Tofu (a soyfood) contains isoflavones (including genistein, daidzein, and glycitein) that “block the stimulation of cancer cells by sex hormones (such as estrogens and testosterone). They also intervene by blocking angiogenesis [formation of new blood vessels that nourish the cancer cells].” (Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber, page 122).
“However the protective action of soy against breast cancer has been formally demonstrated for women who have consumed it since adolescence. Its protective effect against cancer has not been proven when consumption begins in adulthood.” (Anticancer, page 103)
Since the publication of Anticancer in 2008, there has been new research on soy and breast cancer. According to current research as summarized in Eating Well magazine (a reliable resource for the lay public), November/December 2009, page 37: “Studies are conflicting about the benefits of soyfood consumption later in life. Researchers hypothesize that in younger women, when the body’s estrogen levels are high, isoflavones in soy may compete with the body’s natural estrogen and reduce risk of breast cancer. After menopause, however, natural estrogen levels are much lower and so it’s thought that the isoflavones act like estrogen. Higher estrogen levels are linked with higher risk for breast cancer. That doesn’t mean that eating soyfoods like tofu and edamame – in moderation – after menopause is unsafe, says Zheng” (one of the authors of a recent study about soyfood consumption and breast cancer, published in April 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). Furthermore, “’No data show that eating soyfoods increases breast-cancer risk in postmenopausal women.’” (Zheng)
So what do dietitians at the MD Anderson Center in Houston recommend? According to the Eating Well article, Sally Scroggs, M.S., R.D., says that “it’s best to eat soyfoods in moderation at any age – up to two servings daily, which is equivalent to ½ cup tofu or edamame and 1 cup soymilk.”
Note: The beneficial effects of soy relate to soyFOODs — not to soy supplements. “Concentrated extracts of isoflavones sold as dietary supplements for use during menopause have been suspected of promoting tumor growth and should be avoided.” (Anticancer, page 103).
UPDATE: Safety of soy for breast cancer surviors
But what about “soy protein isolate” which is found in many foods, such as granola bars, energy bars, and protein bars, as well as in protein powders that are to be mixed with milk or juice? According to Wikipedia, “Soy protein isolate is a highly refined or purified form of soy protein with a minimum protein content of 90% on a moisture-free basis.” From what I can deduce from the data (USDA-Iowa State U Database on Isoflavone Content of Foods), soy protein isolate has an isoflavone content that’s about four times as high as that of tofu – and that’s a lot. So to my mind, soy protein isolate is a concentrated extract – and not a food.
But how much soy protein isolate do you get in a “granola” bar? Or in a scoop of a protein powder? I don’t know; it’s hard to tell. So to be on the safe side, I think it’s best to choose the bars that do not have this ingredient – though there are not many on the market or to choose those that have less protein and therefore should have less of this ingredient – and not to make a habit of reaching for one of these bars. And I avoid all protein powders — unless they are whey based.
And…for more information on soy isoflavones and nutrition, here’s a good site to keep tabs on: Micronutrient Center of the Linus Pauling Institute.
So now let’s talk tofu!
This is the easiest recipe ever. And you can make this tofu taste exactly like you want it by topping it with your favorite vegetable medley or sauce.
Tofu (not extra firm or silken, but all other varieties work just fine)
Cut the tofu into ½-inch slices. Pat each slice dry with a paper towel (preferably one that’s not bleached white).
Non-stick pan directions
Cover the bottom of a non-stick pan with a thin layer of olive oil and heat over medium heat.
- The directions for use and care of all the non-stick skillets I’ve ever had say that medium heat is the hottest heat that’s good for the pan.
Place the tofu slices into the hot oil. When the underside of each piece is light brown, turn each piece over and continue to cook until the other underside is light brown.
Optional step: Remove the nicely browned tofu from the pan and place on a paper towel to soak up the extra oil.
Regular pan directions
To saute tofu in a regular pan, you can use higher heat, but you also need to use more oil. See this video for a nice short demonstration of sauteing tofu in a regular pan.
What to do with plain sauted tofu
Serve Sauted Tofu with one or more toppings or sauces:
- Sun Dried Tomato Flavor Cubes (Just defrost and serve with the tofu.)
- Tomato Onion Chutney Flavor Cubes (Just defrost and serve with the tofu.)
- Any other vegetable toppings you like (I’ll be offering some more recipe ideas for toppings soon! And if you have some ideas, please add a comment with your suggestion.)
Enjoy and be healthy,