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The Nutritional Benefits of Tofu


If you are looking for ways to expand your diet or eat more healthy, I encourage you to get to know tofu. There are so many ways to enjoy the nutritional benefits of tofu - raw, baked, boiled, scrambled. Asians have been enjoying tofu for at least 4,000 years. It has a mild taste so you can jazz it up with various spices to produce many different flavor profiles.


The steps to make tofu are similar to making cheese. The process starts with soy milk, which is made by cooking dried soybeans that have been soaked in water and ground to a pulp. Then a coagulant made from magnesium or calcium salts is added. Finally, the tofu is exposed to high temperatures to pasteurize it. Different production methods will yield different results, so experiment with different brands to find the one you like best.


Macronutrients

From a macronutrient perspective, tofu is mostly protein It provides all 9 essential amino acids. The carbs are mostly fiber with very little to no sugar. The fat in tofu is predominantly polyunsaturated including omega-3 fatty acids (specifically alpha-linolenic acid).


a pie chart showing the relative percentages of protein, carbs, and fat in tofu
Tofu is mostly protein

The vitamins and minerals in tofu include:

  • B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6) 

  • Vitamin K

  • Choline 

  • Iron

  • Potassium

  • Zinc

  • Magnesium

  • Phosphorus

  • Copper

  • Selenium

  • Manganese 

  • Calcium


Health Benefits

The American Cancer Society recommends soy products since studies associate it with lower incidents or recurrence of breast cancer, lung and prostate cancer. Soy fell out of favor years ago when mice that were fed a diet high in isoflavones developed breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, rodents metabolize soy differently from humans plus the mice were fed an excessive amount of isoflavones.


Isoflavones mimic estrogen, which triggered concern that soy could have a feminizing effect on men. A 2020 meta analysis of 38 clinical studies concluded that these concerns were unfounded.


The American Heart Association also recommends soy as long as it is prepared without excess salt, sugar, or saturated fat. A meta analysis of three studies published in the journal Circulation in April 2020 concluded “isoflavone intake was inversely associated with coronary heart disease.” Specifically, 8,359 cases of coronary heart disease were documented during 4,826,122 person-years of follow-up from these three studies:

  • 74,241 women from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS; 1984–2012)

  • 94,233 women from the NHSII (1991–2013)

  • 42,226 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (1986–2012)


A graph from a 2021 meta analysis showing that isoflavone intake reduces coronary heart disease
Isoflavone intake has an inverse effect on CHD

Soy isoflavones aren’t for everyone, however. Avoid tofu if you have an allergy to soy, are taking warfarin (blood thinner) or medication for your thyroid. Although soy appears to have a positive effect on preventing incidents or recurrence of breast cancer, limit your soy intake if you have estrogen-sensitive breast tumors.


How to Enjoy Tofu

Tofu is available in different textures or consistencies. Someone told me that they hated tofu because it was slimy. That sounds to me like they chose the wrong texture for the preparation method; for example, silken tofu would not be appropriate for a stir fry.

  • Silken: smoothies, sauces, and dips

  • Firm: scrambles and soups

  • Extra firm: sandwiches, nuggets, stir-fries

  • Super firm: crispy nuggets


I primarily purchase extra or super firm because I typically cube it, bake it, and add it to salads or bowls with veggies and grains. Sometime I will toss the baked cubes in BBQ sauce and serve with slaw or sauerkraut. Try this recipe for Crispy Baked Tofu.


A plate showing baked tofu in BBQ sauce with sauerkraut and grapes
Baked tofu tossed in BBQ sauce


Scrambled tofu is super quick and easy to make. Just place the whole block in the skillet, use the spatula to break it in chunks, season, and sauté until the desired consistency. For seasoning I will use garlic power, onion powder, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Veggies like spinach and tomatoes are a nice addition. Here's a simple recipe for Tofu Scramble.


Tofu scrambled with spinach and tomatoes
Scrambled tofu

A hack I use to give tofu a meaty texture is to pop the entire package into the freezer when I get home from the grocery store, then transfer it to the refrigerator the next day. The tofu will be thawed and ready to use in a day or two.


Preparation matters. Tofu loses some health benefits if it is deep fried and laced with salt. If you experiment with marinated or pre-flavored varieties, check the labels for sodium content and added sugar.


My friend Brigitte over at the Vegan Family Kitchen YouTube channel makes the point, “Don’t expect tofu to taste like meat.” If you are going to use tofu as a replacement for meat, accept tofu as the rock star entree that it is. Unlike meat, tofu is high in fiber and lacking in saturated fat, cholesterol or growth hormones.


If you have comments or questions, please email me. If you enjoy this type of content, I invite you to join my free Intention Circle at IntendWell.US.

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May 03
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I’m going to give tofu a try! Baby steps… ❤️. Thank you for the interesting article

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That's great news! Hope you enjoy it! Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

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