Popular all over the world, tofu is a great addition to your healthy diet. Tofu is made from soybeans, and sometimes referred to as bean curd since it is made from curdled soy milk. Generally, it has a soft, cheese-like texture but you can buy varying firmness levels, from soft tofu to extra firm. The different types are useful in different recipes. Its mild blandness and ability to absorb the flavors of other foods or sauces in recipes makes it an easy addition to many meals.
It is often used as a substitute for meat but it is more than just that. It can even be used in meat dishes to enhance the mouthfeel or nutritional value. It is low in fat, low in cholesterol, low in carbohydrates and low in calories! It is a good way to get high quality protein too!
A 3-ounce serving of raw, firm tofu contains the following nutrition, including Daily Values (DV) based on a 2,000-calorie diet:
- Calories: 51
- Protein: 6 grams
- Carbohydrates: 2 grams or 1% of DV
- Fat: 2 grams or 3% of DV
- Saturated Fat: 0 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 grams
- Copper: 9% of DV
- Iron: 5% of DV
- Magnesium: 6% of DV
- Phosphorus: 8% of DV
- Potassium: 5%
Additionally, tofu has an Amino Acid Score of 119 which indicates that tofu is a complete and/ or high-quality protein.
Varieties of Tofu and Recipe Uses
Tofu is found is found in a variety of textures, from soft to firm and silken. Firmer tofu is used in many recipes as a substitute for meat and can be marinated, fried, baked, boiled, stewed, barbecued and added just like other protein sources to your meal. Soft and silken tofu is easy to blend, mash or cream for addition to smoothies, desserts or sauces. Tofu is packaged in shelf-stable aseptic packages or water-filled options in the cooler section of your grocery store. Keep tofu chilled after opening both packages and keep it stored in water if you do not use it all in a single meal. You can change the water daily and have a pack of tofu last a week.
Health Benefits of Tofu
Tofu is associated with many health benefits including disease prevention, weight management, and general health maintenance! Plant-based diets and foods have long been shown to reduce risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity in addition to improving skin, hair, energy levels and mortality.
Teeth and Bones: The calcium in tofu supports healthy mineral density in your bones in teeth. This can help reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis. Additionally, the isoflavones found in tofu are associated with reducing the risk of osteoporosis, especially during periods of increased bone loss like menopause.
B Vitamins: Many B vitamins are found in tofu and are important in helping your body utilize food and provide steady energy levels.
Heart Heath: Plant-based diets are associated with healthy cholesterol levels by not just reducing cholesterol but also helping maintain HDL/ good cholesterol levels. This is important because it reduces your risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. When substituted for animal proteins, there is a decreased risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
Cancer Risk Reduction: The isoflavones in tofu also help reduce your risk of developing cancers like breast, colon and prostate.
Muscle Strength: Tofu is a high quality protein, containing all the amino acids that makes it a complete protein source. Furthermore it is an easily digested protein that supports the development of healthy cells and tissues.
Menopause: Eating foods with isoflavones can help women who are in menopausal stages to reduce symptoms by balancing hormonal levels. Some symptoms like hot flashes, irritability and mood swings have been shown to be greatly improved with soy consumption. A review article in the 2000 Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that soy reduced hot flashes by 45%.
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.