Health benefits of tofu

By The Health News Team | December 15, 2023
Bowl of cubed tofu with chopsticks

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers, was the first American to discover tofu? In a letter to John Bartram, Franklin referred to tofu as “a cheese.”

He wasn’t far off. The process of creating tofu and cheese is similar.

But what exactly is tofu?

Tofu is a bean curd made from the process of coagulating the milk from soybeans. The milk is then pressed into a block and processed into a protein.

Tofu originated in China over 2,000 years ago. The technique to produce tofu spread throughout Southeast Asian countries. Now, tofu has become an essential ingredient in many local dishes across the world.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, tofu is a great option for people following a vegetarian diet. But you don’t necessarily need to be a vegetarian to enjoy this delicious and nutrient-rich product.

The health benefits of tofu

Not only is tofu a great source of protein, but it also has many other health benefits. Tofu is a great source of:

  • All nine essential amino acids, which our body can’t make on its own, and are important to help break down food, build muscle, repair tissue, regulate immune function and more

  • Calcium and magnesium, which help increase bone density and prevent bone loss or osteoporosis

  • Fiber, manganese and iron

  • Isoflavones, a natural plant compound and type of plant estrogen (phytoestrogen) with medicinal benefits, including anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Including tofu in your diet can also help reduce the risk of heart disease. In a study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health, it was determined participants who had an isoflavone-rich diet had the lowest risk of heart disease. Those who ate tofu once a week had a lower chance for heart disease when compared to those who ate it once a month. And because it is low in saturated fats, tofu is a great meat alternative.

Try these tofu dishes

Tofu can be enjoyed in many different ways. You can pan fry, air fry, bake, grill and even smoke tofu. It can be especially tasty when marinated overnight to absorb all the flavor of the marinade, taking on a new flavor identity.

A simple yet delicious way to eat tofu is by making a tofu stir-fry with a variety of vegetables. It's also delicious in soups, lettuce wraps and pasta.

What’s more, tofu can even be found in desserts. Taho, a dessert from the Philippines, uses silken tofu, brown sugar syrup and tapioca pearls to create a classic sweet treat. And tofu can be found as a main ingredient in a healthy, non-dairy version of chocolate mousse.

There are many creative ways to incorporate tofu into everyday dishes while ensuring you consume enriched ingredients and meet your dietary needs. If haven’t already, give tofu a try.

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