Also known as bean curd, tofu is a popular food derived from soya. It is a staple ingredient in Asian cuisine, especially Chinese and Thai, and can be useful for people trying to practice a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Due to its mutable texture, it can be cooked in a variety of ways, including soft and smooth or crunchy and crispy, depending on how it’s prepared.
Tofu is prepared almost the same way as traditional dairy cheese is made. However, it is made by curdling fresh soya milk instead of animal milk. Afterwards, it is pressed into a solid block and cooled in. The liquid or whey is discarded during this process, and the curds are then pressed into forming a cohesive bond – shaped much like cheese.
Tofu is rich in proteins, calcium, and minerals – copper, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, zinc, and selenium – and is an excellent meat substitute.
However, you don’t have to be vegan to add this delicious and healthy ingredient to your diet. In fact, the following benefits of tofu will convince you to cook with it more often.
A Complete Protein
Protein is made up of monomers known as amino acids. Or, more specifically, one or more linear chains of amino acids – each of which is known as polypeptide. There are 9 essential amino acids that are required by our body. It is easier to get these from meat sources, but things get complicated when searching for vegan sources of these amino acids. While it is possible to get all nine amino acids by combining two or more vegan foods such as rice and beans, tofu is the only vegan food that contains all amino acids.
This is one of the main reasons it is often touted as the best vegan-alternative for meat. As we’ll discuss below, tofu is also healthier compared to meat. So whether you’re a vegan or a meat-eater, getting a moderate amount of your protein from tofu is a good step towards your health.
Healthier Alternative to Meat
As compared to meat, tofu contains less cholesterol, fewer triglycerides, and less low-density lipoprotein. This means that regularly switching out meat for tofu can help you lower your cholesterol levels. When you eat enough protein, it also provides you with a similar amount of protein, carbohydrates, total fat, and fibre as compared to meat. However, you’ll need to eat twice the amount of tofu to get similar nutrients. This is actually a good thing. Since tofu is also low in calories, you can easily consume it without going overboard on your calorie intake. And you get to eat more food.
Good Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The omega-3 fatty acid is an essential nutrient required by our body for optimal performance. Additionally, they can help lower triglycerides, decrease inflammation, alleviate rheumatoid, and even lessen symptoms of depression. However, our body cannot produce these fatty acids. So it is necessary to get a sufficient amount from your diet. There are very few healthy sources of omega-3 fatty acids aside from freshwater fish and various nuts and seeds. Tofu has also been shown to contain a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids and is a more convenient and affordable way to consume more of these fatty acids.
High In Calcium
Since it is technically a dairy product, tofu is also high in calcium. A 4-ounce or ½ cup serving of tofu contains about as much calcium as an 8-ounce or full glass serving of milk. Calcium is an essential nutrient for everyone but is especially important for growing children and women who are at an increased risk of osteoporosis. While drinking milk on a regular basis also provides enough calcium, adding tofu to your diet can make it easier to reach your daily calcium goals.
No Saturated Fat
Another advantage that tofu has over meat is that it contains no saturated fat at all. Although saturated fat in moderate amounts can be healthy, high consumption of it can lead to heart disease, hypertension, and other health concerns. The average American’s diet contains a lot more saturated fat than what is considered a healthy amount. Therefore, it is important to avoid it when you can. Consuming tofu instead of meat can be a good way to do this for people who are trying to make more heart-healthy choices.
Can Reduce The Risk of Various Disease
Due to being low in calories, low in cholesterol, and dense in nutrients while containing no saturated fat, regular consumption of tofu can reduce the risk of a variety of diseases. It can help boost blood sugar control, which may reduce your risk of diabetes. Since it contains HDL “good” cholesterol, it can help improve cardiovascular health. And it may reduce the risk of developing certain cancer such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and digestive system cancers.
As discussed before, tofu contains very few calories. This means that regularly adding it to your diet can help prevent accidental overeating. Even if you end up eating more food than usual, there won’t be a risk of consuming too many calories. This makes tofu a very filling addition to your diet and can help people combat obesity and other weight-related issues.
Overall, tofu can be a very healthy addition to your diet. However, everything is good in moderation. Thus, it is a good idea to prevent yourself from consuming very high amounts of protein.
It is also important to note that the tofu you’ll generally find in supermarkets is likely to be genetically modified. While that isn’t particularly bad for consumption, if you’re consuming it on a regular basis or are interested in its health benefits, is it recommended to find organic tofu instead.