Studies find more health benefits in soy-based foods


January 31, 1995|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,Special to The Sun

You're about to hear another amazing reason to learn to eat tofu, and several delicious ways to make it happen.

Numerous studies show women who regularly eat foods made from soy (such as tofu, tempeh and soy milk) have very low rates of breast cancer. Men who eat soy rarely die from prostate cancer.

Now information emerges suggesting soy-based foods may also reduce menopausal symptoms, including mood swings and hot flashes. In Japan, where women traditionally eat a high-soy diet, hot flashes are so rare there is no word to describe them. Asian women also have far fewer osteoporotic hip fractures than women eating a typical American diet.

Phytoestrogens seem to be the reason. "Phyto" is from the Greek word for plant. So these are weak estrogens found in plants. Very small amounts reside in about 300 plants such as bean sprouts, red clover, sunflower seeds, rye, wheat, sesame seeds, linseed, carrots, corn, apples, barley and oats. But soy products such as tofu are packed with phytoestrogens.

During child-bearing years, phytoestrogens prevent breast cancer by competing with naturally occurring estrogens. Although estrogen is essential for reproduction, it can cause breast cancer.

During menopause, when estrogen production drops by 70 percent, phytoestrogens provide an estrogen "lift," according to Tufts University's Diet & Nutrition Letter, that makes up for the lack of hormones without increasing cancer risk.

So numerous studies are going on to evaluate the effectiveness of soy products in minimizing menopausal symptoms. This is great news for women who want to go naturally through menopause and skip the hormone replacement therapy.

Fortunately, a very small amount, about 2 ounces of tofu a day, seems to be enough to decrease symptoms.

But, I can hear you saying: "Tofu?"

As far as flavor, tofu's big selling point is that it has no flavor: It takes on the taste of any sauce. Crumble it up and mix it in chili or spaghetti sauce and you'll never know the difference.

You'll find tofu in the produce section of the grocery store. A half-cup portion (about 4 1/2 ounces) contains 183 calories, 11 grams of fat and 258 milligrams calcium. Some low-fat varieties are now available, too.

Another nifty way to get tofu is through meat analogues such as Morningstar Farms Deli Franks (120 calories, 7 grams fat) or Green Giant Harvest Burgers. Do they taste like real fTC hamburgers? Of course not. But on a multigrain English muffin piled high with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles, they make their own statement. For zestier flavor, slather on the Dijon or spicy country mustard.

Or suppose you could get your tofu as a Chocolate Dream Dessert, or a Strawberry Banana Breakfast Shake. Would you give it a try? Mori-Nu, maker of the new, lower calcium, but softer textured "silken" tofu, offers these recipes guaranteed to make you a tofu fan.

To get a free copy of a "Lessons in Tofu" brochure with five recipes and a coupon, send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope to Nutrition Department, Morinaga Nutritional Foods Inc., 2050 W. 190th St. Suite 110, Torrance, Calif. 90504. For a 10-minute videotape and seven more recipes, include $4 for shipping and handling.


Dream Dessert

Makes 10 servings

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 10 1/2 -ounce packages Mori-Nu Silken Lite Tofu Extra Firm

1 large banana

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt chocolate chips in microwave with 2 tablespoons water. Thoroughly blend tofu in a blender or food processor. Add melted chocolate and vanilla to tofu and blend at high speed 2 minutes. Slice banana and layer with chocolate mixture in either pudding cups or graham cracker crust. Refrigerate 1-2 hours. Per servings (filling only) 161 calories, 3 g fat.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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