Ingredient Spotlight: Tofu

Tofu, also known as soya bean curd, has also been called a cheese as it is made by grinding cooked soya beans and the resulting ‘milk’ is then curdled with a coagulant.

It is thought that tofu originated in China about 2000 years ago and was introduced into Japan in the 8th century. Tofu is often described as a perfect food as it is high in good quality protein, low in saturated fats, cholesterol free, easy to digest and carries with it a number of health benefits.

Tofu provides 14.4% of the daily value for these especially beneficial fats in just 4 ounces. Research into the health benefits of tofu, like soya in general, has shown that it can reduce the risk of heart disease because it lowers LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol. Tofu is also rich in phytoestrogens and research has shown that women who eat a diet rich in phytoestrogens have less hot flushes and night sweats.

Research has also looked at breast cancer risk in those cultures that eat a lot of soya products. We know that for Western women, 133 per 100,000 will be affected by breast cancer compared to 39 per 100,000 in Asian countries. And a large study in 2006, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that a diet high in soya was associated with a 14% reduction in risk of breast cancer. Further research showed that both tofu and miso showed clear protective effects.

The texture of tofu varies from soft to firm to extra-firm. Soft tofu has a smooth texture and is more suited for salad dressings, sauces and desserts, while firm and extra-firm tofu are best for baking, stir-frying and grilling. For more recipes on cooking with tofu and soya see my book ‘Healthy Eating Through the Menopause’ available from

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