One of my fave fitness instructors use to say “tofuuuuuwwwww”. Nose turned up. Voice inflection = pure disgust. Utter hatred. I get it, tofu can be weird and it has a funky texture if ya don’t know how to work with it!
The first time I had tofu was when I was living in Hawaii: this healthy cafe in Honolulu used to sell a tofu, tomato and alfalfa sprouts sandwich. I remember patting myself on the back thinking, I’m so healthy eating this because my guy-pal from Southern Cal used to eat it after he went surfing. So I adapted my taste buds all in the name of health. ‘Cuz I was far from healthy but wanted to be…
Personally I like to use tofu and tempeh, soy’s gut-friendly fermented cousin, in everything from smoothies to dips, dressings, and desserts. Miso is also another fave for soups and adding flavor.
Perhaps the number one question I get asked about soy is this, “is there a link between soy and breast cancer risk?”
Whenever I have this conversation with clients who are interested in going more plant-based and we are talking about macronutrients, specifically protein, I can already sense the inquisitive look on their face. This belief that soy causes breast cancer is firmly planted in most people’s belief system. And I get it! I avoided soy for a long, LONG time. There is still a big question mark over soy because of the plant-based estrogens called phytoestrogens (phyto= plants; estrogens = the well-known female hormone).
According to Wendy Chen, MD MPH, a breast oncologist at Susan S. Smith Center for Womens Cancers at Dana-Farber, “studies of breast cancers in China and Japan have not shown any increased breast cancer risk resulting from soy consumption.” Please read more about it from the link.
Soy in the whole form appears to be safe, which is why I don’t hesitate or recommend organic tofu or tempeh. Research is lacking on soy protein isolates. Chemicals isolated from the whole food form act differently (probably like people!) You will find soy protein isolated added to protein bars, soy protein powders/shakes, soy meats, some soy milk, soy dairy-free products, breakfast cereals and bottled fruit drinks as well as soy-based infant formulas. Builder Bar, one of my favorite tasting “protein” bars, has soy protein isolates. So I have it as a treat once in awhile if I really REALLY want one, but I don’t rely on protein bars like I used to. Sometimes you phase in and out of personal food trends. It’s called life.
I always encourage consumers to be advocates for their own health and read the label. PS: when companies sell, which they often do, new companies can reformulate the recipe often times using more economical ingredients to increase profits. It’s how business works.
I remember I used to eat Terra chips when they first came out onto the market, goodness over a decade ago, because they were made from ingredients I recognized: potatoes, olive oil, and sea salt. They never seemed to bother my sensitive stomach so they were on my personal “safe food” list. I hit the health food store after being at the gym (this was back when I used to train on an empty tank) and Terra chips were out. I was starving and helped myself to several handfuls of free chips. Within five minutes, my stomach started FREAKING out and behaving in an unfamiliar fashion. The only way I can describe the sensation is this: it felt like my belly was doing somersaults. It felt so FUNKY and seriously uncomfortable. I could HEAR it wrenching, it was so pissy.
Out of curiosity I grabbed the bag, turned it over to check the food label and low and behold, the ingredients did indeed change from olive oil to canola oil. After doing some online research I discovered that Hain Celestial Group bought out Terra Chips from Netherlands. Ugh, I avoided them after that and didn’t eat chips again until Beanito’s were created (PLEASE DON’T SELL, or if you do only sell to me I promise I won’t change the formula except maybe switch to another oil and avoid the safflower oil).
This is part of the mindful eating wisdom that I tapped into and teach clients. What types of foods and amounts work for YOUR individual body. In the case of Terra chips, I didn’t need further evidence to avoid canola oil because I did not (Hnat) want to experience that level of GI discomfort again. I’m not saying that everybody has to avoid canola. What you have to discover is how food works and feels in your body. That’s your responsibility if you want to have a healthy life. No one is going to advocate for your health more than you darling.
Here’s my take on cancer prevention for MY body: I eat a plant-heavy diet loaded with fiber. My gut and GI can support a high-fiber diet and keeps me healthy. There are health issues in my family that I am trying to avoid with diet and lifestyle choices. But if you are transitioning from the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) then you would be wise to avoid going from 5-10 grams of fiber to 35 grams a day! That’s like trying to run a marathon without proper training. Your gut and GI tract have to be primed for that increase in fiber and nutrition, plus you need to drink a lot more fluids!
If you are a cancer survivor and wish to secondary cancer, preventatively wish to avoid it making another unwelcomed appearance, the American Cancer Society recommends eating 9-11 servings of vegetables and fruit per day AND to consume organic produce to decrease your exposure to pesticides (yikes, I’m pretty sure that’s a run-on sentence).
Whoops, I stand corrected.
That used to be the ACS’s stance when I was doing research on gestational cancer at UGA (I remember writing about it and having to cite it) but they have apparently changed their website guidelines (read updated ACS Guidelines here).
Ok ok, enough with all the fluff talk. I really didn’t mean to fall down that soy-based rabbit hole but it’s a client question that comes up in appointments and then I started writing about food labels and ingredients changing, blah blah blah. You know what to do now, so let me inspire you to dive into some Cacao Tofu Mousse!
If you are unfamiliar with the term cacao, it’s the shortened botanical term for chocolate. Theobroma cacao is the food of the Gods and you can read more about it from this Bon Appetit post although I really need to write my thoughts on one of my favorite foods that I never ever run out of- cacao, cacao nibs, and chocolate bars. Truth be told, I have about 6-10 bars squirreled away in the pantry and refrigerator. Don’t like to be without it!
My grandmother said to invest my hard-earned money on good food. I’m pretty sure my persnickety taste-buds were no doubt influenced by her health axiom, and I like to purchase organic, non-GMO, fair trade, 70% dark chocolate (aka cacao). Some of my fave’s include locals like Xocolatl (Kissed Mermaids is sublime!) and Nicobella Organics as well as Alter Eco and Theo brands.
And without further ado…
CACAO TOFU MOUSSE
Serves 4; prep time: 30 minutes; refrigerator time: 20 minutes
3.5 oz dark chocolate bar *70% is recommended
Silken tofu, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons maple syrup, plus extra for serving
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fresh fruit for serving
Place the chocolate bar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Once the chocolate has cooled, add tofu, liquid sweetener of choice and vanilla in a small food processor, and whip until smooth. Now add the room temperature chocolate and whip again until smooth and evenly distributed.
Divide the mousse into four (4) ½ cup containers and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving. Top with fresh berries, slices figs or other favorite fruit, drizzle with favorite liquid sweetener and cacao nibs or chocolate chips. Can save a teeny amount of the melted chocolate and drizzle over berries if serving.
*FODMAP VERSION: replace silken tofu with FIRM tofu for Elimination Phase.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! I love to add fresh berries or drizzle with maple syrup and dust with cinnamon. Often times I’ll add a scoop of chocolate protein powder for that nutrient boost, but it does change the texture so try it au natural first then experiment with fun additives!