Making Tofu – The Distinction Between Soy and Tofu (Part 1) : The Renegade Health Show Episode #930

Wednesday Apr 18 | BY |
| Comments (51)

As I was leaving the Hodo Soy Beanery today, I told Annmarie this was the most fun I’ve had filming in a while…

As you know, here at Renegade Health, we do eat some soy from time to time. We don’t think about it too much, because just about every conscious restaurant here in the Bay uses Hodo tofu! It’s 100% organic and made consciously.

We met some of their people at Expo West and asked if we could do a tour, because I’ve never seen the tofu making process. We were lucky enough to get a private tour, so we want to share this three part series with you.

In this first episode, I talk with founder Minh Tsai about soy, tofu, phytoestrogens, how Americans eat compared to Asians and more!

Take a look (my thoughts follow)…

Your question of the day: Do you eat tofu?

Click here, scroll down to the bottom of the page and leave your comments now!

Here are some quick thoughts…

1. Tofu in the U.S. is not the same.

As you can imagine there’s a huge difference between much of the soy that used to be produced in Asia and the soy that is made in the U.S. In this interview, Minh shares that there are only a few large producers of soy products like tofu in the U.S. and they — in my opinion — produce a poor quality product.

At Hodo, they produce artisan tofu — which is crafted carefully and consciously — using 100% organic soy beans. If you’re going to eat soy, Hodo is the one to eat.

2. Love the disclaimer.

I ask Minh a bunch of questions about hormones and phytoestrogens in soy and immediately he gives a quick disclaimer. He says, “remember, I am the guy who’s trying to sell you tofu.”

Anyone who leads with this disclaimer, usually is a pretty stand up person that you can trust. And, yes, while Minh does sell tofu, some of the points he makes are worth listening to, particularly if you have tofu-robia (fear of soy products.)

I have been there before, but we do eat some soy from time to time — in pretty extreme moderation. When we do eat soy, we make sure it’s Minh’s!

3. Distinction between soy protein isolate and tofu.

Minh makes a great distinction about the studies that have come out of our Universities about soy. Most of them — if not all — use soy protein isolate, not a whole food product like tofu.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated protein that when fed in abundance to rats, definitely can interfere with their hormones.

The bigger question though, is how much tofu does someone need to eat to start seeing the negative effects?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but less it better, and too much likely will have certain health effects. (Talk about vague!)

4. Epidemic in Asian population?

A point Minh made about Asian consumption and American consumption of soy products is worth noting here. It’s about the quantity consumed. Americans consume much more soy — particularly in processed forms than the Asians ever have. Minh also shares that if soy was so estrogen disrupting, to the point of complete avoidance, then Asians would have an epidemic of soy overdose.

Luckily, they don’t, which makes leads me to believe that there are many more factors involved than just the soy itself. These include cultural and genetic adaptations to soy, amount of soy products eaten, type of soy products, additional additives put in the soy, level of conscious eating, GMO or non-GMO, quality of production, pasteurization, and many more I can’t think of now.

The argument is by no means black and white like most people think.

5. The phytoestrogen hype?

Soy gets a bad reputation because it contains phytoestrogens. In a world where there are xenoestrongens and other chemical and environmental toxins that interfere with our hormones, it’s right to be concerned about the amount of estrogen you take in — in any form.

But at the same time, almost everything we eat contains phytoestrogens. This leads to the question — how much is too much?

Phytoestrogens have the same structure as estrogen, but not the same function. They attach to receptors but don’t function in the same way as the body’s natural estrogen. When there are phytoestrogens present, and not an excess of them, the body is able to function quite well and may even be able to fight off the development of cancer cells.

When there are too many unusable phytoestrogens (and xenoestrogens) attached to the receptors, then this may cause an issue — though, again, I’m unsure of how many are too many.

Here’s a quick clip from a Suzan Weed article that explains this fairly well…

Virtually everything we eat — grains, beans, nuts, seeds, seed oils, berries, fruits, vegetables, and roots — contains phytoestrogens. Scientists measuring the amount of phytoestrogen break-down by-products in the urine of healthy women found that those with the least were four times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than with the most. Phytoestrogens actually appear to protect tissues from the cancer-causing effects of xenoestrogens and other hormonal pollutants..

