Will eating Tofu make you cold?

I think most people love to eat tofu. It is widely available in supermarkets, inexpensive and a great ingredient to cook with. Boil it, steam it, stir fry it and it’s even good to eat on its own. Tofu also comes in many forms – soft, silken, firm, dried beancurd skins.

My favorite is the silken tofu in soups, so warm and comforting.Growing up in an Asian culture, some say tofu has cooling properties. Ladies should not eat too much especially when you have a weak digestive system and during menses. But it tofu really that cold? What if I put it in steamboat and let it boil in the soup to “soak up the heat”, wouldn’t it become warmer?

Hm.. it’s so confusing.

First of all, it is important to note that soybean itself does not have cooling property. In TCM, soy is sweet-neutral or sweet-warm in property and goes into the Stomach and Lung meridian.The key word being neutral, not cold like we thought.However, tofu is different. Yes it is made from soy but it is not the same thing. In the process of making tofu, a secret ingredient called Shi Gao or food- grade gypsum or nigari. This is like a coagulant that will solidify the protein and oil in the hot soymilk and magically turns it into firm tofu.

How is tofu made?

To make tofu you need 3 ingredients: soybeans, water and coagulant.

Can you use agar agar or gelatin to coagulate soy milk?

No, unless you want to produce soy milk gelatin. “Almond tofu” is gelled with agar agar or unflavored gelatin but it’s more of a jelly than a tofu. The term tofu is often used in China and Japan to denote many jelled things. Tofu is really a different animal. It’s not thickened with a starch or gelatin type of ingredient.

What can be used to coagulate soy milk for tofu?

Many things, from everyday vinegar, lemon juice, and recycled/fermented whey to gypsum (calcium sulphate), Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), nigari (magnesiumchloride), and glucono deltalactone (GDL). Gypsum and Nigari is the recommended coagulant if you’re making tofu at home.

This gypsum (Shi Gao) that is added is the culprit of making Tofu cold. Not the soy. (Sorry soybean).

In TCM, Shi Gao is categoried as a herb that can clear Heat and Drain fire in the Qi stage and is acid and cold.

Chinese Medicine physician usually prescribe large dose of about 30 to 60g, up to 90g for very high fever. But in a bowl of 200g tofu, less than 0.5g of gypsum is used.

So sweet-warm tofu + small amounts of cold gypsum = Neutral

Tofu mystery solved! (yay!)

BUT! Wait a minute.Why do some people feel cold when they eat too much tofu or bean products?

This has nothing to do with cold gypsum nor the soy itself. A very famous ancient Chinese doctor and pharmacologist, Li Shi Zhen stated that overeating can weaken the Spleen and Stomach leading to accumulation of Dampness and Phlegm.

Soy or bean products also have tonifying effects. Too much of tonification can cause Spleen and Stomach Qi to be stagnant and blocked hence making us “feel bloated”.

So if you eat too much bean products, or too much of anything in the long term, it can cause stagnation of Qi and Blood which will cause bad circulation and hence you feel cold or susceptible to cold.So, Tofu is not cold but avoid eating too much to prevent Qi stagnation.

If you do, visit a Chinese Medicine physician for warming and digestion herbs or you can make ginger tea at home.

Stay warm with ginger tea.

1. Wash, peel and grate fresh ginger (about the length of your thumb).

2. Add boiling hot water.

3. Strain into a mug.

4. Add honey (optional)

Now it’s ready to drink, simple as that.​

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