This thyme scrambled tofu with truffle oil recipe is not only a great alternative for those who cannot eat eggs due to intolerances and allergies, but a lovely variation to the regular egg scramble. The texture of the tofu in this dish works wonderfully to create a similar mouth feel to scrambled eggs, with a little more firmness. The tofu also soaks up the wonderful flavours that are added along to the pan with it, while keeping its glorious soft centre. Oh, and let’s not forget the truffle oil. It’s certainly not essential, but if you happen to be a fan of a little truffle action then I recommend you get that stash out and use it here.
If you are more partial to the really slippery textured scrambles (the sort that just holds itself together), then you may want to use silken tofu instead. Usually silken tofu cooks down quite a bit however due to it’s higher water content, so you may want to add a little more of the silken tofu to feed two hungry bellies.
Since this wonderfully flavoursome thyme scrambled tofu with truffle oil dish uses a soy product, I wanted to take this chance to express my thoughts on the ever controversial soy. I am often asked about my use of soy on Instagram and also within clinic. Most commonly people are curious about its potential negative effects and also its potential effects on hormones, especially for ladies, as soy has had a lot of media attention. For this reason I will focus here more so on the hormonal component, otherwise this post will turn into an essay.
If you google soy there are a multitude of pros and cons that can send a reader into a spin. Soy is poison, soy is good for cholesterol, soy causes cancer, soy is good for diabetes. It’s not a wonder there is so much confusion surrounding soy.
First and foremost when it comes to including soy in your diet I am an advocate for the real stuff. That’s organic soybeans or naturally fermented soybeans that have not been genetically modified. I am not a fan of the soy protein isolates and extractions that have been added to the multitudes of packages foods now available in our western culture. Soy protein isolates are highly processed and have a far greater phytoestrogen (isoflavone) content than their wholefood parent. These soy protein isolates are, I believe, the problematic culprits that are potentially causing issues with endocrine (hormone) disruption when consumed in large amounts.
The main phytoestrogens (isoflavones) present in soy are genistin, daidzin and glycitein. Interestingly genistein and daidzein cannot be properly converted to their bioactive forms and absorbed without adequate intestinal flora (another reason sound gut health is so important). Traditional Asian soy foods (not the westernised processed versions) have naturally high levels of ‘aglycone’ a more bioavailable form of these isoflavones that is readily available for absorption. This would include products such as whole fermented soy products like miso and tempeh and pressed organic tofu.
The majority of studies/research papers on soy have used soy milk drinks or formula with an isoflavone content of anywhere from 30 – 200mg isoflavones per daily serve. This is (in general) a far greater amount than one would usually consume if eating whole food organic soy products as part of a balanced dietary intake. For instance, 100 grams of tofu contains around 25-30mg of isoflavones. Therefore, a serve of tofu 2/3 per week as part of a wholefood balanced diet does not fall into the spectrum of these study outcomes. If you were however drinking soy milk made from soy protein isolate, using soy protein powders and additional soy protein isolate and soy flour based products on top of this, then your intake of soy would increase quickly to reach these study levels.
So what about the effect of soy on female hormones? A paper published in the Journal of Nutrition 2002 concluded from a cross sectional selection of studies a tendency for a slight increase in menstrual cycle length with decreased estradiol, progesterone and sex hormone-binding globulin. This review also concluded that there was an increase in ‘good’ estrogen over more detrimental estrogens usually prevalent in estrogen driven hormonal diseases. (2002, MS. Kurzer, Jrn Nutr)
Further randomized cross over studies have also concluded that soy alters estrogen metabolism by increasing 2/4OH (good oestrogen) and reducing 16-0H (genotoxic form or oestrogen). ( X. Xu et al 2000). The report concluded that “soy consumption exerts small effects on hormones in both men and premenopausal women. Although these effects are generally in a beneficial direction, their clinical significance is yet to be established. The largest observed effects have been reductions in urinary estrogens and estrogen metabolites in women. Future studies should focus on elucidating the responsible components and the optimal forms and doses as well as the dietary, environmental and genetic factors that influence particular subgroups to respond to soy. These factors may include ethnicity as well as individual phytoestrogen metabolism. Finally, it is of great importance to establish the clinical relevance of these small differences.”
