Tofu is one of those foods that sparks debate. Some can't rave enough about its versatility and health benefits. Others think it is a genetically-modified poison to be avoided at all costs. This may leave you wondering whether tofu should be a part of your diet or not.
This article takes a detailed look at tofu and its health effects, both good and bad.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is a food made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into solid white blocks. It originated in China and the process is quite similar to how cheese is made.
Rumor has it that a Chinese cook discovered tofu more than 2,000 years ago by accidentally mixing a batch of fresh soy milk with nigari.
Nigari is what remains when salt is extracted from seawater. It is a mineral-rich coagulant used to help tofu solidify and keep its form.
This is what fresh tofu looks like:
Most of the world's soybeans are currently grown in the U.S. and a very large proportion is genetically modified.
However, if you're worried about it, simply opt for non-GMO, organic tofu brands.
Bottom Line: Tofu is made from condensed soy milk, in a process similar to how cheese is made. Whether made from GMO soybeans or not, tofu is generally considered safe for human consumption.
Tofu Contains Many Nutrients
One 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving of tofu contains:
- Protein: 8 grams.
- Carbs: 2 grams.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Fat: 4 grams.
- Manganese: 31 percent of the RDI.
- Calcium: 20 percent of the RDI.
- Selenium: 14 percent of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 12 percent of the RDI.
- Copper: 11 percent of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 9 percent of the RDI.
- Iron: 9 percent of the RDI.
- Zinc: 6 percent of the RDI.
However, the micronutrient content of tofu can vary, depending on the coagulant used to make it. Nigari adds more magnesium, while precipitated calcium increases the calcium content.
Bottom Line: Tofu is low in calories, but high in protein and fat. It also contains many important vitamins and minerals.
Tofu Also Contains Antinutrients
Like most plant foods, tofu contains several antinutrients.
- Phytates: Phytates can reduce the absorption of minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron.
- Lectins: Lectins are proteins that can cause nausea and bloating when uncooked, improperly cooked or eaten in excess.
However, soaking or cooking soybeans can inactivate or eliminate some of these antinutrients.
Sprouting soybeans before making tofu reduces phytates by up to 56 percent and trypsin inhibitors by up to 81 percent, while also increasing protein content by up to 13 percent (2).
Fermentation can also reduce anti-nutrients. For this reason, make sure to add fermented probiotic soy foods to your diet, such as miso, tempeh, tamari or natto.
Bottom Line: Tofu contains antinutrients like trypsin inhibitors, phytates and lectins. It is possible to degrade these antinutrients, which increases the nutritional value of tofu.
Tofu Contains Beneficial Isoflavones
Soybeans contain natural plant compounds called isoflavones.
These isoflavones function as phytoestrogens, meaning that they can attach to and activate estrogen receptors in the body.
This produces effects similar to the hormone estrogen, although they are weaker.
Many of the health benefits of tofu are attributed to the high isoflavone content.
Bottom Line: All soy-based products contain isoflavones, which are believed to have various health benefits.
Tofu May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Only a few studies specifically look at tofu's effects on heart health.
We also know that soy isoflavones can reduce blood vessel inflammation and improve their elasticity (5).
One study found that supplementing with 80 mg of isoflavones per day for 12 weeks improved blood flow by 68 percent in patients who were at risk of stroke (6).
Taking 50 grams of soy protein per day is also associated with improved blood fats and an estimated 10 percent lower risk of heart disease (7).
What's more, in post-menopausal women, high soy isoflavone intake was linked to several heart protective factors. These included improvements to body mass index, waist circumference, fasting insulin and HDL cholesterol (8).
Animal studies have shown that saponins improve blood cholesterol and increase the disposal of bile acids, both of which can help lower heart disease risk (10).
Bottom Line: Whole soy foods like tofu can improve several markers of heart health. This may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Tofu is Linked to Reduced Risk of Some Cancers
Studies have looked into the effects of tofu on breast, prostate and digestive system cancers.
Tofu and Breast Cancer
It seems that exposure to soy during childhood and adolescence may be most protective, but that's not to say that intake later in life is not beneficial (15).
In fact, research shows that women who ate soy products at least once a week throughout adolescence and adulthood had a 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer, compared to those who ate soy during adolescence alone (16).
