The Tofu Debate and Soy

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January 31, 2013 by fitscript

Let’s start with the least controversial information.  Unfermented soy is not good for

The beginnings of miso, tofu soup

The beginnings of miso, tofu soup

you.  Soybeans contain photochemicals that can be toxic to the body.  Soybeans are high in phytate which are an anti-nutrient.  Essentially they bind to the minerals in your body like zinc, magnesium, iron and calcium and block absorption.  They also contain enzyme inhibitors which impact digestion and block the production of a thyroid hormone.  Basically unfermented soy products like soy milk, whole soybeans or soy protein isolates are some of the worst foods you can consume.

Miso soup with Korean chili powder, tofu, squash, sweet potatoes, baby clams and a side of seaweed

Miso soup with Korean chili powder, tofu, squash, sweet potatoes, baby clams and a side of seaweed

With that said, about 1000 BC someone in China realized through the production of a mold which became a fermenting process that the process destroyed or highly eliminated the toxins enabling the beans to provide nutrients to the body.  Fermented soy products, on the other hand, helps with digestion, nutrient absorption and boosts immunity.  Common fermented soy products include miso, tempeh and natto.  Interestingly enough, while there is a debate about if miso, for example, is Paleo, many Paleo practitioners consider it a good way to flavor food which can also aid in digestion.

Now, what about tofu?  A few centuries after the mold on the bean discovery a process was created that included soaking, cooking and treating the beans with nigari

sliced tofu

sliced tofu

(substance found in seawater).  The end result was tofu.  This process, like fermentation, removed the toxins.  While much of the commentary talks about tofu being unfermented, which it is, it is processed in a way that enables consumption.  Seems like for centuries the Asian cultures knew that soybeans in their natural form were toxic and inedible, but they created processes to remove the toxins.  With that said, consumption of soy in Asian cultures is somewhat limited to about 1oz or so per day on average.


Pan fried tofu

My final thoughts on this are that fermented soy is a good addition to the diet.  While I do not recommend using tofu as a replacement for other more rich sources of protein, it too is acceptable in limited or moderate quantities.  From a personal perspective, I enjoy tofu on occasion.  It’s a great way to add a little substance to a stir fry or a miso soup while still creating a light, easy meal.

Almond Powder Crusted Tofu with BBQ Sauce


1 block of firm tofu slightly drained, dried and cut into slices (not too thin, not too thick)
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1/4 cup of almond powder
1 teaspoon of BBQ sauce (your choice)

The trick to getting tofu firm is to first bake it.  Set the oven to 400 and bake the tofu slices for 15mins.  Remove from the oven and let cool for a 5mins.  While the tofu is cooling, beat the egg whites and then mix in the BBQ sauce.  Heat a saute pan over medium heat with coconut oil.  Dip the tofu in the egg white and BBQ sauce mixture then coat with almond powder and fry until it is brown on both sides.  Repeat for all slices.  I served it with sauteed squash a little sauce on the side. My son is not a fan of tofu, but he liked this!        

nice crispy brown

nice crispy brown


Ginger Maple Glazed Tofu

Ginger maple glazed tofu with sweet potatoes and sauteed broccoli

Ginger maple glazed tofu with sweet potatoes and sauteed broccoli

1 block of firm tofu partially drained, dried and sliced
1/4 cup of maple syrup
1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
1 minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of coconut oil

Bake the tofu as noted above. Mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic and ginger in a glass bowl. Heat some of the coconut oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, pan fry both sides of the tofu.  Right before the tofu is finished pour a teaspoon of the marinade over the tofu slices in the pan.  Let it sizzle for about 10 seconds and remove.  The marinade should be like a glaze on top, not a sauce.  The great thing about this marinade is you can use it to bake salmon or pour it over pan fried scallops as well. 


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