Vegetarian concern about Tofu

erwin

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Hi, my name is Erwin and I am transitioning to a plant based diet. I am not there yet because I am struggling with eating enough proteins. Already for many years I have not eaten meat, chicken, etc.; however, fish, eggs and cheese almost daily. That has been my main source of proteins.
About two weeks ago I stopped eating fish and cheese and have replaced them with hard tofu, egg whites, and significantly more grains and cooked vegetables that I typically used to eat before starting this diet.
Unfortunately I have a problem with beans and lentils.
So my question is simple: is it healthy to eat tofu daily? I read conflicting opinions on this subject. Further, where I live I cannot find tempeh, which because it is fermented, I hear that it is better.
Can anyone comment on the subject of daily intake of tofu and in general how one makes sure to consume the minimum requirement of proteins.
Thank you for your help
 

Lou

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Hello Erwin. Merry Christmas. Welcome aboard.

My vegan journey started 20 years ago when I ditched dairy. I replaced milk with soymilk because it was about the only plant milk available back then and I heard it was healthy.

As i transitioned to being more vegan I started getting concerned with protein and increased my consumption of soy milk and started including tofu in my meal plans, too.

However, I kept hearing "bad things" about soy. And eventually decided to do some research. Studying and understanding nutrition had been an interest of mine for years. Plus I actually enjoy a little research and analysis from time to time.

Going down the rabbit hole of myths, misconceptions, and outright lies about soy was my first first-hand experience with deliberate and accidental ..... um.... fake news.

If you hang around the internet long enough you encounter several common claims. Soy causes cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, man boobs, and hormone issues.

If you are interested in reading the articles yourself (which is never a bad idea - after all, you don't know me from a hole in the wall), I have a folder of bookmarks I could post).

  • There is little to no evidence that soy causes cancer. In fact, there is evidence that its consumption is related to a reduction of cancer risk.
  • The breast cancer thing is more complicated and somewhat murky. there may be evidence that it reduces the risk of breast cancer but not always. The main takeaway is that more study is warranted.
  • The thyroid cancer was my favorite thing to research. Soy milk has never been associated with thyroid cancer. But over 50 years ago there was a small study (like a dozen patients) in India with soymilk formula and infants. One infant developed a thyroid issue. Despite the results never being replicated (and dozens of attempts were made) you still see thyroid cancer and soymilk being linked. And... to this day you see that soymilk is not recommended as infant formula.
  • Man boobs was another great example. Men's health ran an article on it. I still believe that it was mostly a result of lazy reporting but there may have been some dairy industry influence involved. Years and years later Men's Health finally printed an apology for spreading the rumor. Yes, there was a guy who grew man boobs. but he was obese, and maybe mentally unstable - he drank quarts of soymilk each day. And as far as i could tell there has only been that one case of manboobs that has been verified.
  • The hormone stuff is something that I honestly don't fully understand. But soymilk does not contain hormones. There is a chemical called a phytoestrogen that our cells can mistake for estrogen but does not act like estrogen. It does bind to the cells that have estrogen receptors. It seems like it has been linked to relieving some of the symptoms of menopause and also reducing breast cancer.
On the protein issue. Damn, I have written in response to this so often that I should just do a copy and paste. Maybe this time.

I go to a gym a few mornings a week and sometimes talk to some of the guys there and they all overestimate their protein requirements. Regular people only need around .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (give or take a few hundredths). (sorry you'll have to convert to kg on your own). the guys in the gym always talk about numbers between one and two. That is at least twice as much as they need. Although to be a little bit fair if you are trying to bulk up you probably do need more. But only as much as .8 g/lb

Maybe a better way of thinking about protein is as a percentage of your calories. I think between 20 and 30 percent is well established. The nice thing about this technique is that it works especially good for athletes. The more training you do, the more calories you burn. The more calories you consume, the higher the number of grams of protein you get. assuming you keep your protein intake in the same general proportion.

As a vegan, I find getting my average protein intake over 20% to be a bit challenging. Most veggies are under 20%. But thank goodness for soymilk and tofu which are both way over 20%.
 

erwin

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Hello Erwin. Merry Christmas. Welcome aboard.

My vegan journey started 20 years ago when I ditched dairy. I replaced milk with soymilk because it was about the only plant milk available back then and I heard it was healthy.

