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Tofu: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more

Introduction: 

Animal products are the best source of protein and if you are trying protein from a vegetarian source, then tofu is the best alternative. Tofu is soybean curd produced by curdling fresh soymilk. Soy curd is pressed into smooth-textured, cheese-like solid blocks referred to as Soy cheese. If you cannot eat dairy products and are lactose intolerant, you may try this tofu.1–3 Tofu has two thousand years history old and first originated in China. King Lui An of the Han dynasty developed tofu for the first time and it became versatile food in eastern Asia.1,2 Tofu is called by various names like Okabe or Shirakabe in Japan, Doufu in China, Tahu in Indonesia, Tobu in Korea, and Tau fu in Malaysia.2 Tofu is a rich source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol free.3 Let’s discuss the health benefits of Tofu that might help you plan a healthy meal for your kids and family. 

tofu benefits

Nutritional Value of Tofu: 

Tofu contains plant-based protein, with cholesterol-free and is packed with polyunsaturated fats. 100 grams of Tofu provides 144 Kcal of total energy.3,4 The nutritional value of Tofu is described below: 

Nutrients  Value/100 g 
Carbohydrates 2.78 g 
Protein 17.3 g 
Dietary fibre 2.3 g 
Water 69.8 g 
Fat 8.72 g 
Iron  2.66 mg 
Calcium 683 mg 
Sodium 14 mg 
Potassium 237 mg 
Phosphorus 190 mg 
Magnesium 58 mg 
Zinc 1.57 mg 
Selenium 17.4 µg 
Manganese 1.18 mg 
Copper 0.378 mg 
Vitamin C  0.2 mg 
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) 0.092 mg 
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 0.158 mg 
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 0.381 mg 
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 29 µg 
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 0.102 mg 

Table 1: Nutritional Value of Tofu per 100 grams.4 

Properties of Tofu: 

The beneficial properties of Tofu may include the following: 

  • It may have antioxidant activity 
  • It may have anti-cancer activity 
  • It may lower blood sugar levels 
  • It may lower cholesterol level 
  • It may act as an Anti-inflammatory 
  • It may benefit heart health 
  • It may benefit liver health1,5 

Did you know tofu is one of the best sources of plant-based protein? A study showed that in the making and processing of tofu, lesser impact on the environment was seen as compared to meat. So, considering tofu might also be good for the environment.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

Potential Uses of Tofu for Overall Health: 

Tofu may be considered a superfood from a nutrition and health point of view 1. The following are the potential uses of Tofu.  

1. Potential uses of tofu for diabetes 

Tofu may lower the blood sugar level and it may due to the presence of proteins. The proteins may increase the production of insulin hormone in the body and might lower blood sugar levels.1 However, Diabetes is a serious condition, and we advise you to take medical consultations and not use tofu to self-medicate. 

2. Potential uses of tofu for heart diseases 

Tofu may contain isoflavones and saponins, which might increase blood flow by reducing blood cholesterol levels and removing the bile acids. It may also help to reduce blood vessel inflammation and increase their elasticity. Hence, it might limit the risk of stroke and other heart diseases.1 However, more research on humans is required. If you have heart issues, please consult your doctor and do not self-medicate. 

3. Potential uses of tofu for liver 

Tofu may contain antioxidants which may help in destroying free radicles. Deactivating these free radicles with antioxidants may help in reducing oxidative stress in the body. Hence, you may eat Tofu and its antioxidant properties might repair liver damage.5 However, this study is insufficient as it is conducted on animals. Therefore, speak with your doctors and only have it if recommended. Do not self-medicate.  

4. Potential uses of tofu for cancer 

Tofu may contain minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, and selenium. It may also contain phytoestrogen which looks like estrogen (female hormone), and it may help in reducing the risk of breast cancer.1,6 However, further research is to be needed to claim all these benefits of tofu. If you have cancer problems consult your doctor and do not self-medicate.  

5. Potential uses of tofu for weight management 

Tofu is inexpensive, serves as a high-quality protein and is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Tofu is easily digestible, has no saturated fats, and is cholesterol-free. So, adding Tofu to your meal might help you to manage weight.1,5 

6. Other potential uses of Tofu 

  • Tofu may contain protein, minerals and amino acids that may be useful in decreasing bad cholesterol levels and increasing good cholesterol in the body.5,6 

Though studies show the benefits of Tofu in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a need for further studies to develop the true scope of the benefits of Tofu on human health. In addition, each person may respond differently to these herbs. Therefore, it is crucial to consult a physician before using Tofu for any medical condition. 

In Western cooking, tofu is now being pushed as a meat substitute due to its high protein content and low calories. Tofu is also gaining popularity in vegetarian and vegan diets across the world.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Tofu? 

