An important source of protein, made from soybean curds, tofu is naturally low in calories and contains no cholesterol. A popular choice for those practising a vegan or vegetarian diet, is it time for more people to benefit from this ingredient? Tofu contains isoflavones, Medical News Today stated, which have been shown to reduce levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. Research from the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, Tokyo, conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the precise effects of soy isoflavones on lipid profiles.
Soy isoflavones “significantly decreases” total cholesterol levels by 0.10mmol/L, and bad cholesterol by 0.12mmol/L.
Reductions in bad cholesterol were larger in those diagnosed with high cholesterol than those already within the healthy range.
Soya isoflabones did not, however, change high-density lipoprotein (i.e. “good”) cholesterol or triacylglycerol.
Experts at Medical News Today stated: “Consuming tofu as an alternative to animal protein can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol.
“This, in turn, decreases the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.”
One predominant isoflavone in soy, known as genistein, is believed to have anti-oxidant properties that could inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Published in the journal Advances in Nutrition, authors from the National Research Council penned: “Several epidemiologic studies showed a relation between a soy-rich diet and cancer prevention.”
This was attributed to “the presence of a phenolic compound, genistein, present in soy-based foods”.
The researchers elaborated: “Genistein acts as a chemotherapeutic agent against different types of cancer.
“Mainly by altering apoptosis, the cell cycle, and angiogenesis and inhibiting metastasis.
“Genistein also shows synergistic behaviour with well-known anti-cancer drugs, such as adriamycin, docetaxel, and tamoxifen, suggesting a potential role in combination therapy.”
The NHS added that tofu is a good source of calcium, which is needed to maintain healthy bones and teeth.
Tofu is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to maintain a healthy heart and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Experts at WebMD elaborated by stating that the plant oestrogen found in tofu can help to “improve how well your endothelium works”.
“That’s the tissue that lines your blood vessels and the inside of your heart,” WebMD clarified.
While there are many health benefits associated with the consumption of tofu, some people are better off not eating it.
“Avoid tofu if you take medicines called MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) for mood disorders or Parkinson’s disease,” the WebMd said.
“Tofu contains tyramine, an amino acid that helps balance your blood pressure,” Web MD stated.
“MAOIs block the enzyme that breaks tyramine down. Combine the two and your blood pressure could get dangerously high.”