One often-heard criticism of tofu and other soy products is that they may increase breast cancer risk. However, a two-year study in which post-menopausal women consumed two servings of soy per day failed to find an increased risk (17).
Tofu and Cancers of the Digestive System
One study observed that higher intakes of tofu were linked to a 61 percent lower risk of stomach cancer in men (21).
Interestingly, a second study reported a 59 percent lower risk in women (22).
What's more, a recent review of 633,476 participants linked higher soy intake to a 7 percent lower risk of cancer of the digestive system (23).
Tofu and Prostate Cancer
A third review agrees with this, but adds that the beneficial effects of isoflavones may depend on the amount consumed and type of gut bacteria present (26).
Bottom Line: Research indicates that soy has a protective effect against breast, digestive and prostate cancers.
Tofu May Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
In one study of healthy post-menopausal women, 100 mg of soy isoflavones per day reduced blood sugar levels by 15 percent and insulin levels by 23 percent (29).
For diabetic post-menopausal women, supplementing with 30 grams of isolated soy protein lowered fasting insulin levels by 8.1 percent, insulin resistance by 6.5 percent, LDL cholesterol by 7.1 percent and total cholesterol by 4.1 percent (30).
In another study, taking isoflavones each day for a year improved insulin sensitivity and blood fats, while reducing the risk of heart disease (31).
However, these findings are not universal. A recent review of 24 human studies found that intact soy protein—as opposed to isoflavone supplements or protein extracts—was more likely to lower blood sugar (32, 33).
Bottom Line: Tofu may have positive effects on blood sugar control, but more studies are needed to confirm this link.
Other Potential Health Benefits of Tofu
Due to its high isoflavone content, tofu may also have benefits for:
- Bone health: Scientific data suggests that 80 mg of soy isoflavones per day may reduce bone loss, especially in early menopause (34, 35).
- Brain function: Soy isoflavones may have a positive influence on memory and brain function, especially for women over 65 (36).
- Menopause symptoms: Soy isoflavones may help reduce hot flashes. However, not all studies agree (37, 38, 39, 40, 41).
- Skin elasticity: Taking 40 mg of soy isoflavones per day significantly reduced wrinkles and improved skin elasticity after 8–12 weeks (42).
- Weight loss: In one study, taking soy isoflavones for 8–52 weeks resulted in an average weight loss of 10 lbs (4.5 kg) more than a control group (43).
Bottom Line: Due to its high isoflavone content, tofu may have benefits for a variety of health conditions. However, more research is needed.
Tofu May Cause Problems for Some People
Eating tofu and other soy foods every day is generally considered to be safe. That being said, you may want to moderate your intake if you have:
- Kidney or gallbladder stones: Tofu contains a good amount of oxalates, which may worsen oxalate-containing kidney or gallbladder stones.
- Breast tumors: Due to tofu's weak hormonal effects, some doctors tell women with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors to limit their soy intake.
- Thyroid issues: Some professionals also advise individuals with poor thyroid function to avoid tofu due to its goitrogen content.
However, not all researchers agree. Some even say that consuming soy foods like tofu can benefit people with kidney stones (44).
Bottom Line: Eating tofu is safe for most people. If you're worried about negative health effects, then double-check with your healthcare provider.
How to Select Tofu or Make Your Own
Tofu can be purchased in bulk or individual packages, refrigerated or not.
You can also find it dehydrated, freeze-dried, jarred or canned.
Generally, not a lot of processing is necessary to make tofu, so choose varieties that have short nutrition labels.
You can expect to see ingredients like soybeans, water, coagulants (such as calcium sulfate, magnesium chloride or delta gluconolactone) and maybe some seasoning.
Once opened, tofu blocks need to be rinsed prior to being used.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator, covered with water. Stored this way, tofu can be kept for up to one week—just make sure you change the water often.
Tofu can also be frozen, in its original package, for up to five months.
Finally, making your own tofu is also a possibility. All you need are soybeans, lemon and water. If you'd like to give it a try, check out this simple video:
Bottom Line: Tofu can be found in a variety of shapes and forms. Homemade tofu is also surprisingly easy to make.
Tofu is a Healthy Food
Tofu is high in protein and many healthy nutrients.
Eating tofu may protect against a variety of health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and even certain cancers.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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