This seems simple — eat more phytoestrogens, be healthier — and it is, so long as we restrict ourselves to eating plants. But when the difference between food and medicine is disregarded, when phytoestrogens are isolated and concentrated, sold to us in pills and candy bars, then the equation changes: phytoestrogens become dangerous hormones, quite capable of promoting cancer.

Just a few things to think about! Again, to wrap this up, I don’t know how soy-phobic we need to be, but I do know that eating some tofu or yuba (you’ll see what this is on Friday) every once in a while won’t turn males into females and females into mush. 🙂

That’s it for me today, but we’ll be back with Part 2 tomorrow!

Your Question of the Day: Do you eat tofu?

Click here to read more about Minh and his amazing products and team!

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


Comments are closed for this post.

  1. AG says:

    Yes-organic only.

  2. Robert says:

    Occasionally – organic only

  3. Yvonne says:

    No, stopped eating it a long time ago. Too processed for me.

  4. Nikki says:

    Just recently added tofu into my diet and I fell in love!! I use either soft tofu or light silken firm because these are the lowest calorie and fat. I make a killer chocolate pudding with it by blending one refrigerated banana with 1/4 pkg tofu and about a heaping tsp. cocoa powder! I have also added psyllium husks to this which as long as you don’t use too much (because the psyllium has quite a strong taste) it is good to. I really love dipping apples in this! I could eat it all day! The other thing I made using tofu was a creamy tomato sauce which was tofu, tomato paste, honey mustard and some spices blended up. REALLY GOOD mixed with steamed broccoli and cauliflower, and lettuce, and cucumber in a pita pocket!!

  5. Jean Hart says:

    Ditto! Organic only! Plus, small amounts – not huge
    quantities. I add a variety of plant-based proteins
    to my diet, since I’m a type O Blood & need (and crave) a bit more protein than others (ie: Type A).
    I’ve been aware for years that Asians have always eaten tofu more as a condiment, rather than as a main
    source of protein.
    I loved the video – and comments below about the quantity, quality & properties of good tofu. Great job Kevin! Thanks!

  6. Nikki says:

    As for the processed thing. That is exactly why I added it. I have been eating super clean whole, vegan foods, high raw for almost a year now and have not seen any benefits, so I am experimenting by adding a bunch of “crap” (ie: tofu, soy milk, almond milk, boxed cereal, fat free miracle whip, veggie ‘meats’, whole wheat kaiser buns and pita pockets…). It’s been about 2 weeks since adding this stuff and I feel no ill effects. I am starting to think that it really doesn’t matter THAT much what you eat (not saying I would reccomend going as far as McDonalds, but the more “mild crap” if you will, really might not be all that bad… I am even contemplating experimenting with yogurt – yes, the fat free non organic stuff that is sweetened with sucralose!)

  7. michelle says:

    Hi all,
    I am eating sprouted tofu … a little every day.
    I am an athlete and my work is demanding, so I need a little extra protein. I use several other sources of vege protein as well. The lignans and the cruciferous vegetables in my diet, keep the bad part of E2 (estrone) flushed out 🙂
    To our health

  8. michelle says:

    Nikki I agree with you….I ate so raw that I cleansed too much While on retreat, a friend mentioned that he had never seen me so slender…and that I had to know when there was nothing left to clean. A message well taken. Now I also use sprouted quinoa, plant fusion protein powder, and hemp seed 🙂 I am looking buff and I feel sooo much better!

  9. Cheryl says:

    Yes I eat organic tofu every now and again. About 2 times a month

  10. Nadine says:

    I eat organic only tofu made from a local small operation anywhere from a few times a month or sometimes a few times a week. I am not afraid of organic soy products like tofu or even soy milk because I have found them very beneficial to my hormonal system and good sources of amino acids on my vegan diet. That being said, I avoid soy protein isolates or non-organic soy products.Plus I make sure to get enough iodine in my diet because those with iodine deficiencies have a hard time with soy or other goitrogens.

