The Truth About Tofu and Dairy Fat | Ask the Dietitian

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We’re back again to field another round of questions about nutrition, weight loss and more. Every few weeks, I’ll pick a few to answer in detail. This week’s installment covers a couple controversial foods. Why can’t the experts make up their minds? I’m here to help!

With 9 grams of plant-based protein per serving, tofu packs a filling, satisfying and nutrient-dense punch. Ounce per ounce, it has more iron and calcium than beef, half the calories (fewer than chicken, too) and zero cholesterol.

Soybeans — the base from which tofu is made — have a controversial reputation and have been the subject of numerous medical studies during the past decade. Soybeans contain high levels of phytoestrogens, a plant compound that (as its name implies) contains qualities that resemble estrogen, a hormone linked to breast cancer. None of the evidence around soy consumption and breast cancer shows any direct links — most, in fact, says otherwise, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Several studies suggest soy is linked to lower breast cancer risklower levels of inflammation and can also help with weight control — a key factor in breast cancer risk.

There’s no reason to eliminate tofu from your diet — in fact, research supports including more. It’s versatile in the kitchen — delicious hot or cold, seared or baked — especially when drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil or sweet chili sauce.

A lot of tofu is genetically modified — about 93% — so look for organic varieties, which aren’t genetically altered, and readily available in most supermarkets. An added bonus: Tofu is budget-friendly, quick cooking and keeps well in the refrigerator for those nights when you need to pull a healthy dinner together in a pinch.

More and more science is leading us to believe dairy fat, when eaten as part of a healthy diet, can actually help you lose weight. A recent review published in the European Journal of Nutrition reported lower body weights, less weight gain and a lower risk for obesity among full-fat dairy eaters. Another study, published in the American Journal of Nutrition, found that, in a group of more than 18,000 women, those who consumed more higher-fat and whole-milk dairy products had a lower risk of being overweight.

Fuller-fat yogurts, cheeses and milks are thicker, creamier and more satisfying than the fat-free versions. They’re less processed, have a cleaner ingredient profile, are rich in protein, calcium and — most important — they taste better and keep you full longer. Yogurt, kefir and cultured cheeses contain gut-friendly probiotics, which have been linked to a number of healthy benefits. Unless dairy disagrees with you (a number of Americans are intolerant), there’s no reason not to reach for that 2% or whole milk yogurt over fat-free.

But don’t go indulging too far with the butter and heavy cream. Some dairy contains a high percentage of saturated fat, added sugars and little to no fiber (which also plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight). Bottom line: It’s OK to skip the skim, as existing research supports higher-fat dairy. Just be sure to read labels, limit high-sugar ice cream treats and buy plain yogurt, milk and kefir with no added sugars.

Got another burning question for me? Keep them coming! Ask away in the comment section below, and keep up with the MyFitnessPal Facebook page for more opportunities to Ask the Dietitian.

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