Superfood Series: Why You Should Be Eating Tofu

Read on to know what makes tofu a superfood

Annabelle D’Costa

What’s On My Plate

Milk extracted from soybeans, when curdled gives us tofu. Since the process to make tofu out of soy milk is similar to that of making cottage cheese or paneer from milk, the two are often confused for each other. While tofu is a plant-based protein, paneer is an animal-based protein, made using cow or goat’s milk.

Desperate vegetarians, when there is no paneer dish available, often turn to its cousin tofu which is also known as bean curd. Thanks to being plant-based, vegans may have initially made tofu popular but in recent times tofu has also gained a reputation for being a superfood. Tofu is a rich source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron and selenium, vitamins B9, B6 and K. Of course then, tofu’s health benefits are massive which is why it earned the superfood badge of honor.


Source of Protein

Dr. Swati Bhushan, Chief Clinical Nutritionist at Hiranandani Fortis Hospital in Vashi says that tofu is not only a good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians but also for those who are lactose intolerant. Dr. Bhushan explains, “Tofu is a good substitute for paneer and meat, both of which are loaded with proteins but contain a high amount of saturated fats (bad fat).” Soy protein, on the other hand, can help prevent triglyceride and cholesterol deposits in the liver, can improve insulin sensitivity by maintaining blood glucose levels.

Besides, tofu is known to contain moderate amounts of dietary fiber unlike other dairy and animal products, which have nil or negligible amounts of fiber, she adds. While including tofu in your daily diet has many health benefits, you can't simply load up on tofu and exclude other foods. Dr. Bhushan says, “The benefits of soy have been documented in clinical studies and one can include 15 grams of soy protein in their daily diet, especially if one is a vegan, lactose intolerant or simply looking for alternatives to dairy.”

Helps with Weight Loss

Tofu can be the go-to food for weight watchers who are looking for a low-carb source of protein. Dr. Bhushan says that protein and dietary fiber help provide satiety and aid weight loss. She explains, “A good source of protein helps to keep one full for longer, thereby helping you avoid binging at your next meal. When made part of a low-fat diet, it can help reduce Body Mass Index (BMI) tremendously and retain muscle mass especially among obese individuals." Tofu also acts as a great energy-boosting food, thanks to the amino acids in it. When made part of your daily diet, tofu can help maintain bone health and also prevent osteoporosis.

Heart’s Best Friend

Dr. Bhushan explains, “The good fats along with soy isoflavones and soy protein help improve blood vessel flexibility, maintain blood pressure and prevent plaque formation in the arteries.” That’s not all, tofu is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which in turn help keep your heart in good shape. The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that foods with at least 25 grams of soy protein when consumed in a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can help reduce the risk of heart diseases.

After Menopause

Dr. Bhushan says that tofu is a highly recommended food for post-menopausal women as they have lower estrogen levels and are at a high risk of mood swings, depression, heart diseases, diabetes and also weight gain. You ask why? Well, the phytoestrogens present in tofu normalize the estrogen levels and in the process help prevent the occurrence of such symptoms and risks. Besides, phytoestrogens also help lower testosterone levels in men, helping rule out the risk of prostate cancer.

Word of Caution

Research suggests that the phytoestrogens in soy, which are similar in structure to estrogen, might not be safe for women especially suffering from breast cancer. Dr. Bhushan says that there is no evidence that people who have hypothyroidism should completely avoid soy products but recommends consuming it in moderation. In case of individuals with kidney diseases, she suggests that one should consult a clinical nutritionist to determine the correct amount of tofu for one's diet, as it is loaded with potassium and phosphorus, which need to be monitored in such cases.

Where to Buy

Tofu can easily be found at supermarkets, high-end grocery stores or you could simply order the more exotic varieties online. There are many types of tofu to pick from too. From fresh, soft or silken, firm, extra firm, processed, fermented, dried, fried, and frozen, the supermarket is full of varieties. Though it’s best to go for the fermented tofu. Pickled and stinky are the two fermented types of tofu that are healthier than the others.

