Tofu or bean curd, is a trending food derived from soya. Soya is very popular as a plant-based meat and is an ideal dairy alternative. This article explores the amazing health benefits of tofu, the protein rich food for vegans and vegetarians.
Tofu is prepared by first curdling fresh soya milk and then pressing it into a solid block. This is then allowed to cool down. The procedure is quite similar to the preparation of traditional dairy cheese by curdling and solidifying milk.
It is a staple ingredient in Thai and Chinese cookery. Tofu is a very versatile protein source. It can be cooked in quite a number of different ways to change its texture from smooth and soft, to crisp and crunchy.
Health Benefits of Tofu
Incorporating tofu into your diet can give you a range of health benefits. Furthermore, this nutritious food is very delicious and versatile to add.
1.Tofu for blood sugar control
Blood sugar management is one of the most beneficial health benefits of tofu. Soybean is extremely beneficial for diabetics and should be added to their diet. A study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that soybean contains a good amount of bioactive compounds known as isoflavones. These compounds play part in lowering the risk of diabetes and heart diseases. This study also noted that consuming soy-based foods like tofu can lead to a decrease in blood sugar levels and even improve tolerance of glucose in those who already have diabetes.
It also provides diabetics with some essential nutrients and vitamins which may be missed due to cutting out various foods from diet. Tofu can enrich a diabetic’s diet because:
- It is extremely rich in fiber
- It has a high protein content
- It is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids
- It is rich in iron
- It has high levels of zinc and calcium
One study on post-menopausal women who consumed 100mg of soy isoflavones every day saw a reduction in fasting blood sugar levels by 15% and insulin levels by 23%. A study on diabetic post-menopausal women, who supplemented with isolated soy protein saw a reduction in fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance.
2. Tofu for Weight Loss
Weight management is another commonly utilized health benefits of tofu. Vegetarian diets hold the tendency to help reduce calorie intake by decreasing the consumption of fat and cholesterol while increasing the consumption of fiber.
A study in the journal Appetite shows that eating soy everyday may help with weight management. In this study, overweight and obese women ate about 3 ounces of edamame (soy beans) daily.
After a period of three months, the soy consumption made the women lose a significant amount of weight and also the waistline inches (the stubborn fat).
No such significant changes were observed in the control group.
3. Tofu is a Complete protein
Soy, including tofu, is a source of complete protein. A complete protein contains all the 9 essential amino acids we need for growth and repair. The soy protein is processed more easily by the body. This means that it is digested very well and that the protein is very much bio-available. Some studies have suggested that the bio-availability of soy protein is comparable to that of animal protein. This gives us one of the major health benefits of tofu which is parallel in function to the preferred animal protein sources.
Protein has been found to control hunger very effectively. This helps in stopping food cravings and intake of extra and unhealthy calories. Eating protein sources which are low in saturated fat, like tofu, may boost weight loss.
4. Protective Plant Compounds of Tofu offer numerous Health Benefits
Soy products, and most particularly tofu are rich in natural plant compounds called isoflavones. These are protective in nature and hence help to minimize the damage known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress produces free radicals which cause ageing and inflammation. It is the inflammation only which plays welcome to a host of chronic diseases involving diabetes and heart disease.
Soya beans also contain other protective plant compounds, saponins.
5. Nutrient dense
Tofu is a very nutrient dense food. It provides a lot of nutrients, in good amounts. The amount of nutrients is more than the amount of calories it contains.
6. Health Benefits of Tofu in Menopause
During the before and around menopause period, the amount of estrogen in your body decreases. Soy foods like tofu may prove beneficial for people going through menopause. Isoflavones are also described as phyto-estrogens. They mimic a weak form of the hormone estrogen in the body. Because of this, some women find it helpful with pre-menopause symptoms like poor mood and hot flashes.
Research has found that adding a half cup of soybeans to a low-fat, plant-based diet can reduce hot flashes by 84%.
By adding soy foods like tofu to your diet, you may be able to help curb any uncomfortable menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding and mood changes.
7. Prevents Coronary Heart Disease
The isoflavones in tofu help to keep your heart healthy. One large study involving more than 100,000 people found that eating just a single serving of tofu per week has the tendency to lower the risk of coronary heart disease compared to eating tofu less than once per month.
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Tofu has been found to be associated with reduced cholesterol levels, including a reduction in Low-density Lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol.
Tofu is also known to help modestly lower the triglycerides and also modestly increase the HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). To conclude this, researchers analyzed 46 studies and found that soybean significantly reduces “bad cholesterol” by about 3% to 4% in adults.
8. Lowers Risk of Osteoporosis
Some studies have suggested that isoflavones found in soy foods like tofu may help reduce bone loss and thus can improve bone-mineral density in post-menopausal women.
The bone break down is a common side effect of menopause due to decreased estrogen. Isoflavones show structural and functional similarity to 17 beta-estradiol. This helps them to play a specific effect on bone metabolism. They stimulate the bone formation and inhibit the bone break down.
9. May lift mood
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Some studies suggest that a regular intake of soy foods like tofu may induce a beneficial effect on mental health in older adults. The higher intake of soy foods is found to be associated with a lower risk of depression.
10. Improves Memory and Brain Health
Some evidence has suggested that tofu and other soybean-based foods help improve cognitive function like memory and problem-solving skills.
One such study found that equol, a metabolite produced in the gut from consuming soybean foods, may help reduce the risk of dementia. It was noted that people who consumed high quantities of equol by eating soy foods had half the amount of white matter lesions in brain. These white matter lesions are known to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
The folate found in tofu can also exert a positive impact on mental health. A folate deficiency is known to be a link to a high risk of depression.
11. Tofu may reduce the risk of certain cancers
Some studies have suggested that regular intake of soybean helps to slow down the progression or recurrence of certain cancers.
A moderate intake of soy foods containing isoflavones, may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in pre & post-menopausal women. Isoflavones found in tofu have also been found to lower the risk of developing ovarian cancers.
However, the effects of soybean intake in the prevention of breast and ovarian cancer in post-menopausal women is known with less certainty.
A study found that people with prostate cancer may benefit from eating tofu, and other soybean-based foods. The soybean helps to keep their prostate-specific antigen levels low. This plays part in slowing down the progression of cancer.
The evidence surrounding the effect of soybean on prostate cancer is conflicting. There are studies which didn’t show very promising results. More research is needed to better understand the results.
12. Better skin
Research suggests the isoflavones in soy might help skin look younger with fewer fine wrinkles.
Tofu is a nutritious and delicious soy food which offers a range of amazing health benefits It is an excellent plant-based protein source which can help with diabetes and weight management and offers several other health benefits like ease of menopause symptoms, heart disease prevention and brain health promotion.
100g firm tofu contains 17g protein.
Super-firm tofu is the highest in protein.
Silken, soft, medium, firm, extra firm, and super firm are the major types of tofu.