Harvard researchers say eating this one food may lower you risk for this serious health condition

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There are many proven factors that help reduce the risk of heart disease later in life. While family history of the disease certainly plays a big role, measures like daily exercise, a healthy diet, and weight management can help lower your risk of suffering with heart issues as you get older. While these measures are well known, researchers continue to find new evidence that there might be more we can do to protect the muscular organ that keeps the blood pumping.

A new Harvard study, published in Circulation, suggests that consuming tofu lowers your risk for heart disease.

Tofu may lower your risk for heart disease

A new study, conducted by a team at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, analyzed data from more than 200,000 participants across three various health and nutrition studies. All participants were free of both cancer and heart disease at the beginning of the studies.

Patients updated their dietary data via surveys that were conducted every two to four years. Data on heart disease was collected from participents’ medical records and other documents. Heart disease fatalities were identified from death certificates.

The study found that consuming tofu more than once a week was associated with an 18% lower risk of heart disease, compared to those who ate tofu less than once a month who saw a 12% lower risk.

The favorable link between consuming tofu and lower risk for heart disease was most prominent in young women who had not reached menopause or postmenopausal women who were not taking any hormones.

What makes tofu lower risk for heart disease?

Tofu is high in isoflavones, which is why it may help decrease the risk of heart disease. The study authors noted that populations that traditionally have diets rich in isoflavones, such as those in China and Japan, have a lower risk of heart disease compared to populations that have meat-rich diets.

“Other human trials and animal studies of isoflavones, tofu and cardiovascular risk markers have also indicated positive effects, so people with an elevated risk of developing heart disease should evaluate their diets,” said lead study author Qi Sun,  a researcher at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “If their diet is packed with unhealthy foods, such as red meat, sugary beverages and refined carbohydrates, they should switch to healthier alternatives. Tofu and other isoflavone-rich, plant-based foods are excellent protein sources and alternatives to animal proteins.”

Other foods that are high in isoflavones:

  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • Fava beans
  • Pistachios
  • Peanuts

Soymilk is often highly processed and sweetened with sugar, which makes it a less healthy option. The study found no significant association between consuming soy milk and lowering heart disease risk.

Is tofu the answer to eliminating heart disease?

While this study proved a relationship between consuming tofu and lower risk for heart disease, it did not prove a causality. There are many factors that influence the development of heart disease, such as physical exercise, genetics, and lifestyle choices.

“Despite these findings, I don’t think tofu is by any means a magic bullet,” Sun said. “Overall diet quality is still critical to consider, and tofu can be a very healthy component. For example, younger women who are more physically active and get more exercise tend to follow healthier, plant-based diets that may include more isoflavone-rich foods like tofu. Although we have controlled for these factors, caution is recommended when interpreting these results.”

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.