According to new research from the Harvard School of Public Health, eating tofu can lower your risk of heart disease! The key ingredient is isoflavones—chemical compounds found in legumes like soybeans, chickpeas, and peanuts.
Researchers gathered data from over 200,000 healthy participants, asking them to complete health surveys every two to four years. After analyzing medical records and taking into account other risk factors, researchers found a link between eating tofu and a reduced risk for heart disease. Participants who ate tofu more than once a week saw the greatest reduction: 18 percent. But even those who ate tofu less than once a month had a 12 percent lower risk. The study’s findings support statistics from countries where people eat more isoflavone-rich foods, such as China and Japan.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Qi Sun, states that while it is not a “magic bullet,” tofu is a very healthy choice:
If their diet is packed with unhealthy foods, such as red meat, sugary beverages, and refined carbohydrates, they should switch to healthier alternatives. Tofu and other isoflavone-rich, plant-based foods are excellent protein sources and alternatives to animal proteins.
According to Julieanna Hever—plant-based dietitian and author of Plant-Based Nutrition (Idiot’s Guide)—soy can have other health benefits as well, including possibly lowering a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Hever points out that the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends soy as a cancer-fighting food because it is associated with decreased risk for breast cancer recurrence and mortality. She explains:
Soy helps reduce risk of breast cancer. Instead of being concerned about phytoestrogens found in soy foods and other foods, women should be concerned about the hormonally active mammalian estrogens found in dairy products, which actually have been associated with an increased risk for breast cancer.
For maximum health benefits, Hever recommends choosing whole soy foods over more processed ones: “With any food, I suggest opting for the whole-food version. So, for soy, whole options include soybeans (edamame), tofu, tempeh, miso paste, and soy milk.”
Fortunately, healthy soy products are easy to find and often very affordable! Start experimenting with soy and other great plant-based foods by downloading our FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide.