Should I Eat Tofu? A Closer Look At The Soy Product

Food, Nutrition, Food Benefits

By: // April 7, 2016

In our health-conscious world, more and more people around the globe are cutting back on their intake of meat, or giving it up altogether. One of the biggest concerns with this is how people will then make up the amount of protein they were otherwise finding in meat. Tofu has long been revered for its hefty dose of protein, making it a great alternative for anyone trying to bulk up their meals without incorporating meat. But is it healthy?

What Is Tofu?

Should you be eating tofu? We're breaking down all the benefits, problems and what you need to know.

Tofu is made from the curd of crushed up soybeans, and has been a standard food in East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisines for centuries. There are many varieties of tofu, both fresh and processed, and it can be bought soft, firm or extra firm. The flavor profile is fairly subtle, making it an easy add-on to many dishes and perfect for trying out many seasonings and marinades.

Comparison Between Tofu And Lean Ground Beef

In comparison to 70 percent lean ground beef, which, per 100 grams, has 14 grams of protein, 332 calories, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 78 milligrams of cholesterol, tofu, per 100 grams, has 8 grams of protein, 78 calories, zero cholesterol, and a mere 0.7 grams of saturated fat. Tofu also has much more iron and calcium than lean ground beef. While you’re getting just a little bit less protein per serving when you choose tofu over beef, you can eat more without having to worry about your calorie, saturated fat or cholesterol intake like you do with beef.

Related: 8 Beef-Free Burgers That Will Blow Your Mind

Health Benefits Of Tofu

Along with tofu being an excellent source of protein, iron and calcium, it also contains all eight essential amino acids and provides manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.

Tofu is derived from soya protein, which has been linked to helping lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL). Tofu is also linked to reducing the risk of breast cancer, since it contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones, which are a group of chemicals found in plant foods that have a similar structure to the female hormone oestrogen, and can mimic the action of oestrogen created by the body. They can naturally bind to oestrogen receptor sites in human cells, such as breast cells.

Many studies have found that increasing your consumption of plant-based foods like tofu as alternatives to ground beef for instance, can decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease while also promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy and a healthy weight.

The Tofu Controversy

Should you be eating tofu? We're breaking down all the benefits, problems and what you need to know.

It wouldn’t be fair to uncover all the goodness about tofu without explaining its potential downsides, too. Much like the pitfalls of processed meat, which the World Health Organization recently ruled as being just as bad as smoking tobacco, processed tofu has stirred up quite a bit of controversy itself. In the U.S. alone, over 90 percent of soy produced is genetically modified and the crops are sprayed with the herbicide Roundup, which has been linked to adverse effects on health. This makes it incredibly important to opt for organic tofu. However, the law doesn’t require testing to ensure that products with this label are 100 percent GMO-free, so your best bet is to look for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label.

Recipes To Try

So now that you have an idea of what tofu is, and perhaps are intrigued to add it into your diet, and maybe even use it as a replacement for your typical meat dish, you might want to know how to get started. Tofu is easy to add to any dish. Instead of bacon and eggs for breakfast, try out this tofu scramble that mimics the consistency of eggs and adds in bell pepper, red onion and spinach, too. The turmeric turns the tofu into a yolk-like color, making it a fun alternative to your typical breakfast. For a main meal, try out this superfood-packed stir fry complete with cashews, tofu and broccoli.

Have You Tried Tempeh?

Should you be eating tofu? We're breaking down all the benefits, problems and what you need to know.

Another soy product to put at the top of your meat-free list is tempeh. You’ll get a healthy dose of protein and fat, along with plenty of magnesium, iron and vitamin B6. Try out this vibrant snow pea, cabbage and mizuna salad recipe complete with marinated and seared tempeh.

READ THIS NEXT: Should You Go Gluten-Free?

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