How Can This Ayurvedic Food Make You Feel Great?
Some say it has the "slippery texture of seal skin." Others say it is like, "biting into a sponge." One student says, "It reminds me of a scrambled egg consistency."
The word tofu literally means "bean" in Japanese. Soy is an ancient crop from East Asia that was domesticated as early as 6-7,000 B.C., almost 9,000 years ago!
Tofu is made from ground soybeans. They are ground in water, heated, and curdled with minerals like calcium or magnesium salt. The result is a tofu-like gel. The liquid is then extracted to make the tofu firm. The whole process is similar to paneer or cheese curds. This is how tofu gets its uniquely smooth, moist, and mushy texture.
Tofu is famous because of its popularity in Asia, and among vegetarians who use it for meat replacement. 1lb of soybeans contains as much protein as 2lbs lean meat!. Tofu is attractively economically as a reasonably priced protein source.
But why curdle the beans? Because curdling denatures the bean proteins, making soy easier to digest. The tofu can also be fermented, making it even easier to digest.
Connoisseurs will notice a slight sweetness and bitterness to tofu. Even though tofu is smooth, one student noted, "The astringency / dryness dried out my mouth. I had a dry, rough sensation after eating the tofu."
Footnote: The information for this article was in part gathered from a 2019 study and survey of 50 students of Ayurveda who experimented with tofu. During the study, students ate tofu for 3 days and journaled the pharmacological effects. This study was sponsored by the Joyful Belly School of Ayurveda, and the Mastering Ayurvedic Digestion & Nutrition certification course.
Anti-AgingTofu moisturizes the skin and joints. The dull, cooling properties make it useful for hot, fiery or dry skin conditions. Tofu improves elasticity of skin, reducing wrinkles. Its estrogenic properties make it ideal for dryness due to menopause. Vatas should exercise caution: tofu moisturizes skin but it is also a diuretic, which can dry out a sensitive Vata constitution.
As tofu improves elasticity of skin, it also improves elasticity of blood vessels. This is useful in atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, a major cause of heart disease.
Soy protein studies show tofu may be useful to lower cholesterol, especially low density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad kind of cholesterol. This may be due to the phytoestrogens in tofu.
Eases Menopause / Supports estrogen
Hoping for a smooth menopause? Tofu is supportive for women who have low estrogen, due to phytoestrogen compounds. In menopause, estrogen levels drop, causing dry skin and low bone density.
Tofu is used in Ayurveda to reduce hot flashes and menopause related symptoms, including dry skin and low bone density. Tofu is also supportive during a period, when estrogen dips. In China, tofu is used to improve the quality and quantity of breastmilk.
There is controversy surrounding the estrogenic effects of tofu, especially regarding breast cancer. Some say soy should be avoided for women with estrogenic lumps in the breast, since soy may aggravate them. Other studies conclude soy is safe, and will not cause breast cancer. Other studies show that women who eat soy products at least once a week have a 48-56% lower risk of breast cancer, due to phytoestrogen content.
Could Ayurveda help avoid some of this controversy? Could one dosha (Kapha) be more sensitive to the negative effects of soy's estrogenic effects, but Vata's benefit? More study is needed.
Cools Pitta / Clears Heat
Tofu's cool quality is known for clearing heat in the digestive tract. One student reports, "I felt my body temperature cool down a little bit while eating tofu."
As it pacifies Pitta, tofu is soothing and relaxing.
Calming, Heavy on Digestion
Tofu is filling. It has a sweet aftertaste. It is building and nourishing for those who can digest it.
It can even make you feel lethargic, and heavy. In excess, the density and heaviness can aggravate Kapha. One Kapha student notes that, after tofu, she gets "white thick coating and my saliva is richer."
The heavy, lethargic effect of soy on the mind makes soy tamasic.
Those with dry, cold constitutions (Vata) might find tofu hard to digest. In these individuals tofu may cause burping, heaviness in the upper gi, gas & bloating.
Students reported tofu was hard to digest, causing them to feel heavy, lethargic or bloated. Here's what they had to say:
Note: The curdled soy proteins in tofu are easy to digest than raw soybeans (as in edamame) but fermented soy products are even easier.
Clears Toxins by Making You Pee
Tofu is famous in Chinese medicine as a toxin clearing diuretic. Students reported:
Drying Quality Makes Stools Firm
The astringent, cold, drying quality of tofu are signs of air element. These qualities generally hardened stools for Vata students. Here's what they had to say:
Don't be afraid! It doesn't taste like a whole food but it is. However, tofu is highly processed and 90% of the soy crop is GMO. So get organic.
