An underrated food item, in terms of taste is tofu or bean curd. You probably smirk looking at a block of tofu in the supermarket. But tofu is more versatile in terms of cooking, contrary to popular belief. Research also shows that tofu is in fact one of the healthiest foods in the world.
Tofu, which is made from soybean curds, is naturally gluten-free and low calorie; it contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It is rich in calcium, amino acids, irons and even micro nutrients. Like yogurt, tofu too is taken from curdled milk but instead of cows or buffaloes soya milk is used here.
It also contains small amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, choline, phosphorus, manganese, and selenium.
Soy is the prime component of tofu and is a complete source of dietary protein, providing all of the essential amino acids needed in the diet. Soybeans are also high in healthy polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid.
The isoflavones (a type of compound called phytoestrogens) in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS’ symptoms, regulate blood sugar, and prevent migraine headaches.
Possible health benefits of consuming tofu
Consuming plant-based foods of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.
Countless studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant-based foods like tofu, decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease. It also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Recent studies have shown that due to its high levels of isoflavones, tofu consumption is associated with a lower risk of several age and lifestyle-related diseases, such as:
1) Cardiovascular disease
Consuming tofu as an alternative to animal protein lowers levels of LDL cholesterol, which is also referred to as “bad” cholesterol; this, in turn, decreases the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
2) Breast and prostate cancer
Genistein, the predominant isoflavone in soy, has antioxidant properties that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Previously, there has been confusion regarding the safety of consuming soy after a breast cancer diagnosis. This is because isoflavones have a chemical structure that looks similar to estrogen (more on this discussion later).
However, moderate amounts (less than two servings a day) of whole soy foods are known not to affect tumor growth or a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.
In fact, regular soy intake may decrease breast cancer recurrence. Although evidence is not strong enough to recommend soy to all breast cancer survivors, evidence is mounting.
3) Type 2 diabetes
People who have type 2 diabetes often experience kidney disease, causing the body to excrete an excessive amount of protein in the urine. Evidence from a recent study has indicated that those who consumed only soy protein in their diet excreted less protein than those who only consumed animal protein
The authors of the study concluded:
“The findings indicate that isolated soy protein consumption improves several markers that may be beneficial for type 2 diabetic patients with nephropathy [damage to the kidney].”
Soy isoflavones are known to decrease bone loss and increase bone mineral density during menopause and have also been reported to reduce some other menopausal symptoms.
5) Liver damage
Studies have suggested that tofu of all types that has been curdled with various coagulants can be used to prevent liver damage caused by free radicals.
6) Age-related brain diseases
Based on geographic epidemiological findings, it has been observed that populations that consume greater amounts of soy have, in general, less incidence of age-related mental disorders.
How to incorporate more tofu into your diet
Tofu comes in several different consistencies: extra firm, firm, soft, or silken.
- Firm and extra firm tofu is denser than soft or silken tofu and retains more of its shape when cooked. This makes it suitable for grilling and stir-frying.
- Soft tofu works well in casseroles and soups.
- Silken tofu is best for puddings and dips, and can also be blended into smoothies for added protein. Tofu is commonly found in Asian cuisine, particularly that of East and Southeast Asia. Its neutral flavor allows it to be easily incorporated into any recipe, and many meat substitutes comprised of tofu are made to taste and feel like the meat they are imitating (for instance, tofu sausage and tofu burgers).
Facts about Tofu:
- Tofu is one of the most nutritious foods in the world: Tofu contains all 8 essential amino acids. It is rich in magnesium, phosphorus and selenium too (which helps to trigger happy hormones). Tofu also contains copper, vitamin B1, calcium and iron. It is low in fat but high on nutrition. Research shows that regular tofu eaters get enhanced protection against different kinds of cancer and heart diseases too.
- Tofu is one of the oldest foods in the world: It is said that almost 2000 years ago, tofu was discovered accidentally by a Chinese cook, who curdled soy milk using nigari seaweed. It was then introduced to Japan and called okabe.
- Tofu reduces risk of cancer: Amongst other Asian countries, tofu is consumed in Japan on regular basis, where the risk of breast cancer is the lowest, as compared to other western countries. The reason being all kinds of soy products along with tofu are a part of everyday meals here. Tofu contains isoflavones, which reduces cancer risk.
- Tofu helps you shed off weight: Half cup of tofu contains only 94 calories, as compared to the whopping 300 calories in the same amount of beef. Being low in saturated fat makes tofu perfect to fill the stomach, without useless calories! It also helps you shed off excessive water, thus prevents water bloating and weight gain. Tofu also improves digestion and helps flush out toxins and lose weight.
- Tofu is vegan: Some individuals believe that soy milk is an animal form. Soy milk is not an animal product. It is completely vegan and so the tofu, made from coagulated soy milk is vegan too. For all the new vegans out there, eat all the tofu that you want!
- Tofu is bland… till flavors are added: Some people think that tofu is restricted to certain kinds of food and is not high on test. Of course, naturally tofu is kind of bland, but so is milk. But when you churn it into ice cream or cheese sauce, you cannot keep your hands off it! In the same way, tofu is something that you should get experimental with. There is so many flavors in tofu that you will be amazed. Be it spicy Asian sauces, grilled barbecue or even in a burger, you can add tofu to any cuisine of the world and it will seem that tofu originated from that part of the country!
- Tofu is perfect for that sweet tooth: Tofu is bland in its natural form, which makes it just perfect for desserts. Due to different forms of tofu, you can use it so many kinds of dessert. For instance, the silken one is excellent for custards and pie. The firm ones are apt for frying (think fritters) and having with some sweet sauces.
- There is more than one type of tofu available: You must be assuming that there is just one kind of tofu available in the market. But like cheese, there is more than one variation available. And the most popular is silken tofu, which is basically Japanese style. It isn’t pressed or drained and is rather custard like in texture and very soft. Apart from this, regular tofu too comes in different textures like extra soft, firm, medium and extra firm too. There is also a super firm variety available that has very little water content.
- If you are allergic to soy, you will be allergic to tofu: There is no direct correlation between the processing of tofu and allergies. You can get an adverse reaction even if tofu is being eaten in its own form. For instance, you may get allergy from tofu custard or even a soy milk based dessert.
- Don’t have tofu if you have kidney and gallbladder stones: It is true that the tofu doesn’t cause stones in the kidney or gallbladder. But if you do have stones, tofu should be avoided. Tofu has oxalates that are found in other soya products too. Basically oxalates have a tendency to get concentrated in the fluids of the body. As a result, they form crystals, which cause further problems for existing stones.
- Men hormones don’t get affected by eating tofu: It is a myth that eating tofu results in men getting female like hormones. But that is technically not possible. No matter how much tofu a man eats, he will not become a she.
- Tofu maybe help lower LDL cholesterol
- It may offer relief for certain symptoms of menopause