Tofu, the soy wonder

November 27, 2009

Tofu is a soy product that meat-eaters generally stay away from, despite positive testimonials. They see it as an alternative means to protein, meant only for vegetarians. After reading about its benefits though, many of you non-vegetarians may change your mind about this Asian staple.

Tofu is made from soybean curd pressed into blocks. Different varieties have varying moisture content:

  • Soft/ Silken tofucontains the most moisture. It is derived directly from soy milk and has a custard-like texture. It is used in dressings, protein shakes, and desserts.
  • Firm tofuis tougher as it contains less moisture. It is not as delicate as its silken counterpart. Firm tofu is more commonly used as it holds its shape better.
  • Another variety, dried/ extra firm tofu, has the lowest moisture content and is a good replica of cooked meat. It is generally used after being crumbled, sliced or converted to noodles.

The benefits of tofu are hard to ignore. It is low in calories and sodium, high in protein and it contains no cholesterol. For this reason, tofu is sometimes recommended as an alternative for meat in low calorie diets. The source of the benefits of tofu seems to stem from its base product, soy. Soy is an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamin B6, and plant components called isoflavones that act as a form of estrogen in the body.

Here are some of the health benefits of tofu:

Tofu and your heart

Populations of areas that consume tofu regularly, like in some parts of Asia, have a low incidence of heart disease. The soy protein and isoflavones act as powerful cholesterol fighters, lowering cholesterol by nearly 30%. Tofu has an effect on LDL, or bad, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, both of which are strong indicators of heart disease.

Tofu and your bones

Tofu is an excellent source of calcium. It guards the consumer from bone weakness, loss, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, it is less fattening than other dairy products.

Tofu and weight loss

If you are on the warpath against weight-gain then tofu is the right choice for you. With tofu’s low cholesterol content and high nutritional content, you can get more health for every calorie you eat.

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Tofu and women’s health

Since the isoflavones in tofu act as a form of estrogen in the body, they have been shown to be beneficial to women during both peri-menopause and menopause. They regulate the erratic functioning of hormones, and fight the estrogen loss that occurs during this period. The hormonal cycles in turn affect many health conditions like osteoporosis, breast cancer, or gynecological problems.

Tofu and men’s health

Tofu’s wonders are not limited to women. It can also help men to manage their prostate cancer. Isoflavones slow cancer growth and protect against enlargement of the prostate gland.

Tofu’s versatile uses in food make it remarkably easy to include in your diet. It is used in soups, salads, stuffing, raw, or grilled. It is used in a huge number of recipes. It has little flavour of its own and generally takes on the flavours of the ingredients added to it. For this reason, it can be fashioned to suit anyone’s taste. Tofu can also be stored for long periods of time as it retains its flavour even after freezing.

Tofu is high in protein, vitamins and minerals while low in calories, sodium and fat. With the burgeoning list of its benefits, including heart disease prevention, it is no wonder that so many people are opting for tofu!

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