Thursday, April 14, 2005

Phytoestrogens, ay?

Fluffy asks and she doth receive:
i want to know more about about tofu and phytoestrogens.

I’m going to start with the phytoestrogens because I’ve meet some of youse and I reckon youse’ve got the tofu bit covered.

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring phenolic plant compounds, present in foods such as beans, cabbage, soyabean, grains and hops (beer, finally, beer is good!), and are part of a wider class of polyphenols found in all plants. They are structurally similar to the mammalian oestrogen, oestradiol, and have oestrogenic properties.

Now let’s not freak out here. They’re not like human oestrogen (the girlie hormone), they’re pretty mild in comparison. As in like 1/1000 as ineffective, but still pack a punch.

Phytoestrogens are found in plants, but the most abundant source is from legumes. Soy bean having the highest levels of all the legumes (linseed is also very high). Obviously tofu is made form soy beans, therefore tofu is regarded as a good source of phytoestrogens. And so the circle is complete.

So, like, why are they, like, good an’ stuff?

WELL. They’re thought to be beneficial in 4 major areas. Cancer, menopause, osteoporosis and heart disease.

OK, cancer. It’s thought that because Japanese cultures have a very low incidence of breast and prostate cancers and a very high intake of phytoestrogens that there is a link (it’s estimated that the Japanese diet contains about 30 times the phytoestrogens as the typical Western diet). It’s kinda tied in with the whole menopause bit. As in chances of cancer development is increased after menopause. The added amount of oestogenic effect the phytoestrogen adds is postulated to contribute to a decreased risk of cancer development.

Menopausal symptoms are also thought to be reduced, or at the very least changed with a diet high in phytoestrogens. Women in Japan are more likely to have headaches and backaches rather than hot flushes and night sweats. One test showed that substituting for soya flour (45g/day) hot flushes were decreased by 40%. That’s good. Just depends if you’re more inclined to want a backache or turning beet red mid sentence.

Osteoporosis is also linked to the onset of menopause. Often treatment of menopause includes hormone therapy. So in a sense, if you’re delaying or softening the effects of menopause by consuming phytoestrogens, then it’s also going to help the osteoporosis.

And heart disease, good ol’ heart disease, we can always trust you be a symptom of poor eating. It appears that the phytoestrogens have less to do with this one, and more to do with the source you’re getting the phyto’s from, i.e. tofu. Tofu also contains isoflavins which have been shown to have a positive effect on lowering the bad cholesterol levels in the blood serum. I’ve talked about the goods and evils of cholesterol before and I’m tired and I have work to do, so you’ll just have to re-read an old post buried in The Missing Ingredient if you want further assistance on this one. (Yowza, crack the whip)

So there you go Fluff’s. Tofu = phytoestrogens + isoflavins, which = good. I hope I’ve glossed over it thoroughly enough. Now, a note to all the rest of you… it pays to have a beer with me on a sunny day to remind me to research and blog over these things.

Happy eating!


Blogger Ukulele said...

I don’t like really like tofu much unless it is in some type of rich sauce. Can I just enjoy my photo-whatits through a stubby of Melbourne then?

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Blogger sugar and spice said...

Stubby and rich sauce away!

5:01 pm  
Blogger fluffy said...

Thanks sug! It was almost as good as the beer on the sunny day of which you spake. I knew I was eating that tofu for a reason! Do you ever take your fine Richmond dewelling self down to the tofu shop on bridge road? They do the most wonderful things with tofu, even if you're not normally a tofu fancier. One of the best things in the world is their Tofulaki (like a souvlaki but... you get it). Anyways, they wrap up the tofu with a fresh crunchy salad including toasted almonds, pickled ginger, cabbage and a hoummus style sauce made from zizzed up firm tofu and tahini. It is TO DIE FOR. Trust me.

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