  11. Sarah says:

    Yes, I do once in a while. I always look for non-GMO. I would love to try Hodo tofu. I have a feeling it tastes so much better than America’s version. Thanks for doing the interview. I’m looking forward to the second part.

  12. jackie says:

    I do once in a while and when I purchase it always look for organic.

  13. suzanne says:

    Yes I eat organic tofu. Going to my co-op tomorrow in Pacific NW to look for Hodo brand. Hope they have it! Thanks Kevin for a great informative video and Minh is so personable.

  14. IH says:

    No I don’t since I have never really been a fan of it and also because of the “bad rep”. When we eat in a Asian restaurant I may order it instead of shrimp but that is so rare. I have been wondering though how come that it is so popular in Asia and I basically figured what Minh Tsai mentioned. There must be a difference between the Asian tofu and the American. (Of course the American being processed ). Wouldn’t mind trying Hodo tofu. Thanks for the education so that we can make an informed decision.

  15. Lola says:

    I LOVE Tofu, non GMO and organic of course. I rarely eat it any more do to reports of estrogen. After listening to your video on Tofu I will add it back into our diet in moderation. I so miss scrambled Tofu and I hate the smell of eggs. We used to eat it mashed with fresh herbs and yeast flakes. Yum! Yum! Wish we could try Hodo tofu.

  16. hyesun says:

    i eat tofu very rarely – i found some organic sprouted tofu, at trader joe’s of all places. but it’s another brand with their name on it, like they do with many things. i do eat a lot of tempeh though. and miso (japanese and korean, called dwen jang) and korean natto, called chung gook jang.

  17. I eat tofu rarely, mostly as a choice when eating in a restaurant because most restaurants are not creative enough to know how to use tempeh. I eat tempeh once a week, along with miso about once a week. These two “soy” products are fermented and my body is able to absorb the nutrients more easily. Tofu is not good for those with low thyroid.

  18. Velda says:

    I do not eat tofu. Just have never had any that I liked. This is great information, Kevin. Thank you!!

  19. Marie says:

    Yes I eat organic tofu but not soy. tofu is great in a broth soup with light veggies. I would like to know where I can buy Hodo tofu? It sounds better than the brand I have bought.

  20. Annalee says:

    One of my favorite soups is tofu and vegetables with fermented soybean paste (dwen jang). It is tasty and I feel good for my gut. I also add dwen jang to my eggs and zucchini for breakfast. My kids like to eat tofu fried with stir “fry” veges and brown rice.

  21. Charlotte says:

    I don’t eat tofu just because I’ve never really taken a liking to it.. I do eat a lot of miso though 🙂
    How’s Annemarie by the way? I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants an update!

  22. Kym Hutcheon says:

    Thanks for this, Kevin! Love this guy. I eat tofu or other (fermented) soy products a couple of times a week, sometimes more. Particularly like yuba but there is such an enormous range here in Japan.

    I was back in New Zealand recently and tried to find tofu. The best I could do was something that looked like water-logged polystyrene. Couldn’t even bring myself to buy it.

    Fwiw, I’ve read on soy extensively and what Minh and you say confirms what I’ve found. I have an article I wrote for a magazine a while back. I’ll try and dig it out.

  23. Anne says:

    I used to eat a lot of tofu and then just gave it up cold turkey. I’m more concerned about the Estrogenic possibility and the GMO of soy. I do however eat tempeh from time to time and think that eating soy in a fermented form (Tempeh, Natto, miso) is better. However I’m not saying I won’t go back to eating tofu in small quantities but don’t feel the need to make it a large part of my diet.

    I have gone back to eating grass fed meats and organic chicken and feel better for it after 25 years of being virtually vegan. Grains have been the biggest problems for me rather than animal protein. I also have to avoid dairy and eggs which is fine by me because of sensitivity to both. I limit legumes to the occasional homemade hummus or other bean dip and tempeh.

  24. Maria says:

    Yes! I eat it about twice a month. I eat organically grown and sprouted tofu. I have read that it is healthiest to eat it either sprouted or fermented. I don’t remember the source.