As i transitioned to being more vegan I started getting concerned with protein and increased my consumption of soy milk and started including tofu in my meal plans, too.

However, I kept hearing "bad things" about soy. And eventually decided to do some research. Studying and understanding nutrition had been an interest of mine for years. Plus I actually enjoy a little research and analysis from time to time.

Going down the rabbit hole of myths, misconceptions, and outright lies about soy was my first first-hand experience with deliberate and accidental ..... um.... fake news.

If you hang around the internet long enough you encounter several common claims. Soy causes cancer, breast cancer, thyroid cancer, man boobs, and hormone issues.

If you are interested in reading the articles yourself (which is never a bad idea - after all, you don't know me from a hole in the wall), I have a folder of bookmarks I could post).

  • There is little to no evidence that soy causes cancer. In fact, there is evidence that its consumption is related to a reduction of cancer risk.
  • The breast cancer thing is more complicated and somewhat murky. there may be evidence that it reduces the risk of breast cancer but not always. The main takeaway is that more study is warranted.
  • The thyroid cancer was my favorite thing to research. Soy milk has never been associated with thyroid cancer. But over 50 years ago there was a small study (like a dozen patients) in India with soymilk formula and infants. One infant developed a thyroid issue. Despite the results never being replicated (and dozens of attempts were made) you still see thyroid cancer and soymilk being linked. And... to this day you see that soymilk is not recommended as infant formula.
  • Man boobs was another great example. Men's health ran an article on it. I still believe that it was mostly a result of lazy reporting but there may have been some dairy industry influence involved. Years and years later Men's Health finally printed an apology for spreading the rumor. Yes, there was a guy who grew man boobs. but he was obese, and maybe mentally unstable - he drank quarts of soymilk each day. And as far as i could tell there has only been that one case of manboobs that has been verified.
  • The hormone stuff is something that I honestly don't fully understand. But soymilk does not contain hormones. There is a chemical called a phytoestrogen that our cells can mistake for estrogen but does not act like estrogen. It does bind to the cells that have estrogen receptors. It seems like it has been linked to relieving some of the symptoms of menopause and also reducing breast cancer.
On the protein issue. Damn, I have written in response to this so often that I should just do a copy and paste. Maybe this time.

I go to a gym a few mornings a week and sometimes talk to some of the guys there and they all overestimate their protein requirements. Regular people only need around .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (give or take a few hundredths). (sorry you'll have to convert to kg on your own). the guys in the gym always talk about numbers between one and two. That is at least twice as much as they need. Although to be a little bit fair if you are trying to bulk up you probably do need more. But only as much as .8 g/lb

Maybe a better way of thinking about protein is as a percentage of your calories. I think between 20 and 30 percent is well established. The nice thing about this technique is that it works especially good for athletes. The more training you do, the more calories you burn. The more calories you consume, the higher the number of grams of protein you get. assuming you keep your protein intake in the same general proportion.

As a vegan, I find getting my average protein intake over 20% to be a bit challenging. Most veggies are under 20%. But thank goodness for soymilk and tofu which are both way over 20%.
Happy Holidays to you too.
Q: do you do it tofu daily? How many grams?
 
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erwin

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I have one to three cups of soymilk a day.
And I have tofu about two to four times a week. The serving size is 3 - 4 oz.

BTW, what is your issue with beans and lentils?
 

erwin

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Beans, and to a lesser degree, lentils are very hard on my stomach. No matter what I do, degass them, as they explain, etc. I suffer from upset stomach. The same from nuts, if I eat a decent amount. That is not the case with Tofu, which I eat about 3-4oz daily. What I have been doing instead of beans and legumes successfully is eat green peas. I buy them frozen.
One thing that I have not considered is to drink Soy milk. I have been told (maybe unfairly) that it is highly proceeded, something that I have avoided to consume. Tofu is not much better, I think, but I think that I have no other choice.
I have been a vegetarian that eats eggs, fish, and cheese for a long time, and for the past month I have made a decision to cut the animal products. I am down to 2 egg whites and a cup of Greek yoghurt daily, although if I can eat without them enough proteins, for my weight about 50 grams a day.
Last night I got the Chronometer app on my phone. I will try to check the amount of proteins that I eat, maybe without knowing I eat enough.
Thank you much for your help. I love to get you comments on this response.
Erwin
 

TofuRobot

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Hello and welcome -
Glad you got on Cronometer... Also, be aware that your body is probably adjusting to a higher amount of fiber that what it's been used to. There's a decent chance it will adjust to being able to tolerate beans later on. Give it some time and try reintroducing it at a later point in time. Have you tried lentils, split peas, or black-eyed peas? Those tend to be less gas-producing that other beans.
 
