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Tofu is processed soybean curd. If that sounds weird, it’s not that different than cheese…let me explain! The three ingredients behind tofu are soybeans, water, and a coagulant—usually nigari (magnesium chloride) or gypsum (calcium sulfate).

After soaking raw, dried soybeans overnight and then blending those soybeans to make soymilk, the coagulant is added. From there, the soymilk forms curds, which are drained and pressed into blocks to create tofu! That tofu can be further pressed to remove moisture, creating medium, firm, or extra firm textures.

  1. We know that tofu was first made in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), and the oldest evidence of tofu making has been dated back to 25-220 AD (depicted in a Chinese mural). The word “tofu” is derived from the Mandarin word, “doufu,” which literally translates to “curdled bean.” However, “tofu” is a Japanese word and is closely tied to Buddhism.
  2. The earliest written record of tofu’s existence by any American comes from Benjamin Franklin in 1770. It was in a letter written from Franklin to John Bartram with a description of a “cheese” made from soy curds and seawater. He also sent Bartram a parcel of soybeans to try it for himself.
  3. Henry Ford believed that soybeans were the future, so he had his engineers develop a plastic made from soybeans. And in 1935, he used soybean plastic for the frames of Ford cars.

5 Health Benefits of Tofu

Aging

Soy products such as soybeans, tofu, and soy milk may help to preserve skin-firming collagen and elastin which decline with age.

A recent study published in Experimental Dermatology treated mouse and pig skins topically with soybean extracts. During the course of skin aging, elastin synthesis is reduced and elastase activity is accelerated—resulting in skin sagging and reduced skin elasticity. The study showed that soybean extracts promoted elastin activity and inhibited elastase activity. The study concluded that soybean extracts may be used as a skincare agent to reduce the signs of aging.

Most of the current findings have been in animals, mainly mice, and therefore more research on the effects on humans needs to be done before any final conclusions can be made.

Lower Cholesterol

Regular consumption of soy products like tofu may lower  cholesterol levels and saturated fats, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Due to its low sodium content, it is also good for people with high blood pressure.

Using tofu as an alternative to the animal protein can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. As compared to meats such as beef, tofu has lower levels of saturated fatty acids and higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids. It is also a good source of lecithin and linoleic acid, which helps regulate metabolism.

 Studies suggest this includes a reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the type often referred to as ‘bad’ cholesterol, as well as total cholesterol.

meta-analysis of 46 studies found that soy protein significantly reduced LDL cholesterol by about 3-4% in adults.

Eases Menopause Symptoms

The organic compounds in tofu, namely isoflavones, help to manage the symptoms of menopause. Isoflavones are plant-based compounds that mimic the estrogen hormone. Tofu can help stabilize the estrogen levels during menopause and also provide relief from hot flashes.

Manages Weight

In a paper published in the 2013 issue of the European Journal of Pharmacology, researchers reviewing the antiobesity mechanisms concluded that improving the body’s response to insulin and ability to manage glucose levels is one-way soy foods fight weight gain.

A study published in the journal Nutrition suggests that people who eat solely soy-based protein may lose more body fat and lower their cholesterol more than people who consume mostly animal-based protein.

Scientists found that snacking on high protein soy foods helps you feel more full and puts a lid on hunger, according to a study appearing in the 2015 Journal of Nutrition.

Heart Health

Only a few studies specifically look at tofu’s effects on heart health. However, research has shown that a high intake of legumes, including soy, is linked to lower rates of heart disease. Scientists have also discovered that soy isoflavones can reduce blood vessel inflammation and improve their elasticity.

One study found that supplementing with 80 mg of isoflavones per day for 12 weeks improved blood flow by 68% in people who were at risk of stroke. Taking 50 grams of soy protein per day is also associated with improved blood fats and an estimated 10% lower risk of heart disease

A 2020 study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation examined data from more than 200,000 people and found a connection between eating at least one serving of tofu a week and an 18% lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate tofu less than once a month.

From pad thai to stir fry, these easy and healthy tofu recipes will teach you how to cook tofu like a pro!

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