Some animal studies and in vitro studies have shown a potential ability for isoflavones to increase breast cancer cell proliferation. A 2006 review study from The Journal of The National Cancer Institute concluded after reviewing current data and research to date that more evidence was needed on breast tissue at a cellular level to really elude a causative relationship. Another 2008 review study from the Journal of Nutrition concluded “While more research is required to definitively allay concerns, the existing data should provide some degree of assurance that isoflavone exposure at levels consistent with historical Asian soyfood intake does not result in adverse stimulatory effects on breast tissue”. (Wood et al, 2008)
So what does the above really all mean when it comes out in the wash? For me current reputable data and research highlights how important it is to assess each persons soy intake on a case by case basis. What forms of soy are they consuming? How frequently? What are their presenting health concerns and genetic predispositions? Could soy be beneficial to their health as part of a balanced diet or is it better avoided? Clearly there are pros and cons and some overly grey areas in relation to soy adversity that require further investigations before being placed in the sin bin for good.
In closing, like any food soy intake is about the quality of the product you choose to eat, along with the frequency. For most good quality soy products consumed throughout the week as part of a varied and wholefood diet are not going to be problematic. Of course if you feel more comfortable avoiding soy then by all means do so, as it is your personal choice. You may avoid it more so due to digestive concerns regarding it’s phytate levels, for personal dietary choices or other health concerns (see nutritional information).
If you have any queries or questions I would really love to hear from you in the comments below. Additionally, if you would also like a copy of any of the research papers mentioned here or used in this post for reference I am happy to email you a copy.
thyme scrambled tofu w truffle oil
- serves 2
- preparation time
- 2 minutes
- cooking time
- 5 minutes
- 250 gram block organic firm tofu (non GMO)
- 1 small handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 small handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
- 3 teaspoons tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
- olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
- truffle oil (optional, but amazing!)
- // extras to serve //
- 2 slices toast of choice
- 1/2 avocado, sliced lengthways
Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat and add a little olive oil. Take the block of tofu and crumble it between your fingers into the pan creating rough pieces that form a scrambled egg like appearance. Stir the tofu around to coat up the olive oil and start to warm through.
Add in the fresh thyme and stir to combine. Continue occasionally stirring around for 1 -2 minutes allowing the thyme to infuse and the tofu to cook through. Now add in the tamari. Give this a good stir for another 1-2 minutes and then finish with the parsley, another small lug of olive oil and a good seasoning of pepper. Remove from the heat and you are ready to serve.
For serving, spoon the scrambled tofu on top of the toast and then drizzle with truffle oil if using. Add some avocado slices and finish with a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
nutritional information for thyme scrambled tofu w truffle oil
- Soy foods in high quantities should be avoided in those with thyroid conditions (specifically goiters or hypothyroidism), as they are high in goitrogens, which may interfere with iodine binding to the thyroid gland, and therefore reduced thyroid hormone production. (C. Xiao, 2008, American Society for Nutrition)
- Biochemically, isofavones can bind to two different forms of estrogen receptors in the body. The have more affinity however to bind to one receptor over the other. These two different terminals if you will have different roles in regulating gene expression and physiological functions. The receptor associated with human breast cell cancer proliferation is the receptor of less affinity, where as the receptor with high affinity is actually associated with reducing proliferation. A 2010 study from the Journal of Nutrition on Is Soy Consumption Good or Bad for the Breast? concluded “In summary, human studies that have investigated changes in circulating hormone levels or mammographic density in pre- or postmenopausal women by diets high in isoflavones from dietary supplements or soy foods have found no significant effects, suggesting that they do not alter breast cancer risk. However, these studies have used moderate doses of isoflavones, reflective of Asian soy food consumption, and it is possible that higher doses could yield different results”. (J Nutr. 2010, L. Hilakivi‐Clarke et al)
- This soy scramble is a sound protein source (10 grams of protein per 1/2 cup of tofu) for those following a vegan or vegetarian diet. Combined with the toast, greens and avocado this meal is the perfect start to the day for getting your macronutrient balance. Tofu also provides great levels of calcium and manganese.
Jessica Cox is a qualified practicing Nutritionist with a Bachelor Health Science (Nutrition) and over 15 years of clinical experience. She is the founder and director JCN Clinic, published author and established recipe developer. Jessica is well respected within health and wellness space for her no fad approach and use of evidence-based nutrition.