Tofu is one of the oldest foods, and it has recently been a hot topic of discussion by food critics.
Many clamors about its health benefits and versatility, but others consider it a genetically modified poisonous diet.
Whatever the discussion, tofu has been in use for 2,000 years; it is a popularly used food component in many Asian cuisines.
There is a growing interest in tofu worldwide, although many still doubt whether this food is healthy enough to be part of the daily diet.
This article elucidates this popular food’s making process, nutrition, health benefits, and side effects.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is a processed soybean food component eaten by people of China, Thailand, Japan, and other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
A staple ingredient in Thai and Chinese cuisine, there are several ways to cook this food, changing its texture from smooth and soft to crisp and crunchy.
According to Chinese folklore stories, it was first discovered by a Chinese woman-cook when she accidentally mixed a cup of fresh soy milk with nigari.
Nigari is a versatile pantry staple, a mineral-rich by-product of the salt-making process. It is the mineral-rich coagulant leftover after the salt is extracted from seawater.
The minerals like Magnesium Chloride or Calcium Sulfate found in coagulants help to solidify the processed soy milk into tofu.
How To Make Tofu?
Tofu, or bean curd, is a popular food derived from soya.
If you are wondering how to make tofu, it involves only a few steps, similar to traditional dairy cheese.
The soy cheese is made by curdling the fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block, and cooling it to solidify.
Ingredients For Making Tofu
The ingredients that go into the making of Soya-Cheese are soy milk and any commonly used coagulants like Nigari (Magnesium Chloride) or Terra Alba (Calcium Sulfate). Lemon juice could also be used as a coagulant.
For making soybean curd at home, the following proportion of ingredients could be used:
- Soy Milk – 8 cups /64 Oz
- Coagulant – 2 tsp Terra Alba OR 1 tsp Nigari Flakes OR 1/2 tsp. Liquid Nigari
How To Prepare Tofu? – A Step-By-Step Guide
Here are the simple procedures for making soy cheese:
- Boil fresh soy milk for 5 minutes (boiling is not required if you are using the pasteurized and sterilized soy milk)
- The coagulant should be dissolved into a cup of warm water, added to the soy milk, and gently stirred until the mixture is properly blended.
- After stirring, leave this mixture untouched for 30 minutes or till the small lumps of curd are fully separated from the amber-colored liquid.
- Transfer the curds into proper sieve containers lined with cheesecloth and tightly fold the cheesecloth over the lumps of curd.
- Press the curd bundled in the cheesecloth to drain out the water; place a heavy-weight object over the bundle or mold for 30 minutes to fully drain the liquid and harden the dry curd.
- The tofu is ready now. You can use it immediately for cooking or keep it under refrigeration for further solidifying and preservation.
Tofu Nutrition, Calories, And Protein
The soy cheese contains a good quality protein with 8 essential amino acids. The other major contents of soy curd are fats, vitamins, minerals, and carbs.
Tofu is an excellent source of calcium and a very good source of manganese, copper, selenium, protein, and phosphorus. In addition, tofu is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B1.
Wondering how many calories are in Tofu, Firm? Every 100gm of tofu contains 76 calories or 41 calories per ounce. Soy cheese is a medium-calorie food, and moderate eating of soy products is not a problem for people on low-calorie diets.
It is a ‘complete protein’ food though tofu protein is not considered as high-quality as animal sources. It has 8 out of 9 essential amino acids that must be included in the “complete protein” category foods.
Every 100 grams of tofu contains 8 grams of protein.
All soy products contain a high amount of protein and fewer calories; this makes all soy foods healthy.
100 grams of Tofu Serving contains:
- Carbs: 2 grams.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Fat: 4 grams.
- Manganese: 31% of the RDI.
- Copper: 11% of the RDI.
- Magnesium: 9% of the RDI.
- Calcium: 20% of the RDI.
- Iron: 9% of the RDI.
- Selenium: 14% of the RDI.
- Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI.
- Zinc: 6% of the RDI.
- Vitamin A: 2% of RDI
- Vitamin B-6: 5% RDI
Note: Calcium amount will be higher in tofu made of Terra Alba coagulant; similarly, magnesium will be higher if Nigari is used.
Is Tofu Healthy? | The Benefits Of Bean Curd
Tofu is high in protein and contains many healthy nutrients.
