Tofu is terrible and must be stopped
Common-Sense Eating Behavior Advocate at Midland Fitness
During a conversation about nutrition, a friend of mine commented, “I try to eat tofu because Asians eat it, and they’re much healthier than us. I love meat, but the fat and cholesterol worry me.”
This kind of logic makes me want to eat a rare, grass-fed steak.
Let’s get some facts straight. High-quality meat is extremely healthy for us opportunistic omnivores and certainly not related to any form of heart disease. This fact has been proven time and time again. It’s the quality and quantity of meat that creates issues. If you overeat anything (including tofu — as if you could actually do this without vomiting), you’ll develop symptoms. Eating too much is a behavioral issue and a topic for a different kind of therapist to tackle.
The western style tofu we eat is highly, highly processed junk and definitely not comparable to the benefits of high-quality meat.
Hear me out before you organize a protest.
The vast majority of soy products we consume in the West are total junk. American style soy products are highly processed, genetically modified, soaked in pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and almost exclusively controlled by Monsanto. I’m actually quite surprised that the “tofu-types” are cool with Monsanto growing their food.
Asians are not any healthier than Westerners. The term “Asian” encompasses a vast range of cultures and diets that is much more ancient and diverse than ours. It is impossible to coin a specific Asian diet as “healthy.” In fact, Asians are catching up to Westerners’ deplorable health standards as they rapidly consume more and more of the same garbage we eat. Rates of cancer, especially thyroid cancer, are increasing rapidly in Asian countries. It is completely ignorant and “racialist” to think that “they” eat some tofu so “we” should to stay healthy.
One important difference however, is that the tofu Asian cultures eat is usually fermented (called tempeh). This makes a big difference.
Fermented foods are foods that have been through a natural process of lacto-fermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Some of my favorite foods are of the fermented variety like cheese and beer.
Natural fermentation of foods has also been shown to preserve nutrients in food and break the food down to a more digestible form. This, along with the bevy of probiotics created during the fermentation process, could explain the link between consumption of fermented foods and improved digestion and overall health.
Here is quick break-down on soy products:
Miso and tempeh are soy products that fall into this “kind-of-healthy” category because they are fermented but still processed. These products taste much better than “tofu steak” with built-in grill marks. If steak is so bad, why are we trying to imitate it?
Soy milk and soybean oil are totally processed, almost exclusively genetically modified and possibly linked to estrogen increase. You can choose to buy organic soy milk, but just because something is organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
Edamame is the whole soy bean with an exotic marketing name, so therefore it must be healthy. Some studies show that eating large amounts of edamame is related to estrogen increase. At least it’s a whole food if you buy the organic variety. You can also prove that anything can be linked to an increase in estrogen. Edamame seems quite insignificant compared to the amount of hormones we dump into our water supply — but that topic is for another article.
So what can I eat, Steve?
If you are switching to soy milk to replace the taste and texture of dairy, I’m sorry for you because nothing will replace good ol’ milk — especially soy milk, yuk.
Just don’t go from bad to worse, basing decisions on weak research and outrageous marketing claims. If you’re lactose intolerant, try kefir. It’s extremely low lactose because it’s fermented, and because it is a dairy product, it has the taste and texture of milk. Organic soy milk is just processed organic junk, but it won’t kill you. Just don’t tell me that you’re drinking it to be as healthy as Asians.
Tofu is just good misleading marketing combined with a little ignorance, in my opinion. I do, however, secretly enjoy the political implications of the tofu vs. meat saga. Highly processed soy products are hidden in many of our western processed foods. I think this is mostly because it’s cheap, available and gives texture to processed foods that had the texture removed during the “texture-processing-process.”
Once again it seems that the dominating factor about food is quality. Foods that are closest to nature are always the best. My advice is always the same — stick to whole foods that are grown locally and minimally adulterated by humans.
Disclaimer: Steve Wells is not a nutritionist nor is he a dietician. He has no business pointing out major discrepancies, scams and flaws in our food industry that affect everyone’s health. However, entertaining these topics may help you make better eating behavior decisions. The “texture-processing-process” thing is not real, but merely a sarcastic jab at the process of processing.
Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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