Tofu, soymilk, miso, tempeh, edamame—these and other soy products, including the soybeans themselves, are high in nutrients you tend to associate with other legumes, including fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, protein, and zinc.
Soybeans naturally contain a class of phytoestrogens called isoflavones. People hear the word “estrogen” in the word “phytoestrogens” and assume that means soy has estrogen-like effects. Not necessarily. Estrogen has positive effects in some tissues and potentially negative effects in others. For example, high levels of estrogen can be good for the bones but can increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer. Ideally, you’d like what’s called a “selective estrogen receptor modulator” in your body that would have proestrogenic effects in some tissues and antiestrogenic effects in others. Well, that’s what soy phytoestrogens appear to be. Soy seems to lower breast cancer risk, an antiestrogenic effect, but can also help reduce menopausal hot-flash symptoms, a proestrogenic effect. So, you may be able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Soy consumption has also been shown to benefit our kidneys, which appear to handle plant protein very differently from animal protein. Within hours of eating meat, our kidneys rev up into hyperfiltration mode. But, an equivalent amount of plant protein causes virtually no noticeable stress on the kidneys. Eat some tuna, and within three hours, your kidney filtration rate can shoot up 36 percent. But eating the same amount of protein in the form of tofu doesn’t appear to place any additional strain on the kidneys.
I recommend eating 1.5 cups of beans, including soy, per day. If you eat tofu, choose varieties made with calcium (you’ll see it in the ingredients list), which can weigh in at a whopping 550 mg of calcium per (3 oz) slice.
Image Credit: Amarita / Thinkstock. This image has been modified.
Popular Videos for Tofu
All Videos for Tofu
Highlights from the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Hearing
I was honored to testify before the US government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Check out the video to see my speech and a few of my favorite excerpts.
How the Dairy Industry Designs Misleading Studies
How the meat and dairy industries design studies showing their products have neutral or even beneficial effects on cholesterol and inflammation.
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist
In my book How Not to Die, I center my recommendations around a Daily Dozen checklist of everything I try to fit into my daily routine.
Exclusion Diets for Eczema
Infants of mothers randomized to cut out eggs, milk, and fish were significantly less likely to have eczema even years later.
Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen Checklist
In my book How Not to Die, I center my recommendations around a Daily Dozen checklist of all the things I try to fit into my daily routine.
The Role of Soy Foods in Prostate Cancer Prevention & Treatment
Soy is put to the test for the treatment of prostate cancer.
Fermented or Unfermented Soy Foods for Prostate Cancer Prevention?
Which appear more protective: fermented soy foods, such as miso and tempeh, or unfermented soy, like tofu and soy milk?
Best Food for Lead Poisoning – Garlic
Are there any benefits of garlic powder for treating mild-to-moderate lead poisoning?
How to Lower Lead Levels with Diet: Breakfast, Whole Grains, Milk, Tofu?
Getting food into your stomach within a few hours of lead exposure can suppress the absorption of lead by 90 percent or more—but which foods are particularly protective?
The Hispanic Paradox: Why Do Latinos Live Longer?
Despite less education on average, a higher poverty rate, and more limited access to health care, U.S. Hispanics tend to live the longest. Why?
The Most Potent Phytoestrogen Is in Beer
The reason women who handle hops start menstruating is because of a phytoestrogen that ends up in beer, called 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN).
Which Type of Protein Is Better for Our Kidneys?
Anti-inflammatory drugs abolish the hyperfiltration and protein leakage response to meat ingestion, suggesting that animal protein causes kidney stress through an inflammatory mechanism.