Tofu, bean curd, or soybean curd is one of the healthiest and widely consumed plant based protein food. Tofu nutrition, benefits, and low cost make it one of the popular food ingredients. It is a highly versatile vegan food and a healthier substitute to dairy and meat for proteins and Calcium.
Tofu doesn’t carry any specific taste but adapts according to the rest of the ingredients. Different variations of tofu are added to soups, curries, and desserts or fried, steamed, sauteed, and grilled.
Tofu Interesting Facts
- Tofu was discovered and first made in China.
- It was originally called doufu by the Chinese. It’s name and uses are documented by Tao Kuin China, around 950 AD.
- Soybeans are treated as a grain in China, and considered to be amongst the sacred five (rice, wheat, barley, and millet are others) that sustain life.
- Lui An (~200 BC) in China is considered to be creator of tofu.
- The term tofu was coined by Japanese in 1182, where it became widely popular around 14th century and was given several other names.
- Tofu came to international market only in and around 1980s.
- Due to late commercialisation, tofu industry is yet at early stage and its benefits are still being researched.
Tofu Production and Packaging
Tofu is made by coagulation of soy milk. Soybeans are cleaned, soaked, and ground, and filtered to make soy milk. Further on milk proteins are curdled using coagulants and enzymes. The resultant curd is compressed into solids and dried. Both acids and salts are used as coagulants on a commercial scale, while enzymes are only used for small scale production.
Tofu has short stability, 1-2 days at room temperature, 11-12 days in refrigerator. It can be damaged by many microorganisms as: Staph. aureus, E. coli, and Salmonella typhi.
Tofu is packaged and processed utilising various technical methods to extend its shelf life. Packaging with nisin film overcomes the problem of growth of Listeria monocytogenes. Packaged tofu should be rinsed before consumption.
Tofu can be frozen in its original packaging up to five months. Frozen tofu is yellowish in colour, spongy, and brittle in texture. It is highly absorbent, so water should be squeezed out of the frozen tofu, before stir frying.
Tofu Nutrition and Consumption – Ayurveda
- In Ayurveda tofu is considered tri-doshic, when it is consumed in moderation. It helps to balance all three dynamic forces of circulation, metabolism, and growth.
- In modern Ayurvedic diets, tofu is recommended for Menopause, as an anti-inflammatory food, a nutritive, as a diuretic, and a galactagogue.
- In excess quantities, tofu may aggravate Vata Dosha and Kapha Dosha specifically, hence leading to related disorders of bloating, pains, mucus, and weight gain.
- Tofu has light, cool, and dry gunas.
- It is best for Pitta prakruti people.
- Tofu should be consumed along with some oil and spices to prevent Vata Dosha aggravation.
Types of Tofu
Various versions of packed fresh tofu are available in the market today. These tofu variants go by organic or regular, low fat, lean, or full fat (even though fat content in tofu is fairly less), soft, silken, or firm tofu.
Some packed tofu are also supplemented with additional nutrients such as Omega 3, Vitamins, or Minerals. Additionally, processed tofu variants are also available as smoked, seasoned, fried, or fermented.
In low fat tofu, fats levels are reduced from 19.5% to 7.1%. Also, fresh tofu can be dried, firm, or soft according to amount of water extracted from curds. The soft type is mainly used in soups, curries, and stir-fries. Firm or extra-firm tofu is used as a meat substitute, seasoned, fried, or stir-fried.
- Soft or Silken Tofu contains 87% to 90% of water content
- Firm Tofu contains 76% to 81% of water content
- Dry Tofu contains below 76% water
Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum and Bifidobacterium bifidum. L.fermentum and L. bulgaricus are some of the microbes used to enhance the properties of Tofu with probiotics. Introduction of probiotic microorganisms help in maintaining healthy gut, stabilizing gut flora, decomposing indigestible saccharides, and producing organic acids.
