A century old food source, tofu is believed to have originated in ancient China. It has virtually no taste, is highly absorbent and able to soak up the flavors of the accompanying recipe, making it very versatile. Tofu can be purchased in soft texture, like custard; or firm, like Jell-O. Usually marinated to compliment a particular dish, tofu can be adapted to many different tastes. It is one of nature’s useful and nutritional gifts. High in iron, protein and low in calories, tofu is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Coagulated Soy Milk
Often used as an alternative to meat, tofu, also known as bean curd, is an excellent source of natural, plant based protein. Tofu comes from soy milk. As it sits, soy milk begins to coagulate (much like milk from an animal) with separations occurring due to differences in densities. The thicker curds of soy milk are pressed together into small white blocks, resulting in the creation of tofu. Most recipes use Asian flavors. One popular, easy to make Asian snack is to eat the dish raw, with grated ginger and/or soy sauce. However, western cooks are increasingly adding their own distinct touch to the food, with recipes like Tofu Parmigiana.
High in Protein, Calcium and More
High in protein, a single serving of tofu provides 9.2 grams of protein, or 18.3% of the daily RDA. This makes it ideal for vegetarians or vegans who can find it hard to get sufficient protein. Tofu also comes virtually free of saturated fat (less than 1 gram). Because of its high protein, low fat content, it can be an excellent contribution to a heart healthy diet or a popular diet food or snack.
Tofu is also high in calcium. The amount of calcium in tofu will vary slightly with the brand, but on average, a half-cup serving of firm tofu contains about 227mg of calcium. That relates to 22% of the RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowance.
Tofu is also high in iron: a half-cup serving contains approximately 1.82mg of the mineral. An average 4 oz serving of tofu provides 33% of recommended daily allowance for iron. Another important trace mineral in the food is selenium. It helps maintain the body’s antioxidant system, key to immune system health.
Tofu can be a substitute for fish too. On average, a tofu serving contains 14 % of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the good fats commonly found in fish, have many health benefits, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke. Tofu is typically used in vegan and vegetarian diets. However meat eaters are also discovering this high-protein low fat food. Tofu is a highly adaptable ingredient that can be used in countless recipes, from quiche to pumpkin pie.
Highly Absorbent and Low in Fat
On its own, the taste of tofu is pretty bland, but it is highly absorbent and will soak up any added flavors. Tofu goes well with garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and curries. It can be fried, barbecued, stir-fried, sautéed, or baked. There is sometimes confusion regarding whether tofu is a low fat food. While the exact fat content depends on the brand, one half-cup serving of raw firm tofu typically contains 5 grams of fat. That’s a very low percentage of your daily recommended total. Based on an adult diet of 2,000 calories, your RDA of total fat is 65 grams. Tofu also has almost no saturated fat.
Watch for Allergies
Tofu is made from soy milk and soy is one of the nine most common allergens. The common signs of allergic reaction to tofu include skin rashes, eczema, nasal congestion, dizziness, trouble breathing, and swelling of the tongue, throat or lips. If any of these occur, seek medical attention immediately. Tofu has the unique ability to absorb flavor from other ingredients and seasonings from any recipe. Thus, it is best to avoid tofu recipes that contain too much sodium, soy sauce or oil. Excessive and regular intake of sodium rich tofu recipes may lead to high blood pressure and even excessive weight gain.