Eat This

Dr. Bhushan says, “Firm tofu has the lowest water content, can retain its shape and be stir-fried in minimal oil.” This makes it the most ideal form of tofu especially when it comes to making healthy dishes. Soft tofu, on the other hand, says Dr. Bhushan has a higher water content which can be pureed and mashed for use in a variety of dishes as a substitute to paneer and cheese. Silken tofu is the smoothest variety compared to the other types, making it the best choice for dips, smoothies, salad dressings and also desserts and puddings.

Now that you know the health benefits of tofu, here are some tofu recipes to get you started!

Discover More Superfoods
Rich in nutritional value, superfoods are the easiest way to boost the health quotient of your daily meals. To discover more superfood ingredients, check out the rest of our superfood series:
Amla: This superfood can fix every part of your body! Don't believe us? Read on to find out the health benefits of amla.

Ashwagandha: Can’t get sleep? Check out the sleep-inducing and other health-promoting properties of the Ayurveda-approved Ashwagandha.

Basil or Tulsi: Apart from simply adding flavor to meals, basil brings with it several medicinal properties. Check out the number of health conditions for which basil can come to your rescue.

Black Carrots: You’ve seen the red ones and you’ve seen the orange ones, but ever witnessed black carrots? Check out how they look and their many health benefits.

Brahmi: Are you afraid of the increasing rates of Alzheimer’s disease? Include this superfood in your diet to boost your brain health. Read about the other health benefits of Brahmi.

Camu Camu: One of the richest sources of Vitamin C, this superfood comes all the way from the Amazon rainforest! Read about its health benefits.

Chia Seeds: This Mexican native is now being used in many Indian kitchens. Check out the various health benefits of chia seeds.

Chilli: Do you love to eat spicy food? Well, good news! Check out how those spicy chilies boost your health.

Dandelion: Not only do they brighten up your garden, but dandelions also boost your health. Confused about how you can include this flower in your diet? We have answers for you right here.

Hog Plum: Looking for a remedy to cure ulcers? Tired of getting diarrhea every time you eat out? Hog plum can come to your rescue! Check out the amazing health benefits of this not so popular superfood.

Jamun: Apart from tinting your tongue purple, jamun has several medicinal properties. Here’s why you must include jamun in your diet.

Kale: Coming across a lot of kale in salads, pizza toppings, and even chips? Check out why kale has suddenly topped the charts for being a healthy option.

Karela: Reading this will prevent you from screwing up your face every time someone mentions karela.  

Kokum: Along with being a refreshing summer drink, kokum also helps you shed extra kilos. Find out more about the sour and fruity kokum.

Makhana or Lotus Seeds: It is rapidly becoming the choice of snack for weight watchers. Check out the nutrient profile of this incredible superfood.

Moringa or Drumstick: Looking to boost your iron and calcium levels? Don’t restrict yourself to just meat and milk. Know more about moringa and how this superfood can be made a part of your diet.

Mushrooms: These fungi are loaded with nutrients. Click here to know why you should be consuming them more often.

Muskmelon: The juicy and aromatic muskmelon has several health-boosting properties. Find out more about this nutritious fruit.

Ragi: This grain has made its way into the plates of many. From ragi dosa and idli to ragi porridge, it is being promoted in the diets of old and young. Find out why health experts are recommending this superfood.

Sabja: Slurped a tall glass of falooda? If it had sabja seeds, you have no reason to feel guilty. Click here to know why!

Sacha Inchi: These nut-like seeds are rich in omega-3. Check out the other health benefits they have in store for you!

Sweet Potato: A rich source of Vitamin A and fiber, sweet potato is a great alternative to the white potato. Take a look at all the reasons why you need to include it in your diet.

Turmeric: Think twice before you say no to “haldi wala doodh”. Find out why your grandma trusts turmeric for every infection.

Zucchini: Did you know that you can use your favorite zucchini not only in pasta and pizza but also in a cake? Wondering how it’s possible? Click here to know more.

Image: Shutterstock


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