Avoid tofu if you have high estrogen levels, or get lumps in the breast during menstruation. Avoid tofu if it dries you out, or causes gas or bloating. If tofu makes you feel cloudy or sluggish, perhaps it is not right for you.
Like many plants, Soy has anti-nutrients the inhibit absorption of nutrients to protect it from plants and insects. These anti-nutrients inhibit uptake of minerals. Fermenting soy can reduce these anti-nutrients, and make soy easier to digest, reducing many of the negative qualities of soy.
Many people are allergic to soy. If you're allergic be careful: Soy and soy derivatives appear in many products.
Tofu and Dosha Summary
To summarize, tofu is a satisfying protein source that clears heat, detoxifies, eases urination, firms up stools, and moisturizes the lungs and skin.
The estrogenic compounds in tofu pacify Vata but can aggravate Kapha. However, the diuretic compounds aggrvate and dry out Vata, while pacifying Kapha. Tofu's cool quality pacifies Pitta.
Although tofu is high in nutrients it is low in calories. However, we recommend caution in use for weight loss because tofu is estrogenic. Estrogen causes weight gain.
All in all, tofu is fairly mild to all body types. So try some, and see if it is a good fit.
BUYING & PREPARATION
90% of the soy crop is genetically modified (GMO), making good quality tofu hard to find. It's also highly processed. This is why you should eat organic tofu, only.
Tofu may be fermented, sweetened, or flavored in some instances.
COOKING TOFUBrowse Recipes
One student notes, "If erasers where white and edible, this is probably what it would taste like!" Tofu has a slight aftertaste of raw beans and sweetness.
The following tips show you how to reduce one or more of the effects of Tofu:
WHY EAT AN AYURVEDIC DIET?Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. An Ayurvedic diet is tailored to your individual body type and the specific imbalances you are working with at any given time. Ayurveda shows you your specific body type’s needs and what should be favored in your Ayurvedic menu. Watch as you eat less but feel more satisfied because what you are eating truly nourishes you. Since Ayurveda believes all disease begins in the digestive tract, food is your first medicine. By eating a healthy diet that’s ideal for your body, you experience optimal health.
Is Tofu Good for My Ayurvedic Diet?
SERVING SIZE: 1/4 c
SPECIES: Glycine max
AYURVEDIC MEDICINAL BIOCHARACTERISTICSWhat is the biocharacteristic theory of medicine?
Experiences are PersonalExperiences vary according to the person and constitution. Individual results may vary. The list of herbal-actions below has not be approved by the FDA and should not be used to treat a medical condition.
Here are the herbal actions of Tofu:
APPETITE-SUPPRESSANTSuppresses hunger without causing weight gain
CONSTIPATIVEAn herb that binds stools / stops diarrhea. When used in excess, these herbs and foods can cause constipation.
GROUNDINGEncourages feelings of stability and heaviness. Makes you feel settled, mentally relaxed. Mildly sedates the nervous system to ease stress. Can bring a spacey or anxious person back to earth.
Makes you tired
MAKES-YOU-TIREDInduces drowsiness and promotes sound sleep.
SKIN-TONICAn herb that strengthens and nourishes skin, improving tone, color, moisture and complexion.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORYReduces inflammation in the body. Different herbs and carriers target different body systems.
DIURETICHerbs that promote urine formation, thereby flushing the kidneys and urinary tract while eliminating any excess water retention. As diuretics reduce water retention, they are often used to reduce blood pressure.
IRRITATES-KIDNEYTight, sharp pain just below ribs in the back.
LOWERS-THYROIDReduces thyroid function. Useful for people with hyperthyroid.
GALACTAGOGUEIncreases production of breast milk.
UTERINE-TONICAn herb that tonifies and strengthens the uterus. Helpful for menstrual difficulties and fertility. Often herbs that increase ojas, but also circulation to reproductive system.
Joyful Belly is a recognized school of biocharacteristics medicine.