Eating tofu may protect against various poor health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even certain cancers.
Here are a few of the tofu benefits:
Benefits Of Isoflavones
It is a natural plant compound in soybeans that functions as a phytoestrogen that helps activate estrogen receptors in the body.
The two main isoflavones in soy are genistein and daidzein, which give several health benefits to the body.
Reduces Heart Diseases
According to various study reports, a high intake of legumes, especially soy products, is connected to lower rates of heart disease.
Most importantly, all soy products have isoflavones plant compounds that can improve blood vessel elasticity and reduce inflammation.
According to a 2008 study published in the European Heart Journal, high-risk stroke patients who took 80 mg of isoflavones daily for 12 weeks had improved blood flow by 68%.
Another research report published in The American Journal Of Clinical Research noted that taking 50 grams of soy protein per day is good for improving blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease by 10% or more.
The saponins plant compound present in the tofu is beneficial for improving heart health.
Reduces Diabetes Risks
Several past research studies have indicated that isoflavones compounds in soybeans can control blood sugar levels.
According to a 2004 study published in the Journal Of Women’s Health, a group of healthy postmenopausal women taking 100mg of soy isoflavones daily reduced insulin levels by 23% and sugar levels by 15%.
Another study report in Diabetes Journal showed that taking isoflavones regularly helps improve insulin sensitivity and blood cholesterol, reducing the risks of diabetes and heart diseases.
Reduces Some Cancer Risks
Several verified pieces of evidence from various studies indicate the effects of tofu on colon, breast, and prostate cancer reduction.
Studies show that women who eat soybean products at least once a week have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.
A 2013 study in The Journal Of Nutrition observed that a higher tofu intake helps lower the risk of stomach cancer in men and women.
A 2009 study by Lin Yan1 and Edward L Spitznagel for the American Society For Nutrition observed that 633,476 participants linked higher soy intake to a 7% lower risk of digestive system cancer.
Another two prominent studies have also found that increased intake of soy products like tofu helps lower the risk of developing prostate cancer by 32–51%.
Beneficial For Weight Loss
Studies have reported that regular intake of soy isoflavones results in weight loss.
Enhanced Brain Function
Soy isoflavones are found to have a great influence on enhancing memory and brain function.
Improves Bone Health
Evidence from research suggests that 80 mg of soy isoflavones taken daily can reduce bone decay, especially for women in the post-menopause period.
Makes Skin Healthy
Wrinkles on the skin can be reduced, and skin elasticity can be improved by taking 40mg of soy isoflavones daily.
Are There Any Side Effects Of Tofu?
Despite divided opinions on the goodness of tofu, NO evidence indicates any serious harm it can inflict on health.
However, food is only good for health if eaten appropriately. Limiting the intake of bean curd to a moderate amount is good.
Some of the possible ill effects of soy products on health are:
- The oxalates in tofu can aggravate the kidney or gallbladder stones issue.
- Women with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors should limit the intake of tofu as this soy food has weak hormonal effects.
- The goitrogen content in tofu is bad for women suffering from Thyroid issues.
- Soy isoflavones are not good for infants as they may disrupt the development of reproductive organs.
- According to some animal studies, soy products could adversely affect fertility health.
The antinutrients in tofu may not be healthy for some people with weak metabolism and digestive function. These antinutrients may lead to the following:
- Inhibition Trypsin, an enzyme that is required for the digestion of protein
- Lectins protein in soy can cause bloating and nausea if eaten raw
- Phytates present in soy reduce the absorption of minerals.
However, soy’s antinutrients can be made ineffective by soaking, cooking, or fermentation.
Sprouting soybeans before making tofu can also help eliminate most phytates and trypsin inhibitors; on the positive side, it increases the protein content.
Tips On Choosing Healthy Tofu
You can make tofu at home or purchase tofu, which comes in various forms like freeze-dried, jarred or canned, or dehydrated.
When buying soy cheese, read the ingredients label and find that only soybeans, water, and permitted coagulants are used in it.
It is important to rinse the tofu blocks before you use them in your food.
Tofu must be stored in the refrigerator; the open blocks or leftover pieces of soy cheese must be dipped in water and stored.
It is not advisable to use packaged tofu over 5 months old.
If you can make fresh tofu at home, nothing is better.