Fermented Tofu Nutrition and Uses
Fermented Tofu is pickled version and is also known as Sufu. It carries a salty and pungent taste and has a creamy texture. Fermented tofu can be used as a seasoning or a dip along with main course such as rice, curries, and noodles. Usually, health benefits of fermented Tofu are better than the non-fermented version.
- Fermented Tofu contains Isoflavones and their aglycones, which act as phytoestrogens and powerful antioxidants.
- Nearly 80% of soybeans is made up of conglycinin and glycinin proteins. During fermentation conglycinin is broken down into smaller peptides. These peptides have antioxidant activity, can improve immune system, and prevent excessive inflammatory response.
- Fermentation also increases absorption and bioavailability of Calcium, as phytic acid that prevents mineral absorption, is converted to inorganic phosphates.
Silken tofu has high water content. It is very soft and creamy in texture. It is usually used in soups, desserts, smoothies, puddings, and dips. It can also be used as an egg substitute in baking.
Tofu Nutrition and Nutritive Value
Tofu nutrition and benefits put in the category of superfoods that are easily accessible, satiating, and delicious. It carries a rich profile of macronutrients such as Proteins, Carbohydrates, and Fats, and also micronutrients such as Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants.
A single serving of tofu provides protein to make up over 18% of our daily requirement.
- Tofu is a good source of Vitamins as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K.
- B vitamins such as Riboflavin, Thiamine, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Biotin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and Folate are also present in small amounts.
- Tofu provides with Minerals such as Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Manganese, Selenium, and Copper.
- Tofu is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that nourish the brain and act as antioxidants.
- Tofu provides eight essential amino acids which are leucine, isoleucine, lysine, methionine, threonine, valine, phenylalanine and tryptophan.
One can get 33% of iron requirements for a day just by consuming tofu once.
1 block of hard tofu, weighing 122 grams (g) contains:
- 177 calories
- 5.36 g of carbohydrate
- 12.19 g of fat
- 15.57 g of protein
- 421 mg of calcium
- 282 mg of phosphorus
- 178 mg of potassium
- 65 mg of magnesium
- 3.35 mg of iron
- 2 mg of zinc
- 27 micrograms (mcg) folate
Tofu Nutrition Benefits
- Tofu is good source of Calcium and Isoflavones that support bone strength and bone density.
- Tofu inhibits bone loss in Osteoporosis. It recommended to be included in the diets of menopausal women and elderly.
- Tofu provides heart healthy nutrients such as Omega 3 fatty acids and HDL, good cholesterol.
- Tofu decreases arterial stiffness and lowers down blood pressure, hence reducing risk of hypertension.
- Tofu lowers down bad cholesterol, LDL levels and prevents metabolism of small chain fatty acids. This improvises lipid profile and prevents heart disease.
- Tofu prevents occurrence of endometrial cancer in menopausal women.
- Consumption of tofu can help to balance estrogen levels during perimenopause, as it is a rich source of bioavailable phytoestrogens.
- Tofu consumption has been correlated with low or no occurrence of hot flashes in Asian women. In one study it was found the isoflavones present in tofu reduced the frequency and occurrence of hot flashes by as much as 25%.
- Tofu is good source of Selenium which has antioxidant effect and protects from colon cancer.
- Women who consume Tofu are 60% less susceptible to breast cancer than women who do not consume.
- Consumption of tofu and soy proteins reduces occurrence and spread of Prostrate cancer.
- Soy protein present in tofu produces much less stress on the kidneys in comparison to other animal protein sources such as dairy and meats.
- Soy protein decreases the rate of hyper filtration and glomerular hypertension. This has protective effect from diabetic nephropathy.
- Tofu is recommended for individuals, who suffer from compromised renal function, hence high levels of serum phosphorus.
Mental Health and Beauty
- Tofu nutrition benefits mental health. Regular consumption of tofu in meals relieves anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Isoflavones present in tofu reduce skin wrinkling and promote skin elasticity.
- Tofu promotes generation of collagen in the body, hence improving both skin and hair quality.
- Isoflavones present in tofu support menstrual health and help to make periods regular. They promote fertility and strength.