Tofu: Nutritional Facts and Health Benefits

Tofu is a soybean-based plant protein (Image via Pexels/Ella Olsson)
Tofu is a soybean-based plant protein (Image via Pexels/Ella Olsson)

In today's increasingly plant-based society, it is hardly unusual to find tofu in local supermarkets, especially in North America.

However, you may be surprised to learn that tofu has been around for decades. It is believed to have first been written about in 950 A.D.

Tofu has been prepared in Japan for over 2,000 years. For millennia, it has been a mainstay in east and southeast Asian cuisine.

In the last half-century, however, tofu has also become a staple of American vegetarian and vegan cuisine. It is an adaptable food that can be used in a variety of dishes, from stir fries to smoothies. It also has a lot of health benefits.

Before getting to the health benefits offered by tofu, let's take a look at what exactly tofu is.

What is tofu and how is it made?

Tofu is a soybean-based plant protein. Soaked, cooked, and crushed beans are blended into a liquid. The liquid is then solidified and held together with the help of coagulants. Nigari is one such mineral-rich coagulant that is left over after salt is removed from saltwater.

Tofu is preferred among people who follow special diets because it is dairy-free, gluten-free, cholesterol-free, and vegan. Full of protein yet low in fat, salt, and carbs, it is a popular meat substitute.

Based on its stiffness and water content, there are numerous varieties of tofu, such as firm and soft tofu.

With less water content, firmer tofu has a higher calorie value and provides more nutrients. Softer tofu contains more water, which means it contains fewer calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Nutritional profile of tofu

Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all the amino acids that your body needs. It also has lipids, carbs, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.

One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) portion of firm, calcium-set tofu has the following nutrients:

  • 144 calories
  • 17 grams of protein
  • Three grams of carbohydrates
  • Two grams fiber
  • Nine grams of fat

As mentioned before, tofu is nutrient-dense because it has plenty of nutrients and only a small amount of calories.

Tofu's nutritional value varies according to the type of coagulant used in its production. For example, nigari-set tofu has slightly higher fat and potassium than calcium-set tofu but less protein, fiber and calcium.

Health benefits of tofu

Isoflavones, a phytoestrogen related to estrogen, are found in soy foods like tofu and may have several advantages. Adding tofu to your diet will provide a slew of health benefits, including the following:

1) May help in menopause

According to some studies, soy foods like tofu may help alleviate hot flashes that are typical throughout menopause.

According to a 2017 study, soy isoflavones may be beneficial throughout the perimenopausal era for alleviating both physical and psychological problems that women commonly suffer.

2) Regulating cholesterol levels

Tofu is known to aid in the reduction of LDL (or "bad") cholesterol, as well as the mild reduction of triglycerides and a modest increase of HDL (or "good") cholesterol.

As per a meta-analysis of 46 trials, soy protein cuts LDL cholesterol by three to four percent in adults.

3) Immunity booster

You may believe that increasing your vitamin C intake can improve your immune response, but don't forget about zinc.

Zinc deficiency has been related to long-term diseases and a dearth of immunological responses.

A quarter of a block of tofu contains roughly two milligrams of zinc, which is about 18 percent of the recommended daily consumption for male adults and 22 percent for female adults.

4) Prevention of osteoporosis

Tofu is rich in calcium, which is essential for bone development. It is difficult to obtain this calcium in sufficient quantities. This is why tofu, which contains a high concentration of this nutrient, is highly recommended.

Osteoporosis can be caused by inadequate calcium in the body, especially in older people. Tofu consumption delays the process by keeping the bones robust.

Soy isoflavones, especially after menopause, may help prevent bone loss and maintain bone mineral density.

5) Improved cognitive function

There is some evidence that soy-based meals like tofu may aid brain function such as cognition and problem-solving abilities.

According to a 2020 study, equol, a molecule formed in the gut as a result of eating soy products, may effectively lessen dementia risk.

Those who created more equol from consuming soy products exhibited half the amount of white matter lesions — a known risk for Alzheimer's disease — as those who had lower equol levels.

6) May improve skin health

Bacteria and UV rays harm your skin every day, but having more tofu may help lessen the damage.

Soybeans may reduce inflammation, improve collagen formation, and defend against UV radiation, according to a 2015 review. However, further research on this topic is needed.

7) A complete plant protein

Soya, especially tofu, is a good source of organic protein since it contains all nine necessary amino acids required for development, repair, and immune function.

The digestibility of soy protein, which refers to how efficiently our bodies can use it, is good, with certain studies suggesting that it may even be similar to animal protein.

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh