Tofu is one of those foods that sparks debate. Some can’t rave enough about its health benefits, while others declare that it is a genetically-modified poison to be avoided at all costs.
This may leave you wondering whether you should eat tofu or not.
This article takes a look at tofu and its health effects to determine whether it’s good for you.
Tofu is a food made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into solid white blocks in a process quite similar to cheesemaking. It originated in China.
Rumor has it that a Chinese cook discovered tofu more than 2,000 years ago by accidentally mixing a batch of fresh soy milk with nigari.
Nigari is what remains when salt is extracted from seawater. It is a mineral-rich coagulant used to help tofu solidify and keep its form.
Most of the world’s soybeans are currently grown in the US, and a very large proportion is genetically modified (GMO).
Although GMOs are controversial, research has so far not found them to be harmful to human health
However, if you’re worried about it, simply opt for non-GMO, organic tofu brands.
Tofu is high in protein and contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs. It also provides fats, carbs, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of tofu offers
- Protein: 8 grams
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Fat: 4 grams
- Manganese: 31% of the RDI
- Calcium: 20% of the RDI
- Selenium: 14% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
- Copper: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
- Iron: 9% of the RDI
- Zinc: 6% of the RDI
This comes with only 70 total calories, which makes tofu a highly nutrient-dense food.
However, the micronutrient content of tofu can vary depending on the coagulant used. Nigari adds more magnesium while precipitated calcium increases the calcium content.
Eating tofu may protect against a variety of health conditions
Tofu contains antinutrients like trypsin inhibitors and phytates. Soaking or fermenting soybeans before making tofu reduces these antinutrients, increasing its nutritional value.
All soy-based products contain isoflavones, which are believed to have various health benefits.
Whole soy foods like tofu can improve several markers of heart health. This may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease.
Research indicates that soy has a protective effect against breast, digestive, and prostate cancers.
Tofu may have positive effects on blood sugar control, but more studies are needed to confirm this link.
Due to its high isoflavone content, tofu may also have benefits for:
- Bone health
- Brain function
- Menopause symptoms
- Skin elasticity
- Weight loss
Eating tofu and other soy foods every day is generally considered safe. That said, you may want to moderate your intake if you have:
- Breast tumors: Due to tofu’s weak hormonal effects, some doctors tell women with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors to limit their soy intake.
- Thyroid issues: Some professionals also advise individuals with poor thyroid function to avoid tofu due to its goitrogen content.
If you have concerns, discuss soy consumption with your doctor.
Eating tofu is safe for most people. If you’re worried about negative health effects, it’s best to double-check with your healthcare provider.
Tofu can be found in a variety of shapes and forms. Homemade tofu is also surprisingly easy to make.