A lot of people love tofu and for good reason – it’s versatile and is better than meat. One serving offers:
- Nine grams of protein
- More iron than other meats, including lean cut steak, gram for gram
- Zero cholesterol
- Very low in fat
- Super high in calcium
It’s a staple in Asian dishes for years and years. In fact, it is a part of the Okinawan diet and people from this part of Japan lived longer with low instances of disability, heart disease, cancers, and dementia. Because of this and other reasons, such as vegetarianism and veganism, some people switched from eating meats to tofu.
With their nutritional benefits, one can think it’s a good and healthy choice. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Tofu comes from processed soy and may lead to various health problems, such as:
- Thyroid problems
- Brain damage
- Soy allergies
- Reproductive problems
- Premature puberty
Proponents of soy and tofu claim that tofu is a health food that can help lower cholesterol, prevent breast and prostate cancers, calm hot flashes especially in postmenopausal women, help in weight loss, prevent osteoporosis, and many others. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health reported in 2014 that these claims are overstated and simply based on preliminary research. There is no conclusive evidence regarding the benefits of soy and tofu. Everyone has different needs; therefore, soy consumption is hard to determine, particularly regarding the right amount to eat.
What Science Says
Years ago, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that soy should be a part of a healthy diet, especially for those who want to improve their heart health. However, they backed off this endorsement because there was no data to support the claim. North Carolina State University developmental biologist, Heather Patisaul, said that soy does provide health benefits for the heart, but those benefits are rather small. It also helps lower cholesterol levels, but for only a few points that don’t make dramatic difference.
The AHA then reviewed 22 trials and discovered that 50 grams of soy every day can lower bad cholesterol levels (LDL) but only by three percent. So putting that into perspective, it could mean you have to eat 1.5 pounds of tofu or consume eight 8oz of soy milk daily to achieve 50 grams of soy. That’s definitely a lot of soy even if you love eating it.
Soy also contains isoflavones that replicate the effects of estrogen. When you eat too much soy, it could contribute to health problems in areas that are sensitive to the hormone, such as the brain, reproductive organs, and pituitary gland. While it is true that Okinawan diets are the world’s largest consumption of tofu, they actually only eat it in small amounts. Plus, they eat whole soybean products, not the ones from processed oil and protein.