How do you guys feel about tofu? It seems to be one of those foods that people either love or hate. Growing up, the only exposure I had to tofu was the little cubes floating in miso soup. Once I got to college, where my interest in health and nutrition blossomed, I began eating and cooking tofu. I’ve never disliked it, but I understand why somebody may have a bad experience with it. The texture is unique, and when eaten on its own is very bland. One thing I’m quite proud of is getting Ben to willingly eat tofu, and enjoy it! I always make a flavorful sauce, so it really just becomes a vehicle for that.
Soy based foods are some of the most controversial in the food and nutrition world. Why? Soy contains high concentrations of isoflavones, which are a type of plant estrogen (phytoestrogens). Phytoestrogens can have similar effects as human estrogen on the human body, but much weaker. The isoflavones in soy can bind to estrogen receptors in our bodies, causing very weak estrogenic effects OR anti-estrogenic effects. Because of this, there has been concern that soy foods may increase the risk of certain hormonal cancers. However, several studies have shown that soy consumption is associated with lower risk of breast cancer, both hormone positive and hormone negative. Studies also show that soy intake is significantly associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer in men.
I enjoy soy based foods such as edamame, tofu and tempeh, and based on the research, they are safe to consume! Soy has many health benefits, being a high quality source of plant-based protein. Unlike many other plant-based proteins like beans and legumes, soy is a complete protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is low in saturated fat, so it is an excellent replacement for red and processed meat in the diet. It also contains valuable vitamins and minerals, including calcium and iron. Also, I think it is notable to mention that the people of Okinawa, Japan regularly consume tofu – about 8 times more than we do in the US. This population is one of the worlds five “Blue Zones”, regions of the world where people live much longer than average. Following suit and including tofu, amongst other nutritious foods in our diets, like sweet potatoes and turmeric, may help us live longer!
This super simple tofu recipe has become my go-to. I used to pan-fry my tofu, but I found it would brown unevenly, and I would need to use significantly more oil to prevent it from sticking. By baking, I can just use spray oil! It gives the tofu that golden crispy exterior while still being soft on the inside. I usually make this recipe once a week to enjoy in a grain bowl or salad. I kept the seasonings minimal because I always add a flavorful sauce or dressing that the tofu picks up.