Originated in China about 2000 years ago, tofu is a highly nutritious food that is rich in protein. It was introduced in the 8th century in Japan but it was only in the 17th century when it gained widespread popularity. Tofu became popular in the West with the increasing interest in healthier foods.
Tofu is made from the curds of soybean milk. It is off-white in color and is usually sold in rectangular blocks. Tofu is available throughout the year in many supermarkets around the world in either the silken Japanese form, with a smoother and custard-like texture, or the traditional Chinese form. Both kinds of tofu can be found in extra firm, firm, or soft textures.
Since the Mediterranean diet calls for lesser consumption of meat, tofu is a healthy meat substitute that can give the body the protein it needs. Tofu is very versatile and can absorb the flavors of its surrounding ingredients. Tofu can be used from entrée to dessert, to salad dressing, and other recipes in the Mediterranean diet plan. Tofu figures in many Mediterranean diet recipes.
A very good source of protein, tofu also contain other nutrients that can benefit the human body. Aside from adding texture and versatility to a dish, tofu has a lot of health benefits and these include:
The Cardiovascular Benefits Of Soy Proteins And Omega-3 Fats
Regular intake of soy protein has been found to help lower cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower triglycerides level, lower LDL levels by as much as 35-40%, reduce the tendency of forming blood clots of platelets, and may possibly help raise HDL levels. These can help a person avoid diabetic heart disease and atherosclerosis. In short, regular consumption of soy proteins can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.
Tofu also is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
Four ounces of tofu can provide a person 14.4% of the recommended daily value of omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids can help improve the HDL-LDL ratio in the blood, prevent erratic heart rhythms, and reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids can also make the blood less prone to form clots inside the arteries. Clot inside the arteries is a common cause of heart attacks.
Soy Is Beneficial For Menopausal Women
Tofu and other soy food contain phytoestrogens like isoflavones, diadzein, and genistein. These compounds can dock at estrogen receptors in a woman’s body and act like very weak estrogens. During perimenopause, a woman’s estrogen levels usually fluctuate. The phytoestrogens found in soy can help balance estrogen in a woman going through menopause.
When a woman’s body produces lesser estrogen during menopause, the isoflavones may provide enough estrogenic activity to reduce, if not prevent, uncomfortable menopause symptoms like hot flashes. These isoflavones can also promote the resorption of bone to inhibit osteoporosis that usually occurs at the postmenopausal stage.
Many types of tofu are also enriched with calcium nowadays. Calcium can help prevent the acceleration of bone loss, a risk for menopausal women. Calcium can also be helpful to combat rheumatoid arthritis.
Minerals For Antioxidant Protection And Energy
Tofu is a good source of iron, a mineral that is essential to energy production. Copper, which works together with iron for hemoglobin synthesis, is also found in tofu. Copper is also said to be helpful to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover, copper is necessary for lysyl oxidase activity to crosslink elastin and collagen. Elastin and collagen provide the flexibility and ground substance in blood vessels, joints, and bones.
Manganese is also another mineral found in tofu
Together with copper, manganese is an important cofactor of superoxide dismutase. Superoxide dismutase is a key oxidative enzyme that disarms free radicals that are produced within the mitochondria, the cells’ energy production factories.
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