In today’s post, we’re breaking down the ever-mysterious big block of tofu! Join me as I answer some common questions regarding tofu, such as: what is it? Is soy healthy? How can you eat tofu? Is it easy to cook and prepare?
What is tofu?
Tofu is made from the soy bean and originated in China. Similar to cheesemaking, soy milk is coagulated and condensed which produces soybean curds, which are then pressed into blocks of varying firmness. You can find extra firm, firm, and silken tofu.
From a nutrition standpoint, tofu is absolutely healthy. It’s packed with protein, calcium, iron, vitamin K, and is naturally low in fat – all while being low calorie, making it an incredibly nutrient-dense food. Not only is it rich in protein but tofu also contains all of the essential amino acids that must be obtained from food because the body cannot make them.
Is soy healthy?
One of the biggest myths that is perpetuated about soy is that it allegedly increases the estrogen hormone in the body that has been linked to various cancers, namely breast cancer.
This is a myth. Modern day research indicates that the phytoestrogens in soy are 1000x weaker than the estrogen hormone in our bodies and do not have the same effect. Phytoestrogens have actually been credited with lowering risks of heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer. Many of these phytoestrogens and isoflavones that are found in soy are also found in other foods that are widely believed to be healthy: berries, whole grains and nuts.
Let’s take a look at the world around us. Before massive globalization and the spread of Americanism (ie: fast food chains overseas), many Asian populations relied heavily on soy products as part of a largely plant-based way of living. Historically, these populations have much lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity … and cancer.
It’s also important to note that just like other foods, soy can become heavily processed, thereby changing the chemical and nutrient composition. For example, whole natural soy beans versus a soy protein isolate in a processed protein shake. The more we break down and process a food, the more it loses its natural nutrients.
Soy is often subject to unfair demonization so when doing the research about soy, make sure you’re looking at credible sources (nutrition experts or organizations and not social media influencers). Nutrition science can be tough to sift through so a credible source of data is key!
Let’s start off by highlighting some of the most common ways to eat tofu:
Tofu is packaged in liquid. I find it best to press and drain tofu before use as it will absorb more of your marinade, should you choose to marinate it! To press, you can use a tofu press or you can simply set some heavy objects on top of the tofu block and let the water drain out. You don’t need to press or marinate tofu however, I think you will find that tofu will taste a lot better if you do! Otherwise, it’s a bit bland on its own.
Tofu is like a sponge and will absorb the flavors that you give it so I highly recommend a marinade! My go to marinade is soy sauce, lime juice, red curry paste, ginger powder and a splash of maple syrup. My favorite ways to eat tofu are pan-seared, scrambled or air fried/baked. For a lovely crispy outside and soft center, I press the tofu, let it marinate for 15 minutes and then sear with a drizzle of avocado oil on medium heat until crispy.
Scrambled tofu is a huge game changer! In comparison to eggs, tofu has same amount if protein per 100g, however, has more calcium and iron and less saturated fat and cholesterol than eggs. As a matter of fact, tofu has no “bad” or LDL cholesterol. Soluble fiber, which only comes from plants, can actually reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol in the body.
To make scrambled tofu, first drain and press. Then crumble the tofu into a skillet, season and saute for just a few minutes. You can find my recipe for scrambled tofu here. This takes 15 minutes maximum. For air fried or baked breaded tofu, a similar methodology applies. First, I drain and press. Then I dip the tofu blocks into a mixture of water, flour and cornstarch. Then I coat with a whole wheat flour and seasoning mixture. Then I bake or air fry.
You can find various ways to cook tofu on my website at www.thewholescoopblog.com. No matter which method you choose to make tofu, it can become an excellent protein option for you and if you’re open-minded enough to try something new, you might just fall in love with tofu like I have!
*This article is not intended as medical advice. For information or medical advice regarding soy and your personal diet/health, please seek out your doctor, a licensed medical professional or a registered dietitian.