Tofu has been a staple of East and Southeast Asian cuisine for centuries. Tofu is made by coagulating fresh soy milk and compressing the curd into solid blocks, much like traditional milk cheese made from cottage cheese solidified from cow’s milk.
Depending on how you prepare it, it can be silky, soft, firm, extra firm, firm-soft, and crunchy inconsistency. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a quarter of a block (81 grams) of solid tofu contains 14 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of fiber, and 11 mg of sodium. This delivers 117 calories and makes it a nutritious food.
What is tofu, exactly?
Tofu is also an excellent source of protein. In fact, tofu is a rare vegan choice that is a “complete source of protein,” meaning it contains all nine amino acids, explains Dietitian and nutritionist Tanya Freirich RD, Health. “Tofu is a rich source of lean, plant-based protein for most people with no restrictions on dairy or protein foods, such as vegans, a nutrient choice,” the RDN told Health. Tofu is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and iron. It also contains manganese, copper, and zinc. In addition, tofu can help to keep the heart-healthy due to the plant-based estrogen.
Below are some Tofu Facts!
A 2020 study published in the journal Circulation of the American Heart Associations examined data from more than 200,000 people and found an association between eating a serving of tofu per week and an 18% lower risk of coronary heart disease than eating tofu once a month. Tofu is known to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce triglycerides and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. A meta-analysis of 46 studies showed that soy protein lowers LDL cholesterol in 3-4% of adults. Soybeans are also helpful in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and strokes, Freirich adds.
According to the researchers, the number of lesions in the white matter, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, had a lower equilibrium level due to more equol production after consumption of soy products.
Studies suggest that regular intake of soya can help slow the progression and reduce the recurrence of certain cancers. Bone health is a problem, especially after menopause, when women lose bone mass due to a drop in estrogen levels. Many studies suggest that isoflavones in soy can help prevent bone loss by increasing bone mineral density and strengthening bones. It seems that eating tofu packed with bone-enhancing calcium and vitamin D can help balance this out.
There is growing evidence that regular soy intake can reduce the recurrence of breast cancer. However, the evidence is not strong enough to recommend soy to breast cancer survivors. There is also some evidence – although contradicting – that a study suggests that consuming foods containing certain soy compounds can increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.
Human studies have shown that tofu does not contain enough plant estrogens to cause breast cancer. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the North American Menopause Society have also found that plant estrogen does not increase the risk of breast cancer, says them. But, of course, further research is needed to learn more about how different tissues and people react to the ingredients in our food. How soy affects people is an issue that has cropped up in rodent studies, she tells Health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, tofu should not be used when taking medications called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), often prescribed for depression. One of the tofu amino acids is tyramine, which helps balance blood pressure, and MAOI blocks the enzyme that breaks down tyramine. If you take an MAOI or eat foods rich in tyramide, the compound can reach dangerous levels.