Plant-based proteins have seen a surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part because outbreaks in meat-processing facilities have made some products harder to come by.
If you’re one of the people incorporating more plant-based options into your diet, consider benefiting your heart by choosing dishes that contain tofu or other foods rich in the compounds called isoflavones (which are found in soybeans and other legumes). A study published in March 2020 in the journal Circulation found that people who ate at least one weekly serving of tofu or another food containing isoflavones had an 18% lower risk of developing heart disease compared with those who ate these foods less than once a month. These foods appeared particularly beneficial for premenopausal women and women who had gone through menopause but weren’t using hormone therapy.
Earlier research, including diet studies, has shown that isoflavones can improve unhealthy cholesterol levels, inflammation, and insulin resistance — “all of which are risk factors for heart disease,” says Dr. Qi Sun, lead researcher on the new study and an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In addition, isoflavones may help promote healthy gut bacteria, which have anti-inflammatory properties, he says.
“Tofu is also an excellent source of plant-based proteins and contains many essential amino acids,” Dr. Sun adds. Ideally, women should strive to substitute isoflavone-rich foods for less healthy protein options, such as red or processed meats.
|Adding tofu to your dietLooking to give tofu a try? It’s fairly easy to get started, says Dr. Qi Sun, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Tofu is a very versatile food to cook with. “First of all, there are so many different products that can be broadly considered as tofu. And people can choose the product that best fits in their usual diet,” says Dr. Sun.Some easy options: Add thin slices of dried tofu to salad to enhance the texture and flavor, or mix tofu chunks into a stir-fry with your favorite vegetables and sauce. You can deep-fry it (preferably with unsaturated vegetable oil), grill it, or toss cubes of it into a pot of soup.”Tofu products sold in the U.S. market usually do not have a strong flavor by themselves, so it’s very easy to include tofu in the diet,” says Dr. Sun. “Depending on the products, the texture also varies a lot. There are many excellent recipes for cooking tofu. People can just pick one and give it a shot.”|
Myths and facts about isoflavones
The study looked at data from three large studies that, together, included some 200,000 people (168,474 of them women). Researchers compared the foods participants reported eating to rates of serious heart-related problems and discovered the heart benefit among people who consumed higher amounts of isoflavones — and tofu, specifically.
Despite the findings, some women may balk at the idea of eating more tofu or other sources of isoflavones, because they may believe some of the myths that have circulated about soy-based foods in recent years. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, which means they may mimic the action of human estrogen, a female hormone.
“There is a myth that isoflavones will make men feminized or make people fat because of the estrogenic effects of isoflavones, although there is no evidence to support these myths,” says Dr. Sun.
Experts have also debunked the idea that soy may fuel breast cancer.
Despite the misinformation about isoflavones, Americans today have begun eating more isoflavone-containing foods, specifically soy products, than in the past, he says. These foods are easy to find on the shelves of American supermarkets.
“I believe over time, more and more Americans will start replacing meat with tofu and other soy products for better health,” says Dr. Sun.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren’
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12 NIV
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 NIV
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Matthew 6:7 NIV
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18 NIV
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ Jeremiah 33:3 NIV
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20 NIV
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV
who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6 NIV
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