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You Ask, I Answer: Tofu Concerns

Posted Nov 14 2009 10:00pm

iron-source-edamame-soybeans-lg I am a vegetarian and eat tofu, but I am hearing two things about tofu that are bothering me.

1) Tofu has large amounts of antibiotics or other additives dangerous to the human body.

2) In order to make tofu and fulfill the global need for tofu, the Brazilians have undertaken an incredible rate of slash and burn to clear fields to make way for planting of soybeans.

What are your thoughts?

– Barlow Humphreys
Westchester, NY

1) Tofu does not contain antibiotics.

The use of antibiotics only comes into play with animals that have them mixed into their feed.

Non-organic tofu contains pesticides, but there are no “dangerous additives” in soy products.

2) Brazil is one of the world’s top producers of soy.

It is certainly true that the increased demand for soy (along with corporate-owned genetically modified soy crops that can practically grow anywhere) have led to a staggering amount of deforestation there.

That said (and please do not take this to mean I am dismissing that as unimportant) — meat production takes an even larger toll on the environment, as it requires the use of more land, significantly more water usage, and creates a larger amount of waste.

One way to “pitch in”, from an environmental standpoint, is to purchase soy products made exclusively from soybeans that are not genetically modified, since non-GMO soybeans are usually grown more responsibly.

Although over 90 percent of the world’s soybeans are genetically modified, most of those are used to make soy by-products (ie: soybean oil, soy protein isolate) used in processed food.

When it comes to soy products, I recommend prioritizing tempeh (fermented soy) and edamame (picture alongside this post), as these are the most nutritious and less processed varieties.

Next on the list are tofu and soy-based dairy products.

Processed foods made largely with soy protein isolates (ie: soy chips, soy bars, soy burgers, soy protein powders) should be considered “occasional treats”.

Soy can only be considered a health food when it is consumed in a minimally processed form.  A sprinkle of soy dust on a corn chip is hype, not health.

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