In Chinese folk medicine tofu, or cottage cheese made from soybeans, is one of the most recognized products for strengthening the body. It is recommended especially to the elderly, weakened people, nursing mothers who lack breast milk, as well as children and adolescents. It is also considered a food that should not be missing from the diet of asthmatics, diabetics, people with high blood cholesterol levels, and the obese. As in all folk stories, there is a grain of truth in this one as well. And quite a lot of it!
Tofu – not only for vegetarians
Just like soy itself, tofu is primarily a good source of protein and calcium – the building blocks of our body. It is therefore especially beneficial for people who do not eat animal products, especially meat and dairy. On average, 100 grams of raw tofu contain about 10 g of protein and 350 mg of calcium. Apart from these, tofu is also a good source of potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, as well as B vitamins.
The high protein and calcium content is not the only advantage of tofu. Apart from them, soy cheese is also a source of essential unsaturated fatty acids (EFAs). Tofu is full of them, especially those from the omega-3 group, whose role in the diet cannot be overestimated. Among other things, they contribute to lowering the level of the so-called bad cholesterol (LDL) in blood, they have anti-inflammatory properties, protect against asthma and osteoporosis, and take care of the condition of the skin, hair, and nails.
Soy and products made from it are also a source of phytoestrogens – natural substances resembling estrogen in terms of chemical structure. Similar enough that they manage to “trick” our body a bit. Because of this, tofu (as well as soy milk, pasta, sauce, or natto paste) is recommended for women going through menopause. They can help reduce the severity of some of its symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes.
Two substances from the phytoestrogen group, the so-called isoflavones – genistein and daidzein, are considered particularly valuable, not only for menopausal women. According to researchers, they may reduce the risk of certain cancers and, together with calcium, protect us against osteoporosis.
Who should watch out for tofu?
People who are prone to allergies should beware of soy and tofu. Soy, like nuts, is one of the strongest allergens. Caution should be exercised especially when serving it to children. Only serve it to a young allergy sufferer under the supervision and as recommended by a doctor – preferably an allergist.
Soy, and therefore also products made of it, should not be consumed in excess by people suffering from hypothyroidism. They are a source of goitrogens – anti-nutritional substances that interfere with iodine absorption.