There are three types of Tofu. Soft and medium soft Tofu are eaten fresh, whereas firm Tofu is grilled, fried, steamed or fermented into processed food.2 

Tofu is a popular ingredient in Thai and Chinese cuisine. However, some people complain about its bland taste. Here, we bring a few delicious suggestions for preparing Tofu.6 

  • Tofu vegetable miso soup 

Add a few pieces of cubed Tofu, fresh sliced mushroom, chopped onion, leafy greens and whisked eggs in a pot of boiling water. Add miso paste and salt to make a healthy bowl of Tofu soup.6 

  • Rainbow fruit smoothie 

Blend some frozen strawberries, mango, and soft Tofu with orange juice to make a nutrient-packed smoothie.6 

  • Tofu pizza 

Next time you order your pizza, add a few cubes of Tofu to your pizza toppings to make it healthy.6 

People must take advice from an Ayurvedic physician before including Tofu in their daily diet. Further, we recommend not to replace or discontinue any ongoing treatment of modern medicine with any ayurvedic or herbal preparations of Tofu without taking the medical advice of a doctor. They will guide you with its form and dosage per your health condition. 

Also Read: Is Soybean Oil Bad For You? Unraveling The Truth Backed By Science

Side Effects of Tofu: 

Studies show that Tofu is safe to eat. However, people with a history of soy allergies may be affected by side effects.7 So, if you are allergic to soy products, look out for the following symptoms: 

  • Hives (skin rash) 
  • Itching 
  • Eczema (skin inflammation) 
  • Wheezing  
  • Dizziness. fainting 
  • Chest tightness, breathing difficulty, shortness of breath 
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea 
  • Swelling of the throat or tongue. 7 

Soy products may also have the following side effects if consumed in large amounts: 

  • Soy products that have phytoestrogen may cause a low incidence of estrogen-related cancer and osteoporosis (a condition of low bone density). However, these conditions are lesser among Asians, who often eat soy products.1 

However, if you observe any allergic reaction, immediately rush to the hospital and contact your doctors to get the proper treatment for your allergies. 

Precautions to Take with Tofu:  

Tofu, when eaten in moderation, is safe. However, general precautions must be followed. 

  • People with soy allergies must avoid Tofu as it might increase the chances of allergies.7 
  • People with osteoporosis must limit their Tofu intake as it might affect bone mineral density.7 
  • Take precautions while giving it to children and the elderly because of their weak immunity; they might develop reactions in the body. 
  • No major report on Tofu for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, women at this stage must consult a doctor before having it. 
  • You should not use Tofu to self-medicate on your own. It is essential to first speak with a doctor and have it if recommended. 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

No significant studies relate the interactions between Tofu and other drugs. However, you should not presume that there are no interactions at all.  

Hence, take advice from Ayurvedic doctors and they will direct you to a better way to have Tofu as an herb. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

What is Tofu? 

Tofu is called Soybean curd. It is prepared by curdling fresh hot soymilk with coagulants to form a curd, which is then pressed into soft cheese-like food. It is densely packed with plant protein used as a meat alternative.1,2 

What are the different varieties of Tofu? 

Tofu has three types: soft, medium-soft, and firm Tofu. The soft Tofu is not pressed and eaten as it is. Medium soft Tofu is used for everyday cooking. And firm Tofu is dried, grilled, fried, and fermented into processed food.2 

Which are the essential vitamins of Tofu? 

The essential vitamins in Tofu include vitamins C, A, B1, B5, B2, B3 and B9.4 

What are the disadvantages of Tofu? 

The significant disadvantages of Tofu may cause allergies in some people. The symptoms of soy allergies include skin rash, inflammation, itching, fainting, breathing difficulty, abdominal pain and throat swelling. In rare scenarios, Tofu may cause osteoporosis and estrogen-related cancer.1,7 

What are the benefits of Tofu for Diabetes? 

Tofu might have blood sugar-lowering properties as tofu contains proteins and it may help in reduce diabetes.1 However, diseases like Diabetes require proper diagnosis and treatments; therefore, consult a qualified physician before having Tofu. 

References: 

1. Eze N, Okwume U, Eseadi C, Udenta E, Onyeke N, Ugwu E, et al. Acceptability and consumption of Tofu as a meat alternative among secondary school boarders in Enugu State, Nigeria. Medicine. 2018;97(45(e13155)):1–7. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6250531/pdf/medi-97-e13155.pdf 

2. T Ono. Soy (Soya) Cheeses. In: Benjamin Caballero, editor. Encyclop of Food Sci and Nutri. Second Edition. ScienceDirect: Academic Press; 2003. p. 5398–402. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B012227055X011135 

3. Food and Nutrition Information Centre. What are the benefits of Tofu? [Internet]. NAL| U.S. Department of Agriculture. [cited 2022 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/fnic/what-are-benefits-tofu 

4. Food Data Central. Tofu, raw, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate. [Internet]. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2019 [cited 2022 Sep 21]. Available from: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172475/nutrients 

5. Yakubu N, Oboh G, Olalekan A. Antioxidant and Hepatoprotective Properties of Tofu (Curdle Soymilk) against Acetaminophen-Induced Liver Damage in Rats. Biotech Res Interna. 2013;2013(230142):1–7. Available from: https://downloads.hindawi.com/archive/2013/230142.pdf 

6. Health benefits of Tofu – MSU Extension [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/health_benefits_of_tofu 

7. Soy Allergy: Symptoms, Treatments & Tests [Internet]. [cited 2022 Sep 21]. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11320-soy-allergy 

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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