By Jonathan Galland
An important source of protein in delicious Asian cuisine, tofu has become very popular in the U.S., where it can now be found in most supermarkets. Tofu is bean curd, made by adding a mineral salt (usually, calcium sulfate) and water to a soybean mash. The mineral salt makes the protein and fiber in the soy mash turn thick and smooth. Depending upon the amount of water it contains, tofu may vary in consistency.
Tofu is rich in calcium and is an inexpensive source of protein, making it a good vegetarian substitute for meat or dairy products. Plain tofu has almost no taste, but it readily absorbs the flavor of herbs and spices added when you prepare a meal.
Studies indicate that regular tofu consumption, as part of a well balanced diet, may be associated with:
- reduced risk of heart disease
- lower levels of cholesterol
- improved bone density and reduced risk of fractures
High protein foods tend to satisfy appetite better than foods with less protein. One study found that tofu produced greater satiety than animal protein. The effect lasted for several hours and was not associated with a rebound increase in appetite when it ended.
The special benefits of tofu have been attributed to two major components: isoflavones and amino acids.
Isoflavones are a special group of bioflavonoids found more highly concentrated in soy than in any other food and are:
1) Potent antioxidants. Antioxidants may help protect the cells in your body from damage to DNA and cell membranes.
2) Anti-inflammatory. Inflammation in the walls of blood vessels, by a chemical called "soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1)", is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Soy isoflavones may help inhibit this type of inflammation.
3) Hormone modulators. Isoflavones have a structure somewhat similar to estrogen and modify the effects of estrogen in your body. It is believed that this hormone modulating effect may account for the decreased risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis associated with regular consumption of tofu.
Soy foods may reduce levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and can also reduce blood pressure. Research has shown that the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy is due to the amino acid profile of soy protein. A unique fraction of soy protein called "7S globulin" can increase the liver's ability to remove dangerous LDL-cholesterol from the blood.
We wanted to bring the joy of tofu to readers of The Fat Resistance Diet, so we created original recipes featuring tofu in our book:
Crispy Tofu (p. 185)
Grilled Vegetables with Tofu (p. 200)
Big Vegetable Bowl (p. 205)
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Tofu (p. 256)