Tofu is known for being a good food replacement for animal protein. Often eaten by vegetarians, tofu is high in protein, low in calories, and has a healthy fat content. But it's not only for vegetarians! Tofu is loved by many and can be cooked and eaten in a variety of ways. Thankfully, as tofu is often used as a protein substitute, it is a healthy ingredient to incorporate into your diet. Let's take a deeper look into what tofu is, its nutritional information, and possible health benefits and risks.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is a food that originates from China and is made of condensed soy milk. This is then similarly pressed into blocks to how cheese is pressed. The tofu blocks are held together by an ingredient called nigari, a coagulant rich in minerals that is extracted from seawater.
Tofu is a nutrient-dense food that is high in protein, but it has all the amino acids that our bodies need! It's also a great source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. In a serving of tofu that is three and a half ounces, you'll get 144 calories, 17 grams of protein, three grams of carbs, two grams of fiber, and nine grams of fat. It also has over 50% of the daily value needed for calcium and manganese. Other important vitamins and minerals you'll get include copper, selenium, vitamin A, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Because of its soy protein content and a plant compound called isoflavone, tofu is believed to help reduce the risk of cancers, heart disease, and diabetes while also promoting strong bones, improved brain function, reduced menopause symptoms, and even offering antidepressant symptoms.
Tofu is made from soybeans, so it has something called isoflavones. This compound works to activate estrogen receptors. Studies have shown that isoflavones can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
Some studies show adding tofu to your diet can decrease your risk of breast, colon, endometrial, prostate, and stomach cancer. In 2019, a study showed women who had breast cancer with a diet rich in soy were 16% less likely to die after their diagnoses than those who consumed little soy. Similarly, a study of postmenopausal women who had a diet rich in soy before and after their cancer diagnoses were 28% less likely for their cancer to return after remission. Overall, studies show that all women, no matter the age, who had diets high in soy were 27% less likely to get cancer at all.
Separate studies show that people with diets high in soy are 10% less likely to die from cancer. This includes cancers like lung, stomach, and intestinal cancer. They also show that it can reduce the risk of getting cancers like gut, colon, or colorectal between 7% and 12%.
Tofu can also reduce the risk of heart disease because of its soy protein content. Foods high in soy are known for their ability to lower cholesterol. When studied, it was shown that soy protein reduced bad cholesterol (LDL) by three to four percent. At the same time, it reduced overall cholesterol levels as well. But there is something special about tofu that makes it stand out from a soy supplement. It is believed that the combination of isoflavones, protein, and fiber is what gives such good heart health benefits.
Studies have also shown that tofu can help reduce the risk of diabetes. In 2020, studies concluded that those who regularly included tofu in their diet had a reduced risk of diabetes. Not only can it help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, but it also helps blood sugar levels for those who already have diabetes. A study showed that diabetics who had a rich soy diet for 6 weeks had lower insulin and blood sugar levels than those who didn't have a soy-rich diet.
If you're concerned about GMOs, you may want to avoid tofu. Because tofu is made of soybeans, most of the world's soybeans are genetically modified (GMO). If you are concerned about GMOs but still want to enjoy tofu, look for organic and GMO-free tofu at the store.
Although tofu can reduce the risk of death and recurring cancer, it is sometimes recommended to be avoided for women with breast cancer. If their cancer is estrogen-sensitive, then avoiding tofu that can activate estrogen is important.
It is also recommended to avoid tofu if you have thyroid issues. Tofu has goitrogen, a compound that can affect the production of thyroid hormones and increase the growth of thyroid tissue.
Overall, tofu is a nutrient-dense food that is good to incorporate into your diet. It has been shown to reduce the risk of cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. It should be avoided in certain circumstances like thyroid disease or estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. But, it offers many health benefits that most people can experience when adding it to their routine.
- 6 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup oyster sauce
- 4 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 carrots peeled, julienned
- 4 cups broccoli
- 1 package (14 ounces) extra-firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 teaspoons bottled minced ginger
- 1/2 of 13.25-ounces package whole wheat rotini
- 1 cup roasted cashew nut
- Bring 5 cups water mixed with 1 tablespoon salt to boil in a large stockpot. Pour in dry rotini and cook until pasta is al dente.
- Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, water, and sugar in a small bowl.
- Heat 4 tablespoons of canola oil in a large skillet. Stir-fry carrots and broccoli for 2 minutes. Add cubed tofu; stir-fry for 4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Add sauce mixture. Stir to coat.
- Divide mixture in half. Place first half over noodles and stir to coat. Top with cashews just before serving. Place second half in 1 one-gallon freezer bag and freeze.
- When ready to serve, defrost in refrigerator and reheat in microwave. Top with roasted cashews, serve warm.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©YuliiaHolovchenko/Shutterstock.com.