  25. Since reading “the Whole Soy Story” I steer far away from the tofu or soy that the U.S produces. I’ve eaten soybeans right from the field (prior to Monsanto getting their nasty grip on the seeds) and those things stink when you cook them. No amount of soaking can remove that. Also, I had the unpleasantness of tasting soy milk when it first came out on the U.S. market….you had to hold your nose to drink it! That stuff has been so deodorized and chemically processed here that it’s poison in my mind. So, no, won’t, don’t eat soy. Nasty!

  26. shine says:

    yes but not others i avoided it cos of the bad press but a while ago introduced it again and love it..

  27. Diane says:

    I spent 3 years in China (2002 – 2005)and did it eat over there quite often (couldn’t get myself to eat the “stinky dofu” as they call it though yuk!). But have not eaten it since then. But watching the video, I may look into it again, but only Hodo Soy Products.

  28. Nihacc says:

    Yes, but occasionally, not everyday. I buy organic soy beans and make my own tofu at home 🙂 There is a huge difference with tofu sold at shops and supermarkets!

  29. Leam says:

    Love tofu – eat it infrequently, however…avoid most other products with soy. He seemed to be right on to say Americans in general over do things considered healthy.

  30. Joanne says:

    Many years ago I started eating cooked, marinated soybeans, about one cup per day to replace other proteins. After about two weeks I couldn’t move. Something was wrong. I went online and found other people who had the same effect from soy products. Soy is goitrogenic,which means it can slow down your thyroid, making you hypothyroid. So don’t eat it every day. Fermented soy such as tempeh and miso do not have this effect.

  31. Two things.
    1) There is a scary-bizarre blend of good knowledge and judgement vs. wacko ideas on nutrition and soy displayed in the member comments here. Some people are trying hard but making very poor health choices. That is very worrysome. I know it is not practical, but I wish these people, and their readers, could be responded to to clarify some of the incorrect beliefs and poor choices.

    2) I like Minh’s insights very much. Sounds like a great product and a caring, intelligent executive. Minh’s comments on phytoestrogens, however, are a bit different from my understanding. Here is my understanding. Human estrogen comes in three forms; a strong, moderate and weak form. The body manages the relative proportions according to its needs. Phytoestrogens such as those found in soy, have an effect comprable to the weak form of human estrogen. The health problems linked to estrogen, such as breast cancer, are typically the result of too strong an estrogenic effect associated with long term high exposure to the strong form of estrogen. Here is the magical element of this story. When we introduce more weak estrogen into the body as we do when we consume phytoestrogens, it lowers the proportion of strong estrogen the body is exposed to (think of it as dilution) and in fact lowers the cumulative estrogenic effect on the body. Yes, eating phytoestrogens lowers the estrogenic effect on the body, and that is a healthy thing.

    Xenoestrogens, such as from pesticides on non-organic food, are comparable to the strong estrogens in the body and have a damaging effect on health.

    Minh’s caution to eat all things, including soy, in moderation is still right on. Including moderate amounts of phytoestrogen containing food in the diet, preferably from whole food sources as in HODO tofu, is a healthful thing to do.

  32. Samantha says:

    Well this expalins it! When I went vegetarian years ago I felt like I was the only vegetarian/vegan who HATED tofu! lol It tasted awful and everyone just kept saying, “it wasn’t prepared right” “You haven’t had MY tofu”…blah blah it was a disappointment every time but no one ever believed me. So even after I really got into researching health and food and trying all kinds of different things I just never gave tofu another try. I’ll have to look for some traditional Asian tofu and check that out.

  33. Bryan says:

    I have not had Tofu in a couple of years. Just not so sure about farm ethics around soy in the US. Especially with the cross pollination of GMO crops issue and the fact that Monsanto has won most all of their suits regarding the victims of cross pollination ‘stealing’ Monsanto’s genetics.

