Tofu is like the fruitcake of the protein world - people will use every excuse not to eat it. Next time you pass over it in the supermarket, think twice. Those little nuggets of soy gold are packed with many nutrients that will do wonders for you and your body.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is a curd made from the milk of pressed soybeans. It has a gelatinous texture and doesn't really have a flavor of its own. However, it will take on the flavor of anything you cook it with. There are many different varieties of tofu, but there are three main types usually found in grocery stores: firm, soft and silken.
- Firm tofu has a solid texture and tends to be higher in fat. This tofu is good for grilling or baking.
- Soft tofu has a softer texture than firm tofu and tends to be lower in fat. This type of tofu is good as a substitute for eggs or creamy cheeses like ricotta or cottage cheese.
- Silken tofu has a creamier texture than soft tofu and can be used to thicken up a smoothie or soup, or as a substitute for mayonnaise. In Japanese culture, silken tofu is typically eaten plain or with a splash of soy sauce.
No matter what type of tofu you choose, you'll still reap the nutritional benefits of this amazing food.
Soy, which tofu is made from, is considered to be a complete food since it contains all eight essential amino acids. Of course, tofu is packed with protein, which is why vegetarians use it as a meat substitute. In fact, according to World's Healthiest Foods, one 4-ounce block of tofu is filled with 9.16 grams of protein, which is more than 18 percent of the Daily Value. Here are some of tofu's other nutrients:
- Iron, copper and manganese: This nutrient trifecta helps to absorb one another in the body, and tofu is a great source for all three. Four ounces of tofu provides about a third of the Daily Value of iron and manganese, and about 11 percent of the Daily Value of copper.
- Calcium: Calcium sulfate is used as a coagulant in tofu, which is essentially made from soy milk. Four ounces of tofu contains about 10 percent of the Daily Value.
- Omega 3: Fish is the most common source of these fatty acids, but for those who are allergic to fish or just don't prefer it, tofu is a great replacement source for Omega 3.Four ounces of tofu contains more than 14 percent of the Daily Value.
- Selenium: Certain types of fish and nuts are good sources of selenium, but so is tofu; four ounces of it contains more than 14 percent of the Daily Value.
So what do all of these nutrients do for you? Here are some of the ways that tofu can benefityour health:
- Iron and copper are essential for hemoglobin synthesis, which produces energy. Copper and manganese are responsible for an enzyme that destroys free radicals, and copper itself can help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Calcium is, of course, the vitamin that keeps your bones strong. It can help reduce the bone loss in those with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Omega 3 fatty acids are good for your heart and can help prevent blood clots. They also can prevent cholesterol from clogging your arteries.
- Selenium is a powerful protector against free radicals. It works with iodine to help regulate the thyroid and has been shown to repair DNA, making it a cancer-fighter as well.
Soy also contains compounds called isoflavones that have many beneficial properties as well.
- Isoflavones can mimic estrogen and are beneficial to women during menopause. The isoflavones can reduce some of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.
- Isoflavones have also been associated with lowering the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
- Lower levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol, and higher levels of HDL, the good cholesterol, have been attributed to isoflavones.
Negative Effects of Soy
Of course, too much of anything is never good for you, and that includes tofu. Despite its manyhealth benefits, consuming too much tofu, or any soy product, can have some negative effects. Those same isoflavones that can lower LDL and the risk of some cancers can also do some harm if eaten in excess.
- Because isoflavones mimic estrogen, they can interfere with the thyroid and cause it to malfunction.
- Studies have shown that too much soy can also result in reproductive issues in males and females and could also cause early puberty.
- Although soy in small doses can reduce the risk of breast cancer, some studies suggest that eating too much of it could actually trigger the development of breast cancer.
However, it's important to keep in mind that these effects would only occur after eating large amounts of soy on a regular basis. Eating tofu, or any other soy product, in moderation is key and incorporating this superfood into your diet can have amazing benefits for your health.