Tofu For You

SOYBEANS contain a wide range of valuable nutrients and are an excellent source of protein.  Tofu is HIGH in fibre, protein, minerals ie zinc and calcium and polyunsaturated fats, vitamins A, B1, B2, E, and mineral salts and can LOWER cholesterol. The health benefits of tofu are wide-ranging and well documented.

Tofu.. PROTECTS against diabetes, menopausal symptoms and certain cancers / BOOSTS bone health, memory and mental flexibility / its unsaturated essential fatty acids can LOWER cholesterol so help to maintain a healthy heart / FREE of chemical toxins, with none of the pesticides and herbicides found in meat, fish and poultry / RICH in nutrients that help in prevention of cancer, heart disease and post-menopausal symptoms / LOW in calories and saturated fats.

As we saw in What Do You Mean, Protein soybeans contain 35% protein (other legumes have 20%) and have the 8 essential amino acids needed for growth (the same number as meat). Tofu is as effective as meat and dairy in providing sufficient energy and protein needs with none of the potential dangers a diet high in animal protein can lead to, including kidney failure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes 2.  One of the amino acids present in tofu, lysine, combines well in the body with other carbohydrates such as rice and whole wheat bread to create a whole new protein.

HEART Tofu is rich in nutrients that help in the prevention of heart disease as it contains amino acid (linoleic) which is one of Omega-3 fatty acids that reduce heart disease. Because animal fat has cholesterol which leads to heart disease and high blood pressure, cutting down or replacing the meat in your diet with tofu will reduce the plaque build-up in your arteries and help blood flow. A lower blood cholesterol level lessens risk of coronary artery disease.

MENOPAUSE  Japanese women experience less hot flushes due to the isoflavones found in soy which reduce the severity and frequency of hot flushes. Significant improvements have been found in cognitive activity in post-menopausal women with high isoflavone intake. The menopause lowers oestrogen levels which can lead to bone thinning and osteoporosis. Studies of post-menopausal women in China and Japan have shown that isoflavones found in soya can boost bone mineral content and density.

CANCER Tofu contains genistein, which is a plant-based estrogen, or phytoestrogen which blocks growth of tumours and prevents cancer growth. Estrogen-like compounds have been known to lower the risk of hormonal cancers such as breast, ovarian and prostate. Phytochemicals in soy, isofavones, are anti-oxidants that neutralize ‘free radicals’ in the body that contribute to illnesses and ageing. Asian countries have low rates of breast and prostate cancers and studies have shown that regular consumption of soya for those previously diagnosed with breast cancer can significantly reduce the risk of re-occurrence. Isofavone levels in the prostate are higher than in blood. Despite the high standard of living in Japan, prostate cancer rates are significantly low. There is a strong association between diet and prostate cancer and studies have shown that non-fermented soya foods such as tofu and soya milk can significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

No human studies show an increased risk of cancer due to soya consumption and plenty of evidence suggests that eating a whole form of soya such as tofu can provide protection from cancer for both men and women.

BONES Soya milk and tofu are calcium-fortified and do not have the saturated fat, casein and cholesterol found in dairy. Calcium sulphate which is used to set tofu (the coagulant) is a form of calcium easily absorbed by the body. Calcium is an essential mineral for teeth and bones and an 8 ounce service of tofu will give you 38% daily calcium requirement. Eating tofu regularly can promote calcium retention in bones and therefore lower the risk of osteoporosis.

CHOLESTEROL 25-30g soy protein/day can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and actually lower blood cholesterol (British Heart Foundation). Isoflavones, peptides and amino acid work together to lower cholesterol as they interfere with the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. The Japanese have the world’s lowest rate of heart disease and American cholesterol levels are twice that of the Chinese.

DIET FOOD Tofu has a low ratio of calories to protein so an eight ounce serving of tofu contains 147 calories. This is the lowest ratio of protein to calories making tofu a healthy way to increase your protein intake to make you feel full and eat less. Tofu is also easy to digest. Fibre and water soluble carbohydrates are removed in the preparation of tofu making it a very easily digestible food for babies over 6 months, the elderly, people with digestive problems, sensitive stomachs, allergic to eggs or dairy or have strict dietary laws as part of their religion or culture. Soy intake has also been indicated in several studies to improve mental flexibility and both long and short-term memory.

It is worth nothing that the best source of isoflavones are in the least processed form of soya foods – ie tofu, miso and soya milk rather than extracted isoflavones. (see Considering Soy for more a more in depth look at this distinction)

DAILY CONSUMPTION Evidence shows that a safe level of daily consumption of soya is up to 5 servings / day. 25g soya protein / day is recommended to reduce cholesterol which would be for example a 100g serving of tofu, 100ml soya milk and 100g soya yogurt.

For more information, references and detailed advice on soya consumption and effect of soya on your health, see Viva! Soya Fact Sheets