Made of soybeans, tofu is a high-protein, low-calorie food that is not only delicious but healthy as well. Here are 7 health benefits of tofu you should know.

You must have heard about tofu and get confused if it is a variety of paneer. Tofu has gained popularity for its paneer-like appearance and the array of health benefits it offers. However, let us make it clear to you that tofu is quite different from paneer. Also known as bean curd, tofu originated in China and is a staple in Chinese cuisine. It is a plant-based food that is a powerhouse of protein and other essential nutrients. Here are all the health benefits of tofu.

What is tofu?

Tofu is a highly nutritious plant-based food made from soybeans. While many people confuse tofu with paneer, there is a major difference between these two protein-rich foods. Tofu is made through a process where soy milk is coagulated with calcium or magnesium salt and then pressed to form blocks. On the other hand, paneer is a soft cheese made from curdled animal milk, typically sourced from cows, buffaloes, or goats. Tofu is a vegan food that is high in protein.

7 health benefits of tofu

Tofu provides numerous health benefits due to its nutrient profile and unique composition, and some of those include:

1. Good source of plant protein

Made of soybeans, tofu is an excellent source of plant-based protein. It can be a healthy alternative to meat for vegetarians and vegans. According to the US Department of Agriculture, half a cup of firm tofu offers 21.8 grams of protein, 181 calories and 11 grams of fat. Moreover, tofu provides all nine essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own. This complete protein profile of tofu helps in muscle repair and growth, making tofu a healthy addition to any diet.

2. Weight management

Due to its combination of high protein and low-calorie content, tofu is one of the best foods that can be added to your weight loss diet. It keeps you full for longer and increases metabolism, which helps reduce calorie intake and promote fat burning. Moreover, a study published by Food Science and Nutrition found that tofu can also help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) lose weight.

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Tofu can be a great addition to your sustainable weight loss diet. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Promotes heart health

Consuming tofu may contribute to better heart health due to its low saturated fat and cholesterol content. Its isoflavones, plant compounds, are found to help lower levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as bad cholesterol, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, fibre and protein nutrients are also linked to improved heart health by reducing inflammation and enhancing blood vessel function.

4. Regulates blood sugar

The glycemic index (GI) of tofu is low, meaning it causes a slow and steady increase in blood sugar levels compared to high-GI foods. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism highlights that individuals with gestational diabetes experienced notable reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels after consuming a diet abundant in soy protein for six weeks, compared to those who did not incorporate soy protein into their diets.

5. Improves digestive health

Tofu contains dietary fibre, which plays a crucial role in promoting digestive health and preventing constipation. Fibre-rich foods like tofu supports regular bowel movements, help in the removal of waste and toxins from the body and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Additionally, the probiotics produced during the fermentation process of some tofu varieties can also enhance gut health.

6. Reduces the risk of cancer

Consumption of soy-based foods like tofu may be associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colon cancer. This is because isoflavones present in tofu exhibit antioxidant properties and may help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. 54 grams of soy products can reduce the risk of cancer by 11 percent, reveals a study published by Nutrients. Another recent study found that both pre-and postmenopausal women who eat tofu regularly may have up to a 27 percent lower risk of cancer.

breast cancer
Tofu can help reduce the risk of cancer. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

7. Helps maintain bone density

Tofu is an excellent source of calcium and magnesium, essential minerals for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Calcium, found abundantly in tofu, plays a crucial role in bone formation and strength, while magnesium aids in calcium absorption and bone mineralisation. The calcium content can especially help people with or at risk of calcium deficiency.

Who should avoid tofu?

While tofu is completely healthy and can help improve your overall health, people with these 4 health conditions should avoid tofu:

1. Soy allergy

People with soy allergies or sensitivities should avoid tofu and other soy-based products to prevent adverse reactions such as itching, hives, or digestive issues.

2. Thyroid

Additionally, people with thyroid conditions, particularly hypothyroidism, may also advised to limit their intake of soy products due to their potential interference with thyroid hormone absorption.

3. Kidney stones

Since tofu and other soy products contain oxalate, people with a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones should also avoid over-consuming soy products.

4. Pregnant or breastfeeding women

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult with their healthcare provider regarding soy consumption to ensure it aligns with their nutritional needs.

health benefits of tofu
Consume tofu in moderation! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Are there any side effects of consuming tofu?

Tofu is generally safe for most people, but excessive consumption may lead to potential side effects, including digestive discomforts such as bloating, gas, or diarrhoea, particularly in people with sensitivities to soy or high-fibre diets. Some individuals may also experience hormonal imbalances due to phytoestrogen content in tofu. Make sure you are consuming tofu in moderation to mitigate these potential risks.

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