Commonly called “the cheese of Asia”, tofu is a highly nutritious and protein-rich food that is made by curdling soybean milk. From a Chinese origin over 2000 years ago, tofu can now be found in all supermarkets around the world and is available all year round. Tofu is particularly valuable to anyone who is on an exclusively vegetarian diet because of its very high levels of protein. Nowadays however, even the diehard meat-eaters are considering tofu products as a way to improve their diets so as to gain from its variety of health benefits.
Tofu is primarily available in three textures: firm, soft and silken. Silken is the softer form of tofu that is often used in dips, spreads and dressings. The soft texture is a good substitute for eggs and creamy cheeses like ricotta and cottage cheese. The firm texture is usually cut up into chunks that can be marinated for taste and then either grilled or baked.
The main nutritional health benefits of tofu are the following:
Heart Health – A normal serving of Tofu contains 15% of the daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids which is a heart healthy substance that is normally found in fish. This fatty acid has the ability to improve cholesterol, but also to aid in helping blood to clot properly. Tofu also lowers the amount of Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) which is the “bad cholesterol”, and also the triglyceride levels, both of which are strong indicators of heart diseases.
Menopause - Estrogens are female reproductive hormones which are secreted by the ovaries. The body’s supply of estrogen affects many potential health conditions including osteoporosis and heart diseases. When estrogen levels are low in menopause, isoflavones which are contained in tofu, help maintain hormone levels and regain any estrogen loss.
Prostate Conditions for Men – The same isoflavones mentioned above that protect women in menopause can also be helpful by preventing prostate cancer in men. Various studies have shown that isoflavones can reduce prostate cancer growth and also protect against enlargement of the prostate gland. Tofu has also high levels of selenium, an antioxidant that reduces free radical damage, protecting the body from prostate cancer but also reducing the possibilities of asthma and arthritis.
Strong Muscles and Extra Energy – A small 4 ounce serving of tofu contributes to 18% of an adult’s daily requirement of protein and over 30% daily requirement of iron. Protein is crucial for building muscle whereas the iron is used as part of hemoglobin which is found in red blood cells, and is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to all other tissues of the body.
Weight Loss - The health benefits of tofu do not stop here. The high levels of protein in tofu help your body feel full for longer periods of time. Tofu delivers the same protein benefits of meat while still being low in saturated fat and sodium. Tofu is packed with so many beneficial nutrients but yet it only has 70-100 calories per serving, making it perfect to include in a weight loss diet and staying healthy at the same time.
With all the health benefits tofu has you should at least consider including it in your daily healthy diet. It is always wise to consult your family physician when adding a food in your daily diet. One final point, like all other super foods, you will only gain from tofu’s benefits if you consume it in moderation.
NOTE: If you would like to add comments on the above article or if you have any personal opinions and know of other health benefits of tofu, we would be grateful and honored if you shared your thoughts and ideas in the "comment" section below. Adding tofu recipes would also be a big bonus.
Grilled Tofu with a Mediterranean Chopped Salad
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, preferably water-packed
1. Preheat grill.
2. Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Reserve 2 tablespoons of this mixture for basting.
3. Drain and rinse tofu; pat dry. Cut the block crosswise into eight 1/2-inch-thick slices and place in a shallow glass dish.
4. Add remaining marinade and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 8 hours.
5. Meanwhile, make Mediterranean Chopped Salad.
6. Lightly oil the grill rack (hold a piece of oil-soaked paper towel with tongs and rub it over the grate).
7. Drain the tofu, discarding marinade. Grill the tofu over medium-high heat, basting occasionally with reserved lemon juice mixture, until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side (see Tip). Serve immediately, topped with the salad.
Curried Tofu Salad
3 tablespoons low-fat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared mango chutney
2 teaspoons hot curry powder, preferably Madras
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 14-ounce package extra-firm water-packed tofu, drained, rinsed and finely crumbled
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1. Whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, chutney, curry powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
2. Stir in tofu, celery, grapes, scallions and walnuts.