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erwin

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Hello and welcome -
Glad you got on Cronometer... Also, be aware that your body is probably adjusting to a higher amount of fiber that what it's been used to. There's a decent chance it will adjust to being able to tolerate beans later on. Give it some time and try reintroducing it at a later point in time. Have you tried lentils, split peas, or black-eyed peas? Those tend to be less gas-producing that other beans.
Thank you for the input. How much beans, lentils, etc., do you eat daily?
I eat lentils, but in small amounts, 1 tbs, as part of my lunch which typically is a cup or rice mixed with buckwheat with 1 cup of assorted vegetables - broccoli, corn, kale, ginger, eggplant, etc. that I stir fry with a bit of oil.
 
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TofuRobot

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Thank you for the input. How much beans, lentils, etc., do you eat daily?
I eat lentils, but in small amounts, 1 tbs, as part of my lunch which typically is a cup or rice mixed with buckwheat with 1 cup of assorted vegetables - broccoli, corn, kale, ginger, eggplant, etc. that I stir fry with a bit of oil.
Honestly, I don't obsess about how much protein I'm getting. Today, I actually didn't have anything "obviously" protein-related. The only thing I had with "obvious" protein was in the soy milk I put on my oatmeal this morning. I do have tofu a couple times a week, and also a few times a week I'll make a bowl a lot like yours (minus the stir fry & oil) with some quinoa/potato and/or steamed lentils or chickpeas, usually for dinner. Most of the day I'm eating raw, which ends up being fruit and nuts. Bananas, dates, nuts, and avocados are pretty much daily staples.
 

erwin

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Honestly, I don't obsess about how much protein I'm getting. Today, I actually didn't have anything "obviously" protein-related. The only thing I had with "obvious" protein was in the soy milk I put on my oatmeal this morning. I do have tofu a couple times a week, and also a few times a week I'll make a bowl a lot like yours (minus the stir fry & oil) with some quinoa/potato and/or steamed lentils or chickpeas, usually for dinner. Most of the day I'm eating raw, which ends up being fruit and nuts. Bananas, dates, nuts, and avocados are pretty much daily staples.
Thank you for your input. Very useful
 

Lou

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Beans, and to a lesser degree, lentils are very hard on my stomach. No matter what I do, degass them, as they explain, etc. I suffer from upset stomach. The same from nuts, if I eat a decent amount. That is not the case with Tofu, which I eat about 3-4oz daily. What I have been doing instead of beans and legumes successfully is eat green peas. I buy them frozen.
One thing that I have not considered is to drink Soy milk. I have been told (maybe unfairly) that it is highly proceeded, something that I have avoided to consume. Tofu is not much better, I think, but I think that I have no other choice.
I have been a vegetarian that eats eggs, fish, and cheese for a long time, and for the past month I have made a decision to cut the animal products. I am down to 2 egg whites and a cup of Greek yoghurt daily, although if I can eat without them enough proteins, for my weight about 50 grams a day.
Last night I got the Chronometer app on my phone. I will try to check the amount of proteins that I eat, maybe without knowing I eat enough.
Thank you much for your help. I love to get you comments on this response.
Erwin

TofuRobot and I are on the same page here. So I may be repeating some of her stuff, but just consider it emphasizing.

Not sure if this question is even relevant but I'm curious. what kind of stomach issues to beans, lentils, and nuts give you? Is it the same for all three?

A lot of people have issues with black beans. Especially newish vegans. Partly that is because of the amount of fiber in black beans. Fifteen grams per cup. That is more fiber than the SAD has in a whole day. The other aspect of black beans is (and honestly I don't know enough about this yet), is the "insoluble sugars" in black beans. From what I do understand these insoluble sugars are like fertilizer for gut bacteria. Causing a bit of a feeding frenzy on their part and producing a lot of gas. One strategy I've heard works is to soak your beans for a long time - like 8 to 12 hours. throw out the water they soaked in and then give them a thorough rinse.This removes some of the insoluble sugars. I doubt you need to soak canned beans but throwing out the liquid and rinsing them too can't hurt.

