Many of us will probably think that soy products have a bland taste, but people around Asian countries have embraced tofu as a meat substitute for centuries. In recent years, it’s also become a staple in many households for all the right reasons. Just the health benefits alone should be enough to convince you to eat more, but you may find yourself wondering, “is it safe to eat tofu every day?”
Below, we discuss the answer to that question, along with many other important details about this plant-based food.
Table of Contents
What is Tofu?
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a plant protein extracted from soybeans, a legume that was originally cultivated in China but has since become popular across the United States. To make tofu, soybeans are first soaked using water and then pureed; the liquid is then strained to get soy milk. This product is then taken through a process called coagulation, changing the liquid into a solid by adding salt or acid like lemon juice.
These result in curds that are pressed to become a solid block of tofu. Depending on how the tofu was produced, it can become soft, firm, or extra-firm tofu; while the tofu’s consistency won’t affect its nutritional value, it can have a different taste in your dishes. For example, silken tofu will have a smooth and creamy consistency, making them perfect for desserts and smoothies, while extra firm tofu will be great for salads and savory dishes.
What Makes Tofu Healthy?
Because tofu has a high mineral and vitamin content, it is considered to be an extremely healthy food item. It contains all of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein, and is also full of magnesium to boost our mood, along with calcium to strengthen our bones. Furthermore, these soy-based foods contain a whopping 22 grams of protein for every half a cup, which provides for much of our daily needs to support a healthy body.
Soy protein also supports energy production, transports nutrients to cells, and can help you stay fuller for longer. As such, eating tofu every day may promote weight loss and help people eat fewer calories down the road. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), this is the nutritional profile of 126 grams (half a cup) of raw tofu:
- 3 grams fiber
- 3.5 grams carbohydrate
- 11 grams fat
- 22 grams protein
- 181 calories
The Health Benefits of Tofu
Apart from its high protein content, eating tofu every day has many other health benefits that can help anyone achieve a healthy diet.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is an essential part of healthy cell production, but there’s a difference in the kind of cholesterol that you consume. Unfortunately, red meat is known to contain “bad” cholesterol, which may lead to an increased risk of clogged arteries and heart attack. On the other hand, tofu doesn’t have cholesterol, making it the perfect option for vegetarian diets.
But apart from being a good source of protein, tofu is also known for its soy isoflavones, which help to lower bad cholesterol levels. These compounds are known as “plant estrogen” which are naturally found in tofu and have been found to help lower the levels of bad cholesterol in our bodies. As a result, eating tofu every day could prevent the development of conditions such as stroke.
Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Apart from helping to reduce high blood pressure, the benefits of consuming tofu every day also extend to lowering your chances of getting a cardiovascular disease. According to registered dietitian Cathy Leman, consuming tofu and whole soy foods daily can help build a diet that’s centered on heart health. Because they are high in fiber, low in saturated fats, and have no cholesterol, eating a lot of tofu will certainly result in healthy eating.
Furthermore, the high levels of protein inside tofu make it a great substitute for animal protein. According to the American Heart Association, a plant-based diet consisting of tofu can result in a healthy vegan diet.
Better Bone Health
Everyone’s heard of the “Got Milk?” commercial back in the 90s, but did you know that milk isn’t the only source of calcium that you can have on a daily basis? Tofu consumption can provide you with 861 milligrams of calcium in each serving, which can help support your bones, along with other essential nutrients such as phosphorus and magnesium. Without enough calcium, conditions such as osteoporosis and low bone density may lead to weak bones; eating a block of tofu a day may result in better bone health.
Decrease the Risk of Cancer
The American Cancer Society estimated that as many as 1.8 million people would develop cancer in the year 2020 alone. The good news is that eating tofu may be the answer to lowering cancer risk — in Asia, it’s been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer. Moreover, eating a soy-rich diet has been connected to a decreased risk of stomach, colon, and prostate cancer.
Combat Menopause Symptoms
Apart from bone concerns, postmenopausal women may also benefit from high soy intake, which may help to combat symptoms. These include hot flashes, which are much less common in Asia, where tofu is a popular food. While there have been different results from studies regarding this health benefit, there is evidence to support that soy products may help with hot flashes.
How Much Tofu Can You Eat a Day?
It’s safe to eat between three to five servings of soy every day; this equates to around 9 to 15 oz or 255g to 425g of tofu each day. Anything above this suggested amount could lead to an increased risk of cancer. However, it’s not easy to convert the blocks of tofu into the recommended serving sizes since these blocks may vary depending on where it was made.
In the United States, many tofu blocks will be packaged between 12 oz and 16 oz, which means they will contain around four to five servings. As such, eating a whole block of tofu every day means that you’ll be at a safe and beneficial range of consumption.
How to Choose Tofu
For many people, the health benefits that eating tofu every day brings are enough for them to try it, but you’ll also be happy to know that this excellent source of protein is also versatile. While the water content determines whether the tofu turns out extra soft or extra firm, the type of tofu you’ll need will depend on the dish you want to cook. Here are the different kinds of tofu that you can choose from.
- Medium-Firm Tofu: This will have quite a bit of water, which means it won’t work well in savory dishes like stir-fry. It does, however, work great for mapo tofu, a classic Chinese dish where it can fall apart inside the sauce and absorb the delicious flavors.
- Extra-Firm Tofu: This contains little water and has a chewy texture similar to animal protein, which means it can be used as an alternative for many different dishes.
- Silken Tofu: These have the most amount of water, making them soft and glossy. They’re great for making desserts and smoothies and can even be used as a substitute for eggs due to their soft texture.
When you’ve decided on the kind of tofu you need, you will need a wide range of dishes to try using them on. Because tofu has a mild flavor, it can quickly absorb the flavor of seasonings, herbs, and spices. However, you’ll need to make sure that you drain any excess liquid found in the packaging by using a paper towel — doing this will help you get crispy and better absorb flavors.
You should be ready to quickly enjoy your tofu; you can slice them into smaller pieces or enjoy them in cubes. Below are just a few ideas for you to try to get the most out of your tofu’s health benefits.
- Stir-fry: Create your next oriental-inspired dish by replacing chicken or other meats with tofu as the partner to your noodles or rice. Those new to using tofu should use extra-firm tofu, which works great for grilling and stir-frying.
- Salad: If you want to find a new way to use your air fryer, you can use cubes of tofu that can be made crispy as toppings to your salad for a more delicious and filling meal.
- Taco: Using a bit of oil, cook your extra firm tofu until they become golden brown, then place them on your tacos to take them to a whole new level.
- Dessert: Thanks to the mild flavor that tofu has, you can create a protein-packed dessert. A few examples include chocolate mousse and puddings, which will allow you to incorporate any flavor you want.
Make Eating Tofu a Habit
Because of all the many health benefits that come with it, eating tofu every day is a no-brainer. Although, there is a specific amount that we must be mindful of to ensure that we don’t consume too much soy in our diet. But when consumed in the right quantities, tofu is a powerful ingredient that can be added to meals, resulting in a healthier body, and an overall improvement in our quality of life.
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