Tofu Benefits, Nutrition, And Its Disadvantages

tofu benefits and disadvantages

Tofu has benefits and disadvantages have our health. Tofu helps fight disease, increases bone health, and makes your skin more elastic to name a few. With only a few controversial disadvantages, keep reading to discover why you should include more tofu into your diet. Here we are going to discuss more details of this topic.

Tofu Benefits for Health

Tofu good for your heart

Research consistently shows that a diet rich in beans and legumes is great for heart health. A 2001 study showed that eating beans four times per week lowered heart disease risk by 22% compared to those eating beans once per week. Tofu also contains isoflavones. Think of them as scavengers for potentially cancerous cells in our body. These isoflavones have an anti-inflammatory effect that street-sweep our arteries so that blood can flow freely to our tissues.

Tofu fights type II diabetes

30 million people or more than in the US have diabetes. Likewise, an extra eight million people may not even know they have it. This is a scary statistic, but tofu can help you avoid becoming one. A one-year study conducted in 2012 showed that patients taking 100mg of isoflavones per day improved their insulin sensitivity. Insulin sensitivity gets measured by looking at how effective your body is at taking the sugar from your blood into your cells. Better insulin sensitivity equates to better blood glucose control, which is essential to preventing type II diabetes.

Tofu protective against cancer

Phytoestrogens tend to get a bad rap. Yet, it’s been confirmed in multiple studies that they help reduce the risk of certain cancers. In short, Phytoestrogens block estrogen from attaching to our cells. Therefore, reducing the amount of total estrogen in the body. Too much estrogen can lead to severe complications like cancer and other cardiac events. Research conducted at the University of Southern California suggests that women who consume just one serving of soy milk or tofu (3.5 oz) daily are 30 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. Another study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that an increased intake of soy reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 25 percent. Not only that, when ingesting non-fermented soy products like soy milk and tofu, the risk reduction increased by an additional 5 percent.

Tofu reduces symptoms of menopause

Menopause is a frustrating time for women due to many rapid hormonal changes within the body. Hot flashes are one of the hardest to cope with. The good news is that tofu can help cut the severity and frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women. A 2018 review concluded that consuming about 54g of isoflavones (½ serving of tofu) for six to twelve weeks significantly reduced the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Additionally, the authors of this double-blind, placebo-controlled study (the gold standard of studies) tested the main phytoestrogen in tofu, genistein, against estrogen-progestogen therapy (EPT). Their conclusion stated “genistein might have positive effects on hot flashes without a negative impact” on the female body. They even suggested genistein could be used as a “strategic therapeutic alternative” to EPT.

Tofu helps build muscle

Despite what you may read in the headlines, tofu is an excellent source of alternative protein. One serving of tofu has eight grams of high-quality plant protein, as well as is considered a complete protein. This means it has all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Medical professionals recommend a safe upper limit for tofu consumption to five servings per day. That equates to up to 40g of protein daily from tofu or other soy products. Considering the average daily protein needs for women (46g) and men (56g), it’s a fantastic addition to your diet.

Tofu helps you sleep better

If you want to get better sleep, increase your magnesium intake. Eating more tofu can help you sleep better because one serving has 14% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) for magnesium. Magnesium helps with sleep by maintaining adequate levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that’s involved in deep, restful sleep. On the contrary, low levels of GABA contribute to insomnia and poor sleep.

So it’s important to maintain adequate levels of GABA throughout the day so that by nighttime, sleep comes easy. Eating tofu, along with other high magnesium plants foods like dark leafy greens, nuts, and legumes can help you support adequate levels.

Likewise, high magnesium consumption, specifically through diet, also plays a role in preventing disease. This 2014 analysis of over almost 25,000 people showed that high levels of magnesium are inversely associated with metabolic syndrome. Considering metabolic syndrome is a global epidemic and a precursor to diabetes, it’s imperative to eat more magnesium in your diet.

Tofu helps strengthen your bones

Tofu helps strengthen your bones and maintain your bone mineral density. For years, nutrition professionals praised cow’s milk as the leader in strong bones, but recent research has disproved that old thinking. Obtaining calcium through plant foods, like tofu is much safer. Unlike animal products that leach calcium from your bones, tofu seems to have the opposite effect.

As an example, one serving of calcium-fortified tofu provides a whopping 300mg of calcium. Over one-third of the recommended 1,000 -1,200mg of calcium daily. Dietitians recommend tofu not only for strong bones but also to prevent bone loss. Menopausal women in particular because bone loss accelerates during the late stages of menopause and continues through the early post-menopausal stages.

