Tofu is a byproduct of soybeans that boasts a wealth of different health benefits, including a lower risk of cancer, anemia, and osteoporosis, as well as lower cholesterol levels. It also helps in maintaining cardiovascular health and is a good source of protein. It has been a common ingredient in global cuisines, such as Chinese food, for many centuries.
Table of Contents
- What is Tofu?
- Nutritional Value of Tofu
- Health Benefits of Tofu
- How to Eat Tofu?
- How to Select and Store Tofu?
- Quick Serving Ideas
What is Tofu?
Tofu is also known as bean curd and is created by pressing coagulated soy milk into flat white blocks. The extracted soy juice is then pressed into white blocks that are white in color. 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 itself comes from the Japanese word “tofu”, but it is widely enjoyed in many countries for its extremely nutritious composition, despite being somewhat simple in appearance.
It has a very low-calorie count but is packed with various nutrients and important organic compounds necessary for human health. It is not a complete protein, so it cannot completely replace those proteins lost by maintaining a vegetarian diet, but when coupled with a responsible amount of other healthy food, it can be an essential element of the human diet.
It became popular due to religious reasons for not eating meat in the Buddhist religion, but religious and non-religious people alike now turn to tofu to complete their healthy diet. Apart from the Asian cuisines that incorporate the use of tofu, it is frequently used in various restaurants and homes all over the world.
Nutritional Value of Tofu
It contains a very small amount of fat, but a large amount of protein, which is necessary for proper bodily functions. The low-calorie count also makes it an attractive option for people attempting to lose weight. Furthermore, it has very low levels of sodium and almost no cholesterol, both of which mean that tofu is beneficial for heart health.
In terms of vitamins and minerals, tofu is a rich source of iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, selenium, and it also has good amounts of calcium and manganese. There are even trace amounts of zinc and potassium, more essential minerals for human health. The organic compounds found in tofu mainly consist of isoflavones, which have a wide impact on human health, which will be explained below. On the vitamin side of nutrition, it has significant levels of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and folate. It also contains smaller amounts of pantothenic acid and niacin. This combination of vitamins, in conjunction with the essential minerals found in tofu, make it one of the healthiest choices for your diet!
Health Benefits of Tofu
The health benefits of Tofu include its ability to help lower cholesterol levels, prevent anemia and manage weight, among others.
Rich in Protein
The human body needs protein for it to function properly. Contrary to the belief of most people, protein is not only available in meat and meat products. Vegetarians also get the right amount of protein due to its availability in tofu, other soy products, and vegetables. These contain amino acids, which are required for optimal health. The frequent consumption of red meat, for example, has health implications that can lead to different diseases. Such conditions can be avoided by replacing a meat diet with one that is rich in tofu.
Research conducted to study the effects of 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, people with gout should avoid very high consumption of tofu or other soy products.
Lowers Cholesterol Level
High cholesterol levels are one of the causative agents of heart-related ailments. As much as people try to avoid this kind of fat, it is present in most cooking oils and fats used in most homes and other eateries. It reduces the cholesterol level in the body due to its ability to absorb cooking oil and other liquids that, if accumulated in the body, could lead to various diseases. 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.
Another health benefit of tofu includes a lower risk of anemia. A study conducted in China to investigate the association between anemia and tofu intake suggests that it does lower the risk of anemia among adults.
It contains isoflavones, which are well known to be beneficial in reducing cancer risk. Research on soy intake and endometrial cancer suggests that a higher consumption of products such as tofu may reduce the risk of endometrial cancer in post-menopausal women. Another study suggests that post-menopausal women suffering from lung cancer may live longer by including it in their lifestyle. The organic compounds in tofu, namely isoflavones, are instrumental in helping manage the symptoms of menopause in women, and they have also been associated with a reduction in breast and prostate cancer.
Maintains Cardiovascular Health
The intake of proper food plays a very important role in maintaining cardiovascular health. Regular consumption of soy products like tofu may lower the levels of cholesterol and saturated fats in the body, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Keeps Bones Stronger
It is a good source of calcium, which is the key ingredient in bone formation. It is not easy to get this nutrient or mineral in the right quantity. This is why the intake of tofu is highly recommended since it has high levels of this element. Lack of calcium in the body could lead to osteoporosis, rapid aging due to brittle bones, and poor formation of new bones as well. Everyone is prone to aging at some point in their lives, but the effects of this age can be avoided by adopting measures such as consuming tofu, which slows down the entire process by keeping the bones strong.
Increases Blood Circulation
Iron plays a very important role in supplying oxygen to various body parts and subsequently, the body relies heavily on oxygen. It is the function of hemoglobin to transport this gas to every part of the body, which is essential in energy generation. Hemoglobin exists in the blood and is formed through the use of the iron that is present in the body. It helps to increase the blood circulation in the body, thanks to its iron and copper content. This prevents symptoms of anemia and keeps the organs running smoothly due to proper oxygenation.
How to Eat Tofu?
Most people tend to refrain from eating tofu based on the notion that it does not have an appetizing flavor. The importance and health benefits of soy products are a clear indication that it should be consumed regularly and in large quantities. Innovations and creativity are the best ways to ensure that tofu is used in most dishes at home in order for everyone to get all the of valuable nutrients it contains. Due to changes in tastes and preferences of most people, the cooking style opted for may not be necessarily similar to the original forms of tofu-based food. However, at the end of every tofu meal, you will be benefiting from a whole meal that contains all the vital minerals and vitamins that are essential for the body.
It can be used in either sweet or savory dishes and can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. The use of tofu is mainly seen in the preparation of sweet dishes after marinating in order to blend well with the main dish. 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. This has transformed the meaning that was given to soybeans and any of its products, which were once referred to as ‘protein for the low class/poor’.
How to Select and Store Tofu?
The health benefits of tofu have made it be stocked on shelves of most stores worldwide. It is one of the foods that has maintained a huge natural content of healthy substances, despite the modernization that has ended up reducing the nutritional value of other processed foods.
One does not have to own a soybeans farm in order to have this form or any other variety of soy protein. There are stores that stock this product in plentiful numbers and anyone can purchase a packet or more. It is important to always confirm the packaging and expiry date on every packet before you decide to buy 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 also helps in keeping the tofu fresh and in good condition. It is also important to note that firmer tofu has a higher fat content, as compared to the soft or silky tofu.
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. Add salt and other seasonings according to your personal taste.
Have a happy tofu meal!