. Sue. Protein foods shouldn’t be avoided altogether but consumed intelligently and in moderation. Oats too.

      Reply
  19. Hello Dr. I have becoome increasingly confused about what to eat for Stage 3 Kidney disease. After eating a lage bow of steal cut oats which stemmeed my hunger, I put in the simple question about oats and CKD. What a relieve to find something I already eat is good for me! Thank you for you simple and clear post!!

    Reply
    • I don’t think it’s a question of which is better. Buckwheat can be consumed in small amounts as it is high in potassium.

      Reply
    • Hello Ms. Henson! The blog post is meant as a guide. For specific advice tailored to your situation, you need to consult a nephrologist or dietician nearby. Take care.

      Reply
  20. Hello Dr. Prashant Dheerenda, my condition is that I have blood in my urine but I’m on antibiotics and drinking a lot of water. Can I have wholegrain oats? With what type of milk? Or can I have sugar with it?

    Reply
  21. Dr. Dheerendra
    Thank you so much for clarifying information on eating Steel Cut Oats. We have been eating Steel Cut Oats for at least 5 years. We make it with Almond or Oat milk since I am allergic to all dairy. I was just told I have Stage 3 kidney disease. It was a shock since I eat mostly chicken, fish, vegetables and fruit. I do love pasta (usually whole wheat). We were also vegan for a couple of years. Would it be smart to go back to a vegan diet? I would love to hear your opinion.

    Sue

    Reply
    • Little bit of meat once in a while is ok. For my patients I generally don’t try to change their dietary habits drastically unless they are very kidney unfriendly.

      Reply
  22. Hi Dr Prashant m new to this group very interesting reading all comments n sharing what about damage kidney is it okay to have rolled oats n liquid milk..

    Reply

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