The other thing that I've heard over and over is that newish vegans acclimate to the extra fiber in their diets. I've heard 3 days to as long as 3 months. One thing that I'm sure helps is to increase the fiber in your diet gradually. So it might be that you simply add high fiber foods to your meal plan incrementally.

Oh. and don't eat too many nuts. The WFPB diet people all recommend just a handful a day. There is a lot of fat in nuts. Almost all the calories in nuts is from fat. And fat is the most difficult nutrient to digest.

Peas are great! I always keep a bag of frozen peas in my frig. I also have a great recipe for vegan split pea soup in my instant pot. It does have a lot of protein but it also has almost as much fiber as beans.

Processed and even highly processed are frequently associated with being bad. They are also used so indiscriminately they have pretty much lost their meanings.

Strictly speaking, all foods are processed. You pull a carrot out of the ground, wash it, peel it, chop it, and steam it. That is like 5 processes. and no one thinks steamed carrots are processed food. Same with oatmeal. The box you bought in the store has already gone thru like 5 or 6 processes.

Our understanding of highly processed is more based on adding and taking away components. Like taking the fiber out of flour to make white flour. Or taking fat out of milk. or adding sugar to yogurt. Or adding calcium to soymilk. Its really not the processing we should be judging - but the ingredients. Adding sugar or oil or salt = bad. Adding vitamins and minerals = good. Removing fiber = bad.

The industrial process of making soy milk (or tofu) are no worse than the process of making frozen peas or oatmeal. Depending on the brand of soymilk there are somethings added to it. And some of the fiber of soy has been removed in the making of soy milk but it still retains most of it.
 

erwin

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Unfortunately I suffer from Crohn’s, meaning I have a chronic intestinal inflammation.
Crohn’s is a tough problem when it comes to vegetables and there is no rule about it. You have to find the offensive vegetables by trial. In my case brand, lentils and nuts are tough, but surprisingly I have not had problems with green peas yet!
 
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TofuRobot

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Unfortunately I suffer from Crohn’s, meaning I have a chronic intestinal inflammation.
Crohn’s is a tough problem when it comes to vegetables and there is no rule about it. You have to find the offensive vegetables by trial. In my case brand, lentils and nuts are tough, but surprisingly I have not had problems with green peas yet!
I'm sorry to hear of your difficulties. And I'm sure you're already done a lot of research on this, which is probably what got you hear in the first place, but I found this article which you might find interesting/helpful:

Also with regards to inflammation, as a personally recommendation (note that I am no expert), but if you consume alcohol, I would consider leaving that out, or cutting back drastically, if you haven't already. I think that anything toxic we put into our bodies promotes inflammation (feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).
 
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Lou

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Since you are transitioning to WFPB AND looking for advice, I highly recommend you take up reading (or watching the videos) of Dr. Gregar and Dr. McDougal, both of whom discuss fighting Crohn's with diet.

Gregar is the author of How Not To Die. Which IMHO is a good book for you to read.

Gregar has a three-part video series on Crohn's.

 

Emma JC

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Unfortunately I suffer from Crohn’s, meaning I have a chronic intestinal inflammation.
Crohn’s is a tough problem when it comes to vegetables and there is no rule about it. You have to find the offensive vegetables by trial. In my case brand, lentils and nuts are tough, but surprisingly I have not had problems with green peas yet!
hi Erwin and welcome - I am jumping into this conversation late and you have been given great advice. I have a step daughter who has Crohn's and she eats beans by the ton.... it has helped her immensely. She is totally vegan and stays as whole-food as possible. The well cooked breakfast beans in a can in tomato sauce are her favourite. As for lentils, I often have them for lunch with some veggies and noodles and I eat half a can of them at a time and when I make steel cut oats I add 2 tablespoons of red lentils to the steel cut after rinsing them well.

Emma JC
 

Lou

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hi Erwin and welcome - I am jumping into this conversation late and you have been given great advice. I have a step daughter who has Crohn's and she eats beans by the ton.... it has helped her immensely. She is totally vegan and stays as whole-food as possible. The well cooked breakfast beans in a can in tomato sauce are her favourite. As for lentils, I often have them for lunch with some veggies and noodles and I eat half a can of them at a time and when I make steel cut oats I add 2 tablespoons of red lentils to the steel cut after rinsing them well.