Compare Tofu with these Foods
Jackfruit has these Actions in CommonDries-mouth, Satisfies-stomach, Anti-inflammatory, Grounding, Soothing, Constipative, Nutritive
Sorghum Flour has these Actions in CommonDiuretic, Nutritive, Anti-inflammatory, Dries-mouth, Satisfies-stomach, Constipative, Grounding
Beer has these Actions in CommonGalactagogue, Nutritive, Grounding, Satisfies-stomach, Diuretic, Makes-you-tired
Green Plantain has these Actions in CommonAppetite-suppressant, Nutritive, Constipative, Satisfies-stomach, Anti-inflammatory, Grounding
Amaranth has these Actions in CommonGrounding, Soothing, Appetite-suppressant, Nutritive, Diuretic, Satisfies-stomach
Popped Amaranth has these Actions in CommonAppetite-suppressant, Nutritive, Diuretic, Satisfies-stomach, Grounding, Soothing
Cassava Root / Yuca
Cassava Root / Yuca has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Nutritive, Appetite-suppressant, Satisfies-stomach, Grounding, Soothing
Beets has these Actions in CommonIrritates-kidney, Skin-tonic, Anti-inflammatory, Nutritive, Grounding, Satisfies-stomach
Tempeh has these Actions in CommonGrounding, Diuretic, Nutritive, Dries-mouth, Satisfies-stomach
Millet has these Actions in CommonGrounding, Constipative, Nutritive, Dries-mouth, Satisfies-stomach
Compare Tofu with these Products
Gokshura has these Actions in CommonNutritive, Skin-tonic, Soothing, Uterine-tonic, Diuretic, Galactagogue, Grounding
Ashwagandha has these Actions in CommonDiuretic, Galactagogue, Grounding, Nutritive, Uterine-tonic, Anti-inflammatory
Saw Palmetto has these Actions in CommonGalactagogue, Nutritive, Soothing, Uterine-tonic, Anti-inflammatory
Shatavari has these Actions in CommonGalactagogue, Grounding, Nutritive, Uterine-tonic, Anti-inflammatory
Holy Basil Leaf (Tulsi)
Holy Basil Leaf (Tulsi) has these Actions in CommonConstipative, Diuretic, Dries-mouth, Grounding, Anti-inflammatory
Brahmi Ghee (9oz)
Brahmi Ghee (9oz) has these Actions in CommonNutritive, Satisfies-stomach, Appetite-suppressant, Constipative
Vidari has these Actions in CommonGalactagogue, Grounding, Nutritive, Uterine-tonic
Shatavari Ghee has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Galactagogue, Nutritive, Uterine-tonic
Anantamul has these Actions in CommonDiuretic, Galactagogue, Skin-tonic, Uterine-tonic
Arjuna has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Constipative, Diuretic, Skin-tonic
Manjistha has these Actions in CommonAnti-inflammatory, Diuretic, Skin-tonic, Uterine-tonic
HEALTH & WELLNESS PRACTITIONERS!
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HOW DOES EATING AYURVEDICALLY MAKE YOU FEEL?Eating Ayurvedically makes you feel nourished and energized. Food digests with ease when right for your body type (dosha). Healthy digestion is seen as the cornerstone of well-being in Ayurveda. Healthy digestion generally prevents illness. If you do get sick, a strong digestive fire reduces the severity of illness and increases your resilience. It also improves your mood. Once you begin eating Ayurvedically, you will feel refreshed, vital and strong.
View Other Ingredients for Autumn-WinterTofu is recommended for Autumn-Winter. Check out these other Autumn-Winter foods here.
Comments & Impressions of 'Tofu'Do you like 'tofu'? Why or why not? What makes it unique? Is there something you'd like to know about 'tofu'?
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TRADITIONALLY INDICATED FOR THESE SYMPTOMSTofu may be beneficial for these symptoms. The suitability of any food for a condition is highly dependent on the individual. Please see your doctor before using this food to treat a medical condition.
About the AuthorJohn Immel, the founder of Joyful Belly, teaches people how to have a healthy diet and lifestyle with Ayurveda. His approach to Ayurveda exudes a certain ease, which many find enjoyable and insightful. John also directs Joyful Belly's School of Ayurveda , which specializes in digestive tract pathology & Ayurvedic nutrition. John and his wife Natalie recently published Explore Your Hunger: A Guide to Hunger, Appetite & Food.
John's interest in Ayurveda and digestive tract pathology was inspired by a complex digestive disorder acquired from years of international travel, including his public service work in South Asia. John's commitment to the detailed study of digestive disorders reflects his zeal to get down to the roots of the problem. His hope and belief in the capacity of each & every client to improve their quality of life is nothing short of a personal passion. John's creativity in the kitchen and delight in cooking for others comes from his family oriented upbringing. In addition to his certification in Ayurveda, John holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
John enjoys sharing Ayurveda within the context of his Catholic roots, and finds Ayurveda gives him an opportunity to participate in the healing mission of the Church. Jesus expressed God's love by feeding and healing the sick. That kindness is the fundamental ministry of Ayurveda as well.