Kidney Friendly – Tofu & Vegetable Stir-Fry

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Food is more than just calories and what we eat is so important for our health. Food contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients all of which have important roles when it comes to keeping our body and mind healthy. And did you know that the food that you eat actually alters how your genes work?

Each time you eat it’s an opportunity to help heal your body (or potentially cause more damage). Think of all of the food you eat in a day or a week, that’s a lot of opportunity for healing! With that in mind, I thought it would be helpful to share another kidney healing recipe with you all.

It is a…

Tofu and Vegetables Stir-fry.

Some of our key recommendations when it comes to a healing kidney diet are that it’s alkaline, gluten free, dairy free and predominantly plant based. This recipe hits each of these recommendations. It’s also low in potassium so is suitable for people following a low potassium diet. 

So let’s dig in!

Ingredients

  •     ½ lb firm tofu cheese 
  •     3 Tbsp olive oil
  •     2 green onions finely sliced
  •     2 cloves garlic finely sliced
  •     1 cucumber cut into cubes
  •     1 zucchini cut into cubes
  •     1 carrot cut into strips
  •     2 Tbsp low sodium Tamari sauce
  •     2 Tbsp water
  •     Pinch of sea salt (optional)

Steps

  1.     Cut tofu cheese into cubes
  2.     Heat oil into a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat
  3.     Saute the onion and garlic until softened
  4.     Add the cucumber, zucchini, and carrot, simmer for 5 minutes
  5.     Add tofu cubes, Tamari sauce and water
  6.     Cover and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat
  7.     Remove from the heat and allow it to sit for 10 minutes
  8.     Add salt (optional) and serve

It’s one thing to give you a new recipe to try, but what I really want to do is help you understand how what you eat can contribute to your healing, so let’s take a closer look at the key ingredients and what they bring to the table (pun intended!). 

Tofu

When I say the word ‘tofu,’ what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Hippie? Health nut? The truth is that people have been eating tofu since it was invented during the Han dynasty 2000 years ago. Benjamin Franklin ate tofu after he discovered it on a trip to London. People all over the world eat tofu and some on a daily basis.

Tofu kidney freindly

And with good reason.

Tofu or bean curd is a plant-based protein that makes for a great alternative to animal protein. Numerous studies have shown that eating a primarily plant-based diet reduces the risk of developing CKD and slows the progression of CKD as well as preventing and even reversing cardiovascular disease and helping to prevent and treat diabetes. 

Soybeans are a high-quality plant protein that contains a slew of vitamins and minerals and provides a good source of dietary fibre. The health benefits of soy are numerous from lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes and improving blood sugar levels, improving bone health and reducing cancer risk. 

But that’s not all, soy is also beneficial for kidney disease.

Studies have shown that soy protein intake can improve urea, creatinine, sodium and phosphorus levels in the blood, reduce protein in urine and reduce inflammation in people with kidney disease. 

Most animal and human studies revealed that soy protein compared with animal protein can improve renal function. Several mechanisms have been suggested explaining this effect. 1. Isoflavones found in soy have a kidney protective effect. 2. Soy has antioxidant properties which can prevent the formation of free radicals and may enhance nitric oxide accessibility. 3. Soy products like tofu are alkaline forming so reduce the acidic load on the kidneys and 4. A higher intake of soy products may help to lower blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels in diabetics- two key conditions that contribute to kidney damage.

Let’s do a quick comparison between a 3oz (85gm) portion of tofu and the same sized beef steak. 

  Tofu (85gm) Steak (85gm)
Calories 70 214
Protein 8gm 24gm
Total fat 3.5gm 12.76gm
Carbohydrates 2gm 0gm
Cholesterol 0gm 75mg
Sodium 10mg 317mg
Potassium 150mg 259mg
Phosphorus 109mg 183mg

It’s probably not news to you that high protein diets are not good for kidney health and can accelerate the progression of CKD. Animal protein and particularly red and processed meats are the worst culprits here with evidence suggesting that the source of protein (plant or animal) may be even more important than the quantity of protein consumed when it comes to CKD. It makes sense then that swapping animal proteins to plant-based proteins will be beneficial for your kidneys.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a great choice when it comes to cooking oils. It has been used for centuries due to its preventative and therapeutic characteristics. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories and can prevent hardening of the arteries and blood clots.

olive oil and kidney health

This means that it can help to lower inflammation and oxidative stress within the body- two key players in CKD development and progression- and has positive effects on preventing or improving atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. 