  34. SarahB says:

    I am a nutritionist who also lived in Japan for 7 years and studied Japanese nutrition and food as medicine there. I feel that everything you say here is spot on. There is a vast difference between Japanese soybeans and the ones grown here. Americans eat far too much soy and most of it is garbage. In my practice, I have seen the ill eeffects of this for a number of years. (We make things like tofu lasagna etc. which the Japanese would never do!). However, I feel there is a place for soy in the diet, just as you describe it. And I LOVE Hodo soy products. The second you taste one, you know you are eating a soy food that has been created with respect for the human body, the preparation of the food and the planet. I will “out” myself here as well. I am the Chapter leader for the Marin chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Personally I was not too happy to see the book “The Dark Side of Soy” come out because I knew there would be a backlash against all soy. I don’t think the original intention of the WAPF was to blast all soy. But they are fighting for the rights of sustainable farms to thrive and produce and they are up against the food industry. The GMO soy lobby is immensely powerful and rich. The real problem with the phytoestrogens comes with soy infant formula. That is a travesty. It is mostly GMO and you are putting powerful estrogenic chemicals into a baby’s body. This is mostly what WAPF is fighting against. There are two other health problems that can arise with soy, hwever: even with organic soy: it is one of the top allergenic foods and it can adversely affect the thyroid if consumed in large amounts. Here is where I would slightly disagree with you, Kevin: you said tofu is a “whole food”. Actually it is not because the solids and “whey” of the bean are separated out. That means that tofu is a mmore concentrated food which is why we need to eat it in small amounts. The foods that Susun Weed mentions are all whole foods so I would not include tofu in this group. (Fermented soy like miso and tempeh, yes). So tofu like Hodo tofu is still a healthy food, it is just not a whole food.

  35. Scott says:

    Like some of the others have posted, I no longer care to consume tofu, but I do enjoy organic fermented soy products like tempeh and miso about once a week.

  36. I’ll have organic tofu as sort of a last resort type thing, but I always avoid it. TEMPEH on the otherhand, is one of my favorite foods.

  37. Kathleen says:

    I eat organic soy. I tried to reduce my consumption when I began hearing about the soy controversy, but as a vegan who only eats organic, it was limited my food choices a lot, so I am eating it again.

  38. zyxomma says:

    Yes, organic only (I’ve even made my own), and no more frequently than once a month.

  39. Jennifer A says:

    Yes, I eat a small amount of high quality tofu. I only buy Wildwood or Hodo tofu.
    My daughter goes to a japanese immersion pre-school where they prepare all the meals. I’ve known that her teacher uses all organic ingredients but I wasn’t sure what brand of tofu she was using. When I asked she responded in a no decent japanese women would buy tofu kinda way. She said “Oh, I make all of my own tofu from scratch. I would never buy tofu at the store”. So, I was surprized to here Minh say that it’s so hard to make at home. I don’t think I’ll be making any myself. I’ll let the experts do what they do best!

    Thanks for the great interview!

  40. I stop eating tofu and any soy products because of phytoestrogens.
    “There seems to be a common misconception in the natural health community that women with high estrogen levels should take phytoestrogen (plant estrogen) because phytoestrogens are “protective estrogens” which reduce estrogenic activity. It is believed that phytoestrogens compete with endogenous estrogens for estrogen receptors. When the estrogen receptors are occupied by phytoestrogens, cell divisions are reduced because phytoestrogens are “weak estrogens”.My health changed a lot since I found this information in this site:

  41. Linda says:

    I go back and forth on eating tofu…I’ll read an article that says it is not good for you and I’ll stop eating it. Then I’ll read an article saying tofu is an excellent protein and good for you, so I’ll start eating it again.

    I always make sure I eat organic, non-gmo, and recently discovered sprouted tofu and miso. I just watched how tofu is made before I read this article. I try to stay away from anything processed, and I’m wondering if tofu made the Hodo way is processed, since some of the nutrients are separated so it is not a whole food?

    I enjoy eating tofu many different ways and when I was going through pre-menopause, if I was eating tofu I wouldn’t have hot flashes.

  42. Ann says:

    Dr. Mercola recommends ONLY FERMENTED soy.

