Scrambled Tofu and a discussion about soy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made some yummy scrambled tofu today. I made up my own recipe. First I sautéed some garlic, using extracted oil for a change, instead of cooking with water. It’s a lovely treat to cook with oil on the very odd occasion. So many meals can be done without it, like the curry I made last night. I cooked the vegetables in water and curry spices and then I added coconut water at the end after I turned the heat off. I also added some pasta made from konjac. Very yummy!

photo-49

Anyway, back to the scrambled tofu: after heating the garlic, I crumbled some firm tofu into the pan and sprinkled it with tamari, sweet paprika and cumin. As it cooked, I added kale, carrot, radish and celery. I kept the heat very low and didn’t cook it for long, so it had gorgeous colour and textural taste vibrancy.

I scooped this mix into some lettuce leaves and then added a dollop of sticky vegan cheese. Yum!

If you would like to try a scrambled tofu recipe, check out the links below:

http://minimalistbaker.com/southwest-tofu-scramble/

http://www.taste.com.au/kitchen/recipes/scrambled+tofu,11360

http://vegetarian.about.com/od/tofurecipes/tp/best-tofu-scrambles.htm


After I posted my recipe on my Facebook business page, someone said “I thought tofu is supposed to be super bad for you?”

Here is an edited version of my reply:

“No, it isn’t. Some people over-eat it yes, and that might not be a great idea especially considering that this crop tends to be highly messed with on a genetic modification level, but the latest science is saying it isn’t the monster we’ve been thinking it is, especially in regard to hormone dependant cancers like breast cancer. It may actually be protective.

I only eat tofu for a few days running every few months, when I get a craving. I don’t use any other soy aside from a bit of tamari sauce a few times a week. While I don’t believe soy is a major problem food, I do feel that many people tend to over-eat it. For example, a person might drink soy milk multiple times a day, use soy sauce in most cooking and consume dairy-alternatives like soy-yogurt, tempeh, tofu, soy-cueese and soy-based protein powders. This is a phenomenal amount of soy to be consuming on a daily basis!

Soy also tends to be more subject to invasive farming techniques soy as genetic modification. The speed at which some modern foods are being artificially changed is sometimes hard for the human body to keep up with. We can’t co-evolve naturally alongside genetically modified foods. I also think soy foods tend to be over-processed, and it’s worth keeping in mind that some studies in the past have been done on soy isolates, rather than whole soy. The health of this food may depend largely on the form it is taken in and the amount which is eaten, as well as the circumstances of the person eating it, of course!

Herbalists have long thought that soy has a balancing effect on hormones. Like many plant foods, soy contains natural phytochemicals that are shaped a little like our human oestrogen. These phyto-estrogens can slot into cells receptor sites that are designed to receive oestrogenic compounds. Being similar in shape, they can ‘unlock’ or activate a mild estrogenic action, while at the same time blocking normal oestrogen and/or xenoestrogens from being able to access the receptor site. This is brilliantly balancing if there isn’t enough oestrogen, or if there is too much (competitive inhibition).”

Here are some articles for those who are interested in researching further:

Soy and your Health : This is from my favourite medical sources of information, The Practitioner’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

A vegan doctor addresses soy myths and misinformation : Holly Wilson, MD is board certified in Emergency Medicine and has been vegan since February 2007. An outspoken advocate for the vegan lifestyle, she regularly counsels her patients and coworkers alike.

Is soy dangerous? : this one is from my favourite vegan dietician Brenda Davies. This lady is truly amazing!


