Tofu or Not Tofu

  • Update: Since writing this post almost 2 years ago, I have added more tofu into my diet. Why? Because as I learn more from medical nutritionists, dietitians, and nutritionists, I have come to understand that organic tofu (and often organic sprouted tofu) is not only a great source of safe, plant protein and calcium, but its versatility is brilliant in many plant-based recipes.

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    Additionally, I eat a fully vegan diet now. I stand by my previously stated comments about highly-processed soy products, but I would not hesitate to enjoy whole soy beans, organic tofu, or organic tempeh. Now on with the post….

    Many people assume that because I eat a mostly vegan diet that I must eat tofu. This could not be further from the truth. The fact is I eat very little tofu…or anything made from soybeans for that matter.

    These days the only soy based food that I eat is when I go out to a Japanese restaurant and order miso soup. I have one other favorite local spot which includes a bit of tofu in a rice paper wrap with veggies. That’s it!

    I can’t remember the last time I bought anything soy from the grocery store.

    Why?

    I’m too busy eating whole fruits and vegetables according to the Fruit Til Five approach! If I were to purchase soy anything from the grocery store, it’d more than likely be organic whole soy bean pods.

    Very few foods are as hotly debated as soy. Some people love and recommend it, others fiercely suggest avoiding it. Many vegans (overly) depend on it. I fall somewhere in the middle.

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    As I teach in The Healers Diet, beans are not a natural food for humans because they can not be gathered and eaten raw, however cultures have and do survive on legumes which are often paired with grains. If thriving is your goal, minimize or eliminate beans and grains and focus on vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds.

    However if you wish to eat soy, start with organic whole soy beans otherwise known as edamame. Nature made and packaged in its original state is preferable with any whole, real food. Soy beans have naturally high levels of phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, and goitrogens so it is important to keep intake to a minimum.

    Next I would choose fermented soy products like miso, tempeh, natto, tamari, and raw nama shoyu sauce. The fermentation process reduces the phytic acid level making it more useful in the body and increases certain vitamin and mineral levels as well as digestibility. Nama shoyu is a wonderful upgrade from regular soy sauce and tastes delicious. Be on the lookout for fermented tofu and fermented soy milk options.

    Next I would choose tofu, soy milk and soy sauce. Because they are not fermented and are processed, the phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, and goitrogen levels are going to be concentrated. Use these items sparingly, if at all.

    Lastly, skip over all the soy based cheeses, meat analogs (fake meat) and condiments. They are vegan processed junk food and come packaged with so many fillers, colors, preservatives and flavorings that they can not be considered wise nutrition.

    Always choose organic soy products no matter what. It is estimated that 90% of all soy produced in the USA is genetically modified and heavily sprayed with pesticides.

    If you like to include soy of any type in your diet, eat no more than one serving a day. It is too easy to get too much soy in your diet if you’re having soy milk with breakfast, soy “meat” deli slices for lunch and a tofu stir fry at dinner.

    Too much soy in the diet can tamper with hormone levels. I know if I eat too much soy, my nipples (yeah, I said it….TMI) get tender. OUCH! I definitely can feel the soy wreck havoc with my estrogen level.

    Like so many foods, soy is not “good” or “bad.” It needs to be understood and eaten wisely. Choose organic whole beans or organic fermented soy products first and foremost when including soy in your diet.

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