Tofu can lower your LDL cholesterol

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a review of 11 studies and concluded that soy isoflavones reduced LDL cholesterol by 3 to 5 percent. Although the reduction is minimal, the study noted that subjects that were already hypercholesterolemic (diagnosed with high cholesterol) saw the most benefit. Experts attribute this to the proteins and isoflavones found in tofu. They seem to work synergistically to lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Consuming three servings of tofu or other soy products (like miso) daily yields the best cholesterol-lowering results.

Tofu promotes kidney health

Tofu is low in saturated fat and has no cholesterol. These two attributes make tofu a great option to protect the health of your kidneys. Research has shown that a high saturated fat intake (particularly from animal protein) puts you at a higher risk of heart disease. Therefore, by replacing animal protein with tofu, you improve the health of both your kidneys and your heart.

Tofu helps you eat less

You now know that one serving of tofu has eight grams of protein. Similarly, you know that protein helps make us feel full, but a new study helps us understand why. We have a major vein that runs through our gut called the portal vein. Inside the walls of that vein, there are mu-opioid receptors (MORs) that communicate to our brain about when we should eat more or eat less. Those MORs get suppressed when we digest proteins. That is why protein-rich tofu can help you eat less, yet still, feel full. Moreover, at just 70 calories per serving, tofu is an ideal food to help shed those unwanted pounds.

Tofu helps prevent anemia

Anemia is a condition that stems from an iron deficiency. It’s characterized by low levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the bloodstream. Tofu is an excellent source of iron that will help prevent anemia. Since it’s more common in athletes, endurance enthusiasts who eat plant-based need to test their iron levels regularly, as they tend to lose it faster than the general population. Additionally, plant-based iron does not absorb as well as animal protein, so vegans and vegetarians should eat more. With a well-planned diet and using a couple of iron absorption hacks, anemia can easily be avoided.

Tofu smooths out wrinkles

Yes, tofu can help you get smooth skin. A specific isoflavone in tofu called aglycone reduces wrinkles in middle-aged women. One 12-week research study found that women consuming aglycone significantly improved wrinkles compared to the control group. It’s hypothesized that like estrogen, phytoestrogens (also considered isoflavones) can help increase the thickness of the skin. This is also why you may see soy products in your favorite cruelty-free skin creams.

Tofu contains heart-healthy omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for our health. For vegans and vegetarians, it’s crucial to get these fatty acids from plant foods, tofu being one choice. Eating a diet that contains high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids lowers inflammation and triglycerides. Two effects that can improve heart health. There are two types of Omega-3s that we need: ALA and EPA/DHA. Tofu contains ALA fatty acids. One serving of tofu contains 20 percent of our daily ALA needs.

Tofu increases your flatulence

Beans contain a sugar called oligosaccharides that we cannot break down in our bodies. This sugar (also found in tofu) can cause flatulence, especially if you are new to a plant-based diet. Tofu comes from soybeans, and while those soybeans get broken down to form a brick of tofu, it’s not always enough to prevent gas. However, there is hope. Chewing your food adequately and eating slowly can help prevent excess flatulence from tofu. Not only that, but tofu’s close cousins’ tempeh and natto are also great alternatives too. These fermented soy products make it easier for your body to digest.

Tofu contains antinutrients

Phytate is a phytic acid that is bound to a mineral. Sometimes these phytates can block mineral absorption, particularly with a plant-based diet. However, phytate dangers are widely misstated and are largely based on theory, and not conclusive evidence. By simply heating tofu, you can destroy many of the common antinutrients. Unless you are eating a nutritionally inadequate diet or if tofu is your sole source of iron on a plant-based diet, there is no reason to fear antinutrients.

Tofu can cause digestive difficulty

Eating tofu may cause issues with digestion. The reason is that tofu contains enzymes that are difficult for our intestines to break down, specifically a pancreatic enzyme called trypsin inhibitor. When the trypsin inhibitor gets blocked, tofu travels through the gut without being fully digested. This may cause intestinal discomfort in some people. Yet, similar to antinutrients, heat plays a significant role in digestion. During the process of creating tofu into a block, the moisture from the heat deactivates most trypsin inhibitors. This deactivation decreases the amount of other residual inhibitors to as low as 5%-20%. For most people, this will not affect digestion.

100g Tofu Nutrition

  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Carbs: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Manganese: 31% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 20% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 14% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
  • Copper: 11% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
  • Iron: 9% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 6% of the RDI

Tofu Disadvantages

Breast tumors

Because of tofu’s weak hormonal effects, some doctors suggest that women with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors limit their soy intake.

Thyroid issues

Some professionals also advise people with poor thyroid function to avoid tofu due to its goitrogen content.

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