  43. Anna-Carin Rahm says:

    I have not eaten tofu for quite some time since I read that it is not possible to find out whether the soybean is GMO or not. That is so scary to me that I have stayed off all soy-products. And I kind of miss them and wish to find a way to check for GMO-free soy-products.

  44. Peggy says:

    Same here

    Stay away from the GMO’s

  45. Manwel says:

    I eat tofu on average twice a week or so in moderate quantities, as long as it is Asian product, as I’ve been informed they ferment their soy for periods of time. Soy, from what I’ve researched, attracts quite a bit of toxins especially alluminum when growing in the soil. The fermentation process, as done in Asian tradition eliminates a lot of theses toxins.

  46. LynnCS says:

    Hi Kevin. I usually post before I read any other posters because I don’t want to be influenced by them. I want to say how much I love and respect the work you do. This is a great topic and I am looking forward to the rest of them. Good to hear his responses. I don’t mind eating some soy, but no fake meat products from soy isolate. I have in the past but thought better of it. I think the meat industry has given tofu and soy a bad name and am not worried about appropriate amts of tofu. Love tofu (some tofu!) I went through a long while not wanting to eat it because of the stories. So glad you’re doing this story. Thanks, again!

  47. Christina says:

    This is my opinion and personal experience. I use to be an organic tofu and soy product lover! But I no longer consume any soy products. As a young woman who has suffered from estrogen dominance for about 15 years, I can no longer encourage anybody to consume soy, unless it’s fermented. Also, my husband developed an underactive thyroid, which from my understanding is linked to soy. My nutritioal doctor is avidly against the consumtion of soy unless it is fermented/cultured and consumed in small amounts. Since I have been off soy, I feel better. According to the resources my doctor provided for me, soybeans contains enzyme inhibitors (not good for us raw foodies right?) and the only way to break down the enzyme inhibitors is to soak the beans in a chemical so the human body can properly digest them. Also, according to my literature, the anchient Chinese used soy as a fertilizer did not treat the soybean as they did other legumes such as lentils. My nutritional doctor is highly intelligent and is one of the few doctors in the US who specializes in hormone issues to the degree she does. She has been able to help LOTS men and women heal from hormone imbalance. I am on the road to recovery and following her advice is working.
    However I agree with the observation that american soy is different from asian soy. I’m sure there are people who can handle asian soybeans. My husband and I are not those people.
    Here is my doctor’s website

  48. josie says:

    I eat edamame and “soycotash”. The soycotash i found at Trader Joe’s. Just can’t get used to the texture of tofu though. A funny point; whenever I read an article on “how bad” soy is for men, (man-breasts, impotence, etc) I am reminded of an article I read somewhere that stated, “Did someone forget to tell all the men in China that soy is bad for them?” A hilarious article! I just forget where I read it. 🙁

  49. Liz H. says:

    I haven’t eaten tofu except on the rare occasion for some years now. I even made my own for awhile. I began to hear so much about the thyroid issues with unfermented soy, and then the whole GMO issue as it became difficult to find non-GMO soy…well, I just gave it up.

  50. Diane says:

    I eat tofu and I make it from scratch (non-GMO beans of course). I have to say that all the warnings against it seem fairly muddled-up. The line that Asians eat mostly fermented soy is just patently untrue. Tofu and soy milk are widely consumed in Asia.

    I eat meat and tofu and like both equally – and I eat both in moderation – maybe 2x a week for each. I see no reason to avoid it unless one reacts badly to it (allergies or intolerances) or has thyroid issues.

  51. Diane says:

    Oh – and tofu is not hard to make at home. The only odd ingredient needed is nigari or food-grade gypsum (I use gypsum for the calcium it adds).

    I would highly recommend Andrea Nguyen’s new cookbook, “Asian Tofu” for anyone interested in making their own. The kind you make at home is worlds better than commercial (Hodo aside, which is pretty great stuff). Plus if you make it at home there’s so much more you can do with it – soft savory tofu pudding, tofu skins, medium, firm, extra-firm tofu, tofu with tasty flavors added, etc etc etc…

    It’s really quite fun. The first time I made it, it took a while but now I have it down and can do quickly.

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