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the perfect food?

15 February 2009 1,542 views No Comment

What’s square, white, weighs eight ounces, jiggles, makes you gag and can clear a room in three seconds?

The much-maligned tofu strikes terror in the hearts of the bravest, like an IRS audit, freezing them in fear at its mere mention.

The method of making tofu, “the cheese of Asia,” dates back to the Prince of Huainan. It is made of soy beans, either the black or the yellow variety. Legend has it that tofu was developed by prince Liu An (179-122 B.C.) while searching for a substance to help him achieve immortality. In 2838 B.C., Chinese Emperor Cheng Nung describes soy and soy cultivation. Soy did not, however, grace American soil until Samuel Bowman brought seeds to the U.S. in 1765, and Henry Yonge on his farm in Thunderbolt, Ga., sowed the first soy seeds. I wonder if Henry knew when he sowed the seeds of soy he saved us from the sorrow of serious sickness and senility. Did someone let a snake loose?

Flash back to flower children during the mid-’60s, when a rumor wafted through the grease-speckled air that Golden Arches used a sinister form of the fibrous soybeans as filler in their burgers? “Iiiieeeee, …hack, pa-tooey, we’ve been poisoned!!” What we should’ve protested was the artery-congesting bovine tallow used preparing those golden brown, salt covered, deep-fried denizens of the fry-o-later. Is mass Tofobia justified? For a food that has been providing man nourishment for nearly 3,000 years, the Rodney Dangerfield of food gets no respect.

I hate to bum you out, man, but don’t expect to see the International House of Tofu popping up in your hood soon. But, for your information, McDonalds and Taco Bell have been using soy products as filler for decades. Tofu is a good, low-fat energy source of cancer-preventing selenium, omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease and phosphorus, selenium, copper, calcium and magnesium — excellent nourishment for your holy temple.

Instead of hiding the soy filler, they should have promoted soy’s multiple health benefits to balance the injury caused by their machine cuisine. Recent research on soy protein has revealed that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30 percent, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35 to 40 percent, lower triglyceride levels, reduce the tendency of platelets to form blood clots and possibly even raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol).

Four ounces of tofu contains 14.4 percent of the daily value of beneficial essential fatty acids which have been the subject of intense study by researchers. Omega-3 fatty acids have an extensive menu of health benefits. Omega-3s help prevent irregular heart rhythms, make blood less likely to clot inside arteries (which is the ultimate cause of most heart attacks) and improve the ratio of good HDL to bad LDL cholesterol finally, soy proteins reduce inflammation, a huge problem in the world today.

Women, soy has also been shown to be obliging in alleviating the symptoms associated with menopause, because soy foods, like tofu, contain phytoestrogens, specifically the isoflavones, genistein and diadzein. .

Alternative Medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil said, “Soy foods such as edamame, tofu, tempeh and soy milk can help you. Therefore, I recommend one to two servings per day, even to women with breast cancer.” That’s about 40 mg of risk-free, tasty isoflavonoids. Dr. Weil does not advise using soy supplements because of their intense isoflavone content and lack of evidence demonstrating their long-term safety. Forget the “for suckers only” designer fad-foods laced with soy isoflavonoids. Instead, Dr. Weil suggests discovering, Edamame, (beans on branches) a green vegetable soybean, harvested at the peak of ripening just right before it reaches hardened time.

Perhaps the obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease pandemic is simply caused living in the United States; our Western lifestyle. Otherwise healthy Asians, who come to here, would not succumb to the same health maladies as Americans. Is it the fluoridated water, the pesticides and fungicides on our produce, chemical preservatives, food colorings and our polluted air and water that chip away at the crispy edges of our precious health?

If choking down tofu to get the benefits makes you gag, try blending silken tofu in a blender with orange juice and fruits. It tastes like a creamy Orange Julius. You’ll swear someone put dairy in it. But then, that would defeat the purpose.

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