Studies have shown that the use of olive oil is linked to a reduced risk of diabetes, reduced blood sugar levels and a significant reduction of HbA1c. Not only that but olive oil may support reductions in blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. Pretty impressive right!

Green onions

Depending on where you live, you might know green onions as, well, green onions or you might know them as scallions. Green onions are part of the Allium family (along with garlic, leeks and onions) and have a mild onion-y bite that is not as intense as regular onions.

scallions kidney friendly food

Health benefits of green onions come from plant chemicals such as flavonoids, phenols and quercetin which are associated with anti-inflammatory actions, cholesterol lowering and cancer protection. They’re also a good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.

Green onions like the other allium veggies help to aid digestion and are classed as prebiotics which means they boost beneficial gut bacteria. It’s well known that people with CKD are more likely to have dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut bacteria) which contributes to the progression of CKD.

Having a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut is incredibly important for all aspects of health- everything from our immune system to our nervous system to our cardiovascular system to our kidneys and beyond and making sure we’re getting plenty of prebiotics in our diet is one of the best ways to support the health of our gut microbiome.  

Garlic

Garlic has been used for food, medicine and more for thousands of years. While I can’t weigh in on garlics ability to protect against vampires or ward off the evil eye, I can discuss the health benefits of garlic. 

Garlic contains many important substances including B vitamins, vitamin C, manganese, selenium and the health-promoting sulfur compounds alliin and allicin. These substances all work in unison and contribute to garlics ability to lower high cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, lower blood sugar, prevent cancer, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

garlic and kidney disease

Garlic protects the kidneys directly because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to prevent injury to the kidney and indirectly because of its effects on the cardiovascular system, cholesterol and blood sugar- all of which, if left uncontrolled, can lead to and worsen kidney damage. Garlic has the ability to lower blood pressure, which also helps reduce damage to the kidneys. 

Also belonging to the Alium family, garlic is another great prebiotic that can help feed our healthy gut bacteria and improve the diversity of our gut microbiome.

Cucumber

Within their super low-calorie package, cucumbers pack a lot of important nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin C and magnesium. Basically, all of the calories in cucumbers (and yes, there’s not that many) come from fibre. Fibre is super important for our gut health and is beneficial in managing certain conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol. 

Because of their high-water content cucumbers also help us stay hydrated. Staying hydrated is crucial for carrying nutrients to our cells, preventing constipation and flushing out bacteria just to name a few. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cucumber is believed to have a number of healing properties including clearing the body of toxins, cleansing and purifying the blood, strengthening the heart, aiding digestion and has a particular affinity for the kidneys and bladder and is used to treat kidney and bladder infections.

Cucumber may also help in the treatment of gout and elevated uric acid levels. Having high uric acid may contribute to the progression of CKD.

Cucumber has also been shown to increase glutathione levels. Glutathione is the body’s most powerful antioxidant, and it plays a key role in the protection of cells from daily metabolic stress, oxidative stress and toxic chemicals. 

Zucchini

Zucchini is packed with nutrients while also containing very little calories. It’s a great source of vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, vitamin A and fibre, making it beneficial for immune health and digestive health and has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

kidney friendly recipes, healthy kidney food

Regular consumption of zucchini has also been shown to lower homocysteine levels which is important when protecting against cardiovascular disease. Elevated homocysteine can contribute to damage and blood clots in your blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In TCM, zucchini is used to detoxify, alleviate skin lesions, help with difficulty urinating and treat oedema (swelling), all useful actions for people with CKD.

Carrots

Carrots are probably best known for their ability to improve and protect eyesight; however, the health benefits of carrots extend to other areas of the body. It’s the vitamin A contained in carrots that give it the reputation for improving eyesight, it’s also needed for a healthy immune system, healthy bones and skin as well as having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions. 

It is likely these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions that make carrots so important for cardiovascular health. A large-scale 10-year study found that of all fruit and vegetables, those that were orange/yellow and in particular deeper shades of orange and yellow (like carrots) were determined to be the most protective against cardiovascular disease. The more carrots the participants ate, the lower their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Animal studies have also found that vitamin A prevented kidney scarring or decreased its severity after kidney infection and beta carotene (the red-orange pigment in carrots) has also been shown to protect kidney tissue against oxidative damage in rats and improve kidney function.

So there you go, hopefully I’ve given you a better understanding about the healing power of foods and how important your diet can be for all aspects of your health, including your kidneys. And given you a great new recipe to try as well!

I’d love to hear what you think of this recipe, please let me know by clicking the ‘SHARE’ button below or head over to our Facebook page and leave us a comment. Happy cooking!

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