Tofu has been touted as a game changer – especially for women. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and soy isoflavones, tofu can bring a lot to the table. But some of tofu’s talents are just conjecture.
Before you hail it as a miracle worker, be sure you’re familiar with what’s a proven fact and what requires a little more research before embracing tofu as your next best friend.
What is Tofu?
Soy – believe it or not, it starts as a bean! Soybeans are a hot commodity, as they can be used for all sorts of yummy products, like edamame, soymilk, soy nuts, sprouts, and soy sauce. Tofu is the curd of coagulated soymilk. Just like dairy milk can be turned into cheese, soymilk can be turned into tofu. The result is similar: a squishy white block that can be cut or torn into smaller pieces.
Fast Facts: The Glitz and Glamour of Tofu
When you hear about tofu, the benefits almost sound too good to be true! Here are the hard facts about tofu:
- Fact #1 – Tofu has no cholesterol. In fact, tofu may even help lower LDL cholesterol (psst – that’s a good thing).
- Fact #2 – Tofu is a plant-based protein. A single block (122g) of tofu carries about 15g of protein, making it an excellent resource – especially if you’re aiming to adopt a more vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Fact #3 – Tofu is naturally gluten-free. Great news for folks who need to watch their gluten intake!
- Fact #4 – Tofu is a low-calorie food. Only 177 calories in a block? Sign us up!
Breast Cancer, Menopause, and Bone Density – Studies on Soy
Tofu is a soy product, and here’s where the pros and cons can enter a gray zone. With high levels of isoflavones like phytoestrogens, studies show that soy may help protect against osteoporosis. Research suggests that it may also help relieve symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes. Great! But with that said, doctors also warn against the overconsumption of soy, as an elevated intake of phytoestrogens may cause other issues, like thyroid imbalance or increased risk of breast cancer.
Another thing to consider is that most soybeans produced in the United States are genetically modified, which brings up other points of concern from a health standpoint. It is possible to find non-GMO tofu online or at specialty supermarkets – but be prepared to pay a hefty price.
Adding Tofu to Your Diet
While certain aspects of soy consumption need additional research, we do know that tofu offers tons of healthful nutrients, like calcium, iron, and potassium. And for those trying to limit dairy and red meat, tofu provides a practical way to get protein without relying on animal-based products.
Tofu is quite malleable and can be prepared all sorts of ways, making it a popular substitute for meat in many different dishes. Tofu can be added to a stir fry, soup, or casserole to create a hearty dish or blended into puddings, dips, and smoothies for an extra punch of protein.
With plenty of protein and nutrients, tofu is an interesting food item that can add diversity to your diet. But as with most health foods, moderation is key to getting the most out of tofu.