PHYTOESTROGENS

From a herbalists perspective, the demonising of soy due to its hormonal effects seems especially strange when there are so many other foods that contain estrogenic compounds and hormones. If we were really that concerned, wouldn’t be taking care to avoid dairy and fish, in particular? With all of humanities pollution ending up in the ocean, fish are consuming plastic, and we we consume fish, that plastic ends up inside us. Many of these plastics are xeno-estrogens. I know some writers and researchers refer to both xenon-estrogens and phyto-estrogens as hormone disrupters, and I certainly think over-eating phyto-estrogens may be unwise until we have more scientific evidence to guide us, but I still think there is a big difference between artificial ‘oestrogen’s’ and pyito-estrogens. I suspect that the body, when it isn’t being flooded with phytoestrogens, is able to be more selective about whether it uses the phytoestrogen or not, whereas the xeno-estrogens are so artificial the body may have more difficulty in  managing and excreting them. Then there are the animal proteins… like, but unlike our own human hormones, and certainly far more potent than phyto-estrogens.

Many people think they are avoiding the hormonal issues associated with dairy products so long as they avoid dairy that comes from cows who have been given artificial hormones. But even organic dairy contains strong hormones. This is mothers milk we are talking about, milk designed to make a baby calf grow into adulthood very quickly. Cows milk naturally contains insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Consumption of milk and dairy products on a regular basis has been shown to increase circulating levels of IGF in humans. Here are some quotes from PCRM:

“Case-control studies in diverse populations have shown a strong and consistent association between serum IGF-1 concentrations and prostate cancer risk. Cohen P. Serum insulin-like growth factor-I levels and prostate cancer risk—interpreting the evidence. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1998;90:876–879.

*One study showed that men with the highest levels of IGF-1 had more than four times the risk of prostate cancer, compared with those who had the lowest levels. Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Giovannucci E, et al. Plasma insulin-like growth factor-1 and prostate cancer risk: a prospective study. Science. 1998;279:563–565.

*In addition to increased levels of IGF-1, estrogen metabolites are considered risk factors for cancers of the reproductive system, including cancers of the breasts, ovaries, and prostate. These metabolites can affect cellular proliferation such that cells grow rapidly and aberrantly,29 which can lead to cancer growth. Consumption of milk and dairy products contributes to the majority (60-70 percent) of estrogen intake in the human diet. 

Then there is the research being done by Ganmaa Davaasambuu, a physician with a Ph.D. in environmental health (Japan), a fellow (Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study), and a working scientist (Harvard School of Public Health). Ganmma is concerned that the link between cancer and dairy hormones has not been widely studied or discussed, when dairy accounts for 60  to 80 percent of estrogens consumed.

And why are we so completely obsessed with soy as a hormone regulating food when there are so many more plant foods we eat every day that contain phyto-estrogens? These include cereals, fruits, berries, flaxseeds, alfalfa and various beans including mung-bean. Here’s a quote from one of my favourite herbalists, Susan S. Weed, as well as a link to an excellent article she has written on the topic. I love the way she bring gut flora into the conversation and like most herbalists, she has a sophisticated understanding of food holism and nutrient synergy (happy sigh):

“Virtually everything we eat – grains, beans, nuts, seeds, seed oils, berries, fruits, vegetables, and roots – contains phytoestrogens. Scientists measuring the amount of phytoestrogen break-down by-products in the urine of healthy women found that those with the least were four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than with the most. Phytoestrogens actually appear to protect tissues from the cancer-causing effects of xenoestrogens and other hormonal pollutants.”

Here is a fantastic list of phytoestrogen plants she has made, listed in order from most potent to least:

~ Whole grains (rye, oats, barley, millet, rice, wheat, corn)
~ Edible seeds (buckwheat, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, amaranth, quinoa)
~ Beans (yellow split peas, black turtle beans, baby limas, Anasazi beans, red kidney beans, red lentils, soy beans)
~ Leafy greens and seaweed (parsley, nettle, kelp, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, lamb’s quarter)
~ Fruits (olives, cherries, grapes, apples, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, salmon berries, apricots, crab apples, quinces, rosehips, blueberries)
~ Olive oil and seed oils
~ Garlic, onions and their relatives leeks, chives, scallions, ramps, shallot

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