I hate tofu.
The texture is just somewhere near intolerable. There has never been a tofu creation that I sampled that did not leave me wishing for even the school cooking from my childhood. But now comes news that tofu is actually not even good for people, and especially guys.
It was hailed as a superfood that could fight breast cancer, strengthen bones and ease the menopause. Once thought of as exotic, today soya can be found in a variety of guises on supermarket shelves, from dairy-free milk and yogurt to vegan cheese and tofu.
Soya was first cultivated in China, where it was used as medicine and in cooking. Last year, more than one million tons of it were imported to the UK.
However, there is mounting evidence that soya could, in fact, pose a serious health risk.
Experts claim soya foods might lower testosterone levels in men, hamper thyroid function, cause weight gain and disrupt hormones.
Millions believe it to be a healthy option, providing protein with no saturated fat and without the risk of raising cholesterol levels. Yet it seems the very properties that made soya so attractive could also make it a health threat.
The soya plant boasts high levels of phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the body’s own oestrogen. And 100g of tofu contains 12.9mg of phytoestrogens, while 100g of soya yogurt or soya milk contains 11.8mg.
Dr Margaret Ritchie, an expert in phytoestrogens at the University of St Andrews, explains: ‘These oestrogen-like chemicals are up to 20,000 times weaker than natural oestrogen. If a woman is low in oestrogen, as in the menopause, the extra oestrogen absorbed when soya is eaten can help relieve menopausal symptoms.’
It may also reduce the impact of the body’s own oestrogen on breast and womb tissue, protecting against breast and uterine cancers, which are triggered by the hormone.
However, according to recent studies published in the Journal Of Nutrition, soya baby formula could cause problems in male infants.
Research at Edinburgh University into the effects of soya milk on young male monkeys found it interfered with testosterone levels, prompting concerns over fertility and disease in grown men.
Furthermore, studies in Japan suggest a high intake of soy-based products can disrupt the thyroid gland, leading to weight gain, fatigue and mood problems.
Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of the Nutritional Health Handbook For Women, says: ‘Soya can block the uptake of the chemical iodine which is needed for a healthy thyroid. Turnips, cabbage, peanuts and pine nuts have similar effects. If you are diagnosed with a thyroid problem, you’ll be told to restrict your intake of all these foods.’