What Is Tofu, and Is it Healthy or Not?

Last Updated on August 10, 2019 | by

Tofu has been an integral part of East and Southeast Asian cuisines for almost 2000 years now. But it gained popularity in western countries when people decided to quit dairy products.

Thus, tofu is often used as an alternative for cottage cheese. Also, it is high in demand because it is almost equivalent to dairy products in nutrients. Tofu, also called as bean curd in America, is the new trend. We have put together everything you need to know about tofu.

History of Tofu

Tofu has been a part of the Japanese households since the Nara period. But its invention took place in China by Prince Liu An of Han Dynasty in Anhui. But it was in the time of Song Dynasty that tofu became popular in China.

Further on, it became known to the Vietnamese somewhere between 10th and 11th century. Later on it easily spread in other Asian countries. In America, the first company to sell tofu was set in 1878.

How Is Tofu Made?

Tofu is made from Soy milk. And soy milk is made from soybeans. And since tofu is made from plant milk, it is most preferred by vegans.

There are few basic universal steps needed to make tofu.

  • Making of soymilk
  • Coagulating soymilk
  • Pressurising coagulated soymilk curds or soybean curds to make tofu cakes.

There are different types coagulants that are used to coagulate soymilk such as salt coagulants, acid coagulants and enzyme coagulants. These can be used together in combination or just one type of coagulant can also do the work. These coagulants add to the nutritional value of the tofu. Later on few more steps can be added to give it special characteristics such as soft, firm or silky.

Types of Tofu

There are various types of tofu based on how they are made.

Fresh unpressed

  • Extra soft
  • Soft

Fresh pressed

  • Firm
  • Extra-firm

Processed tofu

  • Fermented
  • Frozen

Inspired from soymilk tofu, there are now many other kinds of tofu in the market now such as chickpea tofu, almond tofu, sesame tofu, egg tofu and peanut tofu.

Health Benefits of Tofu

Soy tofu has high amount of protein in it. A 1995 Kentucky university report says that, soy protein helps decrease triglycerides, serum cholesterol and low density lipoprotein. Though it shows no improvement in the good cholesterol HDL, it decreases LDL which is the bad cholesterol in human beings. Considering this the FDA approved the petition made by PTI saying that soy protein is effective in minimising heart risks. And this is more compared to what animal protein does.

It also helps keep off the obesity and manages diabetes well. It is very good for dealing with type 2 diabetes. Tofu is also good for our kidneys. The protein in it changes the impact on blood lipid levels. Therefore, it is very helpful for people dealing with kidney issues such as dialysis and for those needing a transplant.

It also minimises the liver damage due to free radicals because it is coagulated with coagulants. Also, in areas that have local dishes including tofu, there are comparatively less cases of ageing mental disorders. Also tofu, being a soy product is rich in amino acids. And it is extremely beneficial for bones due to calcium and magnesium in it.

The isoflavones in tofu help protecting against breast and prostate cancer. It is also completely gluten free and therefore a favourite of Gluten free diet fans and gluten allergic people.

In women, it is beneficial for reducing menopause symptoms. Also the myth that tofu is bad for men is completely a myth. It does not at all lower the level of testosterone in men.

A plant based diet is always good for overall health of a person. It adds to the glow of the skin and keeps your hair good too. Tofu being a plant based food also provides these benefits.

Tofu has comparatively less calories than any other protein alternative such as beef or cheese.

In China, tofu is considered to have medicinal benefits such as body detoxification.

Thus, tofu is highly recommended for health benefits and also for those who are empathetic with animals. But since it is made from soybean which falls under the category of legumes, the one allergic to them should stay away from tofu. But they can of course try other types of tofu.

How To Incorporate Tofu In Your Diet?

Tofu can be easily incorporated in any existing dish as it does not have much of a unique taste. Thus, it blends well into the flavours. To make it taste better it should be marinated. Also it should be completely drained of water so that it would soak in the flavours of the dish. Tofu can always be added in small cubes in almost all vegetarians dishes. These can also be used to put in soups instead of croutons.

Tofu, if prepared in a healthy way is extremely health friendly and should be a part of your diet.

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