When tofu in the west became popular, it was believed to be full of health benefits so very good for us. Later it was reported to be bad for us! It has had a bad rap because it is made from soy. If it really isn’t good for us, then why are the Japanese who eat lots of tofu have the highest life expectancy in the world?
Let’s Check Out The Soy Story
Soy foods became popular in the 1990’s because many thought soy could combat heart disease, obesity, and even cancer. People in Asia who ate lots of soy had lower rates of heart disease, obesity, and breast cancer according to studies. Soy became a wonder food.
Why Soy Had a Bad Rap
Later research found that soy has estrogen-like compounds called isoflavones which could stimulate cancer cell, harm female fertility, growth, and be destructive for thyroid function. Also, there were studies showing that soy reduces menopause symptoms could cure high cholesterol. So this became very confusing when it comes to eating products made from soy such as tofu, tempeh or miso.
Breast cancer is one of the most lethal diseases. It is interesting to note that Caucasian women have the highest occurrence of breast cancer; Asian women have the lowest. The thought is that food consumption may be the reason for approximately 50% of breast cancer. Soy foods are part of the Asian diet but not the Caucasian diet. There are studies suggesting that an increase in soy consumption would decrease breast cancer. ~ Noted by Science Direct.
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and pressing the resulting curds. It is a good source of protein, is gluten-free, contains no cholesterol and is low in calories. Read the health benefits of soy below.
What We Now Know About Soy Health Benefits
Improves Bone Health
Soy has been found to improve bone health, especially among Asian women. It is the soy isoflavones that help increase bone mineral density, especially after menopause.
Helps to Lower Cancer
Tofu is made of soy and many cancers are given relief with soy.
- Helps Relieve Prostate Cancer
It was also found that soy can help prostate cancer survivors.
- Protects Digestive Cancers
It was found in studies found to protect gastrointestinal cancers.
- Lowers Breast Cancer
There was an analysis of 35 studies finding that soy does lower breast cancer risk in Asian women. It was found to be beneficial for women with some types of aggressive breast cancer according to a Tufts University study.
Decrease Heart Disease
It has been found that adding soy to the diet may decrease heart disease according to studies.
Aids with Fertility
As long as you don’t eat too much it can help with fertility.
Beneficial for Kidney Function
The protein of soy was found to be beneficial for those undergoing dialysis or kidney transplantation. An analysis of nine trials showed a positive effect of those with chronic kidney disease.
Reduces Bad Cholesterol
It was found that soy isoflavones significantly reduced LDL cholesterol but did not change HDL according to studies at National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tokyo, Japan.
Relief for Menopause and Hot Flash Symptoms
Soy contains phytoestrogens known as isoflavones are similar in structure to the female hormone estrogen. These isoflavones may help relieve symptoms due to low estrogen which occurs during menopause.
Soy helps some women with hot flashes a Menopause study found.
Tofu and Thyroid Health
Those with an underactive thyroid need to watch how much soy is eaten as it can interfere with thyroid medication; that is only if you overdo it according to Nutrients review. It is best to wait at least 4 hours after consuming soy to take thyroid medicine says the Mayo Clinic.
Interesting, that 14 studies found that soy foods didn’t affect thyroid function in people with healthy thyroids.
Allergies: Tofu is a soy food that some are allergic to. It is all about moderation. You have to consume over 100mg of soy isoflavones which is equivalent to 6 oz uncooked tempeh or 16 cups soy milk daily to be linked to reduced ovarian function.
- Fermented tofu is enjoyed worldwide in many forms but most of the tofu sold in North America has not been fermented.
- There are over 200,000 manufacturers of tofu worldwide.
- Folklore stories tell of tofu being discovered by Prince Liu An (179-122 B.C.) when he was searching for a food to help him achieve immortality.
One block of hard tofu, weighing 122 grams (1/3 pound) has only 177 calories, 15.57 g of protein, 421 mg of calcium, 65 of magnesium and much more. For more information: Tofu Nutrition
Tofu originated in China; it was called ‘doufu’. How and when and how that happened is a mystery. there are 3 or 4 stories. The one that seems to have the most credence is that tofu was discovered by Lord Liu An in northern China around 164 BC. I like the one about a legend saying it was discovered by a cook who accidentally curdled soy milk when he added nigari seaweed.
It came to Japan in the 8th century AD and was a favourite food by the 12th century AD and was eaten by military rulers (Shoguns) and in Buddhist temples.
Benjamin Franklin was the first American to discover it in 1770 on a trip to London; in a letter he wrote mentioned it and called it “cheese” from China. It became more established in the United States when the first tofu company was established in 1878.
How to Choose the Best
Organic tofu is the best option so it won’t be made with genetically modified soy.
When choosing tofu, note that it comes in soft to firm to extra-firm textures. The soft tofu is smooth and good for desserts, salad dressings, and sauces. For stir-frying, baking, and grilling firm and extra-firm is best.
How to Store
It is best to refrigerate tofu in the sealed package is comes in; once the package is opened, rinse it well and keep it in a container covered with water in the refrigerator. Change the water daily to keep it fresh for up to one week.
You can also freeze it in its original packaging; it will keep up to five months. The texture and colour will change creating a spongy and yellowish tofu which is good for some recipes as it will absorb flavourings added.
I believe a little soy is good if it is organic, non-GMO and prepared well.
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