Study: Eating Tofu Reduces Risk Of Heart Disease

People who regularly eat tofu or other foods containing isoflavones are less likely to develop cardiovascular problems, according to a study published in the renowned journal Circulation.

How tofu can protect the cardiovascular system

Soy products and their impact on health are often controversial. Overall, however, the evidence in the scientific literature now outweighs the fact that soy products can have a positive rather than a negative effect on health.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston confirm this with a study published in April 2020 in Circulation, the prestigious journal of the American Heart Association.

This study focused on tofu, which appears to protect the heart when consumed at least once a week. Tofu is made from soy. The resulting milk is mixed with a coagulant and thickened (similar to quark). The soy whey is then removed and the remaining mass is pressed into firm blocks (similar to cheese). Tofu has a neutral taste and can therefore be prepared both savory (grilled, fried, etc.) and sweet (dessert creams, cake fillings, etc.).

Tofu, taken at least once a week, has a protective effect on the heart
For their study, the scientists analyzed the data of more than 200,000 people, all participants in three large health and nutrition studies. At the start of the studies, all subjects were free of heart disease.

An average of 25 years later, people who ate tofu a lot (more than once a week) had an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to people who ate tofu infrequently (less than once per month).

The consumption of soy milk had no significant effect on the cardiovascular system in the Boston study.

Women in particular benefit from the protective effect of tofu

The protective effect of tofu on the cardiovascular system was particularly evident in women – on the one hand in younger women before menopause, on the other hand also in older women, but especially in those who did not take hormone preparations. So it could be that synthetic hormones tend to negate the heart-healthy properties of some foods.

Since soy products also seem to have a positive effect on bone health, consuming soy is a good idea, especially for women to prevent osteoporosis.

How soy products can be assessed in connection with breast cancer can be read in our article on this topic, which explains exactly under which circumstances soy products can be cancer-promoting and when cancer-inhibiting.

Tofu is a great addition to a healthy, wholesome diet

Of course, an 18 percent lower risk is not indicative of a miracle superfood. However, since the alleged harmfulness of soy products is repeatedly written in various places on the Internet, studies such as the present one help to create uncertainty among readers due to misinformation circulating around the world.

Tofu is, therefore, a highly recommended food that can be an excellent addition to a healthy, varied and wholesome diet. This opinion is also shared by study author Dr. Qi Sun from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, who adds:

“People in China and Japan whose traditional diet includes foods rich in isoflavone, such as tofu, generally have a lower risk of heart disease than people who eat a lot of meat and eat few vegetables.”

Isoflavones are not only found in soy products

Some plant substances from soybeans are called isoflavones. Since they have weak but estrogen-like properties, they belong to the group of phytoestrogens – certainly one of the reasons why tofu in the above study had a positive effect, especially on women.

Isoflavones bind to the estrogen receptors of the cell and can be used in this way e.g. B. improve the endothelial function or have a very positive effect on the intestinal flora. Both in turn – a healthy endothelial function (endothelium = inner wall of the blood vessels) and a healthy intestinal flora – ensure optimal cardiovascular health.

In addition to tofu, other soy products such as edamame (cooked unripe (green) soybeans) are considered high-quality sources of isoflavone. It is often said that chickpeas, pistachios, peanuts, and other nuts, seeds, and legumes also contain isoflavones. While this is true, the level of isoflavones in these foods is minimal and therefore not comparable to soy products in this respect.

For example, 100 g of tofu contains about 30 mg of isoflavones, 100 g of tempeh 43 mg of isoflavones, 100 g of soy milk about 10 mg, peanuts only 0.26 mg, and chickpeas only 0.1 mg.

However, isoflavones in particular are also referred to as so-called goitrogens and are therefore substances that can contribute to the formation of goiters, i.e. could damage the thyroid gland. However, this fear is unfounded, as you can read in our dedicated article on the possible impact of soy products on the thyroid.

Tofu is an excellent source of protein and an alternative to meat

dr Qi Sun recommends: “Since other human studies and animal studies (on the connection between isoflavones and cardiovascular risk) have also shown positive effects from tofu consumption, people with increased cardiovascular risk should review their diet. If the diet still includes components like red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and refined carbohydrates, then they should switch to healthier alternatives. Tofu and other isoflavone-rich plant foods are excellent sources of protein and great alternatives to animal protein sources.”

You can find numerous recipes with tofu or edamame in our recipe section or of course on our YouTube channel, where you can use hundreds of cooking videos to learn how to prepare tofu and other soy products in no time at all and, above all, experience how delicious tofu can taste – if you know what is important in the preparation.

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