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.
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.
- Gut damage: Majority of soy-products including tofu available in the market are genetically modified. This means that their DNA is changed for various reasons. These GMO products pose many risks to human health as they kill the good bacteria in the gut. Genetically modified tofu can cause kidney stone, digestive problems and liver issues too.
- Thyroid issue: According to a report, infants who are fed soy-diet are at a higher risk of getting thyroid, 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 act 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: Those who are allergic to soy-products it is best to avoid tofu as it may lead to further complications.
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: This 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. 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?
Most people tend to refrain from eating tofu based on the notion that it does not have an appetizing flavor. However, 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. Add salt and other seasonings according to your personal taste.
- Breakfast– Blend a mixture of tofu and fruits, such as blueberries and bananas, to enjoy this healthy breakfast
Have a happy tofu meal!