Tofu is a byproduct of soybeans that essentially helps in maintaining cardiovascular health. It also boasts a wealth of different health benefits, including a lower risk of cancer, anemia, osteoporosis, and kidney diseases, as well as lower cholesterol levels. It is a good source of protein, eases menopause symptoms, and prevents hair loss.
What is Tofu?
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food prepared by pressing coagulated soy milk into flat white blocks. It has been a common ingredient in global cuisines, such as Chinese food, for many centuries. This power-packed food substitute is ideal for vegetarians and vegans all around the world because it contains no traces of animal products of any kind – it is a pure organic food that supplies a wealth of nutritive value in a variety of delicious ways. The name comes from the Japanese word “tofu”, but it is widely enjoyed in many countries for its extremely nutritious composition.
- Tofu has a very low-calorie count, which makes it an attractive option for people who want to lose weight.
- It contains a very small amount of fat, but a large amount of protein. Furthermore, it has very low levels of sodium and almost no cholesterol.
- In terms of vitamins and minerals, tofu is a rich source of iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, and it also has good amounts of calcium and potassium.
- There are even trace amounts of zinc, which is an essential mineral for health.
- The organic compounds found in tofu mainly consist of isoflavones, which have a wide impact on health.
- On the vitamin side of nutrition, it has significant levels of vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6.
- It also contains smaller amounts of pantothenic acid and niacin.
Health Benefits of Tofu
The health benefits of tofu include its ability to help lower cholesterol levels, prevent anemia and manage weight, among others.
Lowers Cholesterol Level
Consuming tofu reduces the cholesterol level in the body. Additionally, using tofu as an alternative to the animal protein can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol in the body. As compared to meats such as beef, tofu has lower levels of saturated fatty acids and higher levels of unsaturated fatty acids. It is also a good source of lecithin and linoleic acid, which helps regulate the metabolism, along with the dispersion and elimination of cholesterol deposits in the body.
Maintains Cardiovascular Health
Tofu helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Regular consumption of soy products like tofu may lower the levels of saturated fats along with cholesterol levels in the body. Due to its low sodium content, it is also good for people with high blood pressure.
Intake of tofu also aids in managing weight effectively. A study suggests that soy-based low-calorie diets have a beneficial effect on reduction of weight and blood lipids.
Eases Menopause Symptoms
The organic compounds in tofu, namely isoflavones, are instrumental in managing the symptoms of menopause in women. Isoflavones are plant-based compounds that mimic the estrogen hormone in the body. Tofu can help stabilize the estrogen levels during menopause and relieve hot flashes.
The isoflavones in tofu are well known to be beneficial in reducing the risk of different types of cancer. Research suggests that a higher intake of products such as tofu helps prevent endometrial cancer in post-menopausal women. It has also been associated with a reduction in breast, lung, and prostate cancer.
Tofu is a rich source of calcium, which is the key ingredient in bone formation. This is why the intake of tofu is highly recommended. Lack of calcium in the body could lead to osteoporosis, especially in old age. Consuming tofu slows down the entire process by keeping the bones strong.
Treats Kidney Diseases
Tofu, being an excellent source of iron, can help prevent anemia. Deficiency of iron causes a drop in the number of healthy red blood cells leading to anemia. A study conducted in China also showed that tofu helped lower the risk of anemia among adults.
Tofu is also known to improve memory and cognitive function for women above 65-years age. The lecithin content present in tofu helps the body produce the phospholipids phosphatidic acid (PA) and phosphatidylserine (PS), which aid in the normal functioning of the neurons.
People use tofu to prevent hair loss issues as it provides keratin, a protein essential for hair growth. So, dump those expensive hair treatments and add tofu to your diet.
Rich in Protein
Tofu, other soy products, and vegetables are a great source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. They also provide the required amino acids, which are beneficial for maintaining optimal health.
Research on tofu suggests that it is a preferable source of protein, especially for gout patients with uric acid clearance more than the lower normal limit. However, they are advised to avoid excess intake of tofu.
- Gut damage: Majority of soy-products including tofu available in the market are genetically modified. Genetically modified tofu can cause kidney stone, digestive problems and liver issues too. These GMO products pose many risks to human health as they kill the good bacteria in the gut.
- Thyroid issue: According to a report, infants who are fed soy-diet are more susceptible to thyroid problems, especially those that are born with congenital hypothyroidism. Therefore, those suffering from hypothyroidism are advised to avoid consumption of soy-bean and soy-products including tofu.
- Breast tumor: The phytoestrogen present in tofu acts like estrogen hormone. When tofu is consumed in excess, it blocks the natural production of estrogen in the body. Therefore, those women who have a family history of breast cancer and those who are currently battling breast cancer should avoid consuming tofu.
- Food allergy: Some people may experience allergic reactions. So avoid the intake of tofu in case you are allergic to soy products.
How to Select and Store Tofu?
There are several types available in the supermarket. The more the water is pressed out during the making of tofu, the firmer it gets. With a lesser water content, the fat and protein content in the tofu goes up.
Types of Tofu
- Silken tofu: It is also known as Japanese-style tofu. It is creamy and soft in texture and has a very high water content. It is usually used in smoothies, desserts, puddings, and dips, and it can also be used as an egg substitute in baking.
- Regular tofu: It has a spongy texture and can be sold as soft, medium, firm, and super firm depending on its water content. Firm tofu is generally used for stir-fries and it can even be baked or grilled. Extra firm tofu works well as a meat substitute and can be crumbled to work as mock meat in dishes. The soft variety is used in soups or in a tofu scramble.
- Seasoned tofu: It is already pre-seasoned with different flavors such as barbeque or teriyaki.
- Smoked tofu: Traditionally, this kind of tofu was smoked over tea leaves, but now it is done over beechwood. This kind of tofu has a rich, deep flavor and can be eaten raw as an appetizer or added to a salad.
- Fermented tofu: It is a briny, creamy tofu which has been pickled. It is served as a dip for fresh vegetables or can be used to season rice or porridge.
Buy tofu depending on the kind of dish you want to use it for!
Tips for Storing Tofu
Here are some tips for storing tofu once you buy it.
- Rinse it before consuming it.
- Just like any other food, once the container is opened, it should be refrigerated in order to keep it preserved.
- Changing the water inside the container helps in keeping the tofu fresh.
How to Eat Tofu?
It can be used in either sweet or savory dishes and can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. Most chefs use it because of its subtle flavor, which is necessary when the intention is to bring out the other types of tastes and flavors contained in that particular food.
Quick Serving Ideas
- Miso Soup – Add tofu to miso soup, along with vegetables or fish.
- Stir Fry – Stir fry tofu with your favorite vegetables or meats and season with salt and other herbs and spices as per taste.
- Breakfast – Blend a mixture of tofu and fruits, such as blueberries and bananas, to make a healthy smoothie.
Have a happy tofu meal!