Emma JC
The thing to keep in mind about Crohn's is that it is not really " a disease". Like IBD it is a bunch of stuff all lumped together. Just because one thing helps one patient, does not mean it will help another.

Erwin is right - there is a lot of trial and error that needs to be done individually with foods.

I read that there has been a lot of progress with drugs, treatments, and tests as far as IBD goes. I wonder if any of that has carried over with Chrohn's.
 

erwin

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Thank you all for the great advise.
I knew about (and read) the China Study and the relationship between consumption of whole foods and chronic diseases, like Crohn’s and others. Partially based on it, already for years I have not eating red meat, chicken, turkey, etc. But I have continued to be a healthy eater of cheeses and fish and not enough plant based foods.
A few month ago after reading of the young man that accomplished complete Crohn’s remission by not eating animal products (which was referred here by some of you), I decided that I would give it a try.
For a month or so, my diet has been partially plant based. I eat 2 egg whites and a small size yogurt, and here is the reason. I suffer from two problems. Using Chronometer, and trying to be as accurate as possible, I realized that given what I can eat with my Crohn’s I cannot meet my protein and calorie daily requirements: I am already thin by constitution, and I certainly do not need to lose weight but I struggle eating the amount of plant based food to meet the 2,000 calories (the top I have reached is about 1,700) and 40 to 50 grams of proteins that I think I need daily.
I know that it is a process and with time I will adjust, I am presently learning and thank you to you all I am learning fast. Please keep up the comments.
 

David3

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Hi, my name is Erwin and I am transitioning to a plant based diet. I am not there yet because I am struggling with eating enough proteins. Already for many years I have not eaten meat, chicken, etc.; however, fish, eggs and cheese almost daily. That has been my main source of proteins.
About two weeks ago I stopped eating fish and cheese and have replaced them with hard tofu, egg whites, and significantly more grains and cooked vegetables that I typically used to eat before starting this diet.
Unfortunately I have a problem with beans and lentils.
So my question is simple: is it healthy to eat tofu daily? I read conflicting opinions on this subject. Further, where I live I cannot find tempeh, which because it is fermented, I hear that it is better.
Can anyone comment on the subject of daily intake of tofu and in general how one makes sure to consume the minimum requirement of proteins.
Thank you for your help

Hi Erwin,

Like many other misconceptions, the "soy and men" misconception has a kernel of truth, which has been grossly exaggerated along the way.

There are 2 case studies in which men experienced rather alarming hormonal effects as a result of consuming extremely large servings of soy foods on a daily basis. Here are those case studies, with links:

In a 2008 case study, a 60-year old male developed enlarged breast issue and erectile dysfunction as a result of drinking 3 quarts of soymilk (12 servings) per day, every day. Only 3-4 servings of calcium-fortified soymilk are needed to achieve 100% RDI of calcium. Here is the abstract of that case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18558591

In a 2011 case study, a 19-year old male developed erectile dysfunction as a result of consuming 14 servings of soy foods per day. Here is the abstract of that case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21353476 (unfortunately, the full text of the study can only be seen by purchasing it).

Note that, after these men discontinued consuming their massive daily servings of soy, their bodies returned to normal.

.
 

erwin

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Hi Erwin,

Like many other misconceptions, the "soy and men" misconception has a kernel of truth, which has been grossly exaggerated along the way.

There are 2 case studies in which men experienced rather alarming hormonal effects as a result of consuming extremely large servings of soy foods on a daily basis. Here are those case studies, with links:

In a 2008 case study, a 60-year old male developed enlarged breast issue and erectile dysfunction as a result of drinking 3 quarts of soymilk (12 servings) per day, every day. Only 3-4 servings of calcium-fortified soymilk are needed to achieve 100% RDI of calcium. Here is the abstract of that case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18558591

In a 2011 case study, a 19-year old male developed erectile dysfunction as a result of consuming 14 servings of soy foods per day. Here is the abstract of that case study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21353476 (unfortunately, the full text of the study can only be seen by purchasing it).

Note that, after these men discontinued consuming their massive daily servings of soy, their bodies returned to normal.

.
I started drinking the equivalent of 1 cup of soy milk and about 100 grams of tofu a day. Based on your data, I think that I can safely assume that this is way below any risky levels. Correct?
 
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