Although tofu has been used for thousands of years in Asian cuisine, it has recently exploded in popularity in the west.
With the current rise in vegan and vegetarian diets, tofu has become a common replacement for a meat-based protein that is increasingly included in all kinds of different foods. One thing is clear – tofu is here to stay.
With such an explosion in popularity, you might wonder about the finer details of tofu.
Perhaps you’ve never tried it before and are wondering what all the fuss is about, or maybe you’re interested in adding it to your diet but are unsure about its health benefits, uses, and possible risks.
If you find yourself wondering about tofu then you’re in the right place! We’ve created a comprehensive guide that will explain every aspect of tofu to you!
We’ve also included a Frequently Asked Questions section to guide you through some of the most commonly asked questions.
What Is Tofu?
Let’s start at the beginning. You can first find evidence of tofu 2000 years ago during the Chinese Han Dynasty, though the true origins of the food are unknown.
Since then, it has become a common ingredient in a variety of different Asian cuisines including Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and more.
Tofu is created by coagulation of soy milk which is then pressed. The curds from this pressing process are then formed into white blocks of different densities.
Tofu is white in color, often comes in rectangular blocks, and is fairly neutral in flavor. This is one of its benefits, for tofu works well as an added protein to dishes because it absorbs flavors when prepared correctly.
Tofu was first introduced into the United States in 1929 and is now widely available.
With the rise of vegan and vegetarian diets, the need for moral, meat-free protein has arisen and tofu perfectly fits this requirement.
Tofu is a versatile food that can be used in a variety of different dishes. Really, you can use tofu in two different ways – traditionally and as a substitute.
Tofu is a feature of a range of traditional Asian cuisine. For example, it is a key ingredient in ramen, soups, curries, and stews. Tofu comes in different types of density – silken regular, firm, and extra-firm.
Silken tofu, which is more common in Japan, is very fine and the crumbliest of tofu. Regular tends to be used for broths and stews.
Firm tofu has more to it, so it’s able to be marinated and soaked easier. It’s also the best to slice because it is less likely to crumble unlike silken.
You can use tofu as a substitute for every meal of the day. For example, you can crumble and fry blocks of tofu to simulate scrambled eggs.
For lunch, tofu can work as a sandwich filling, and for dinner, it can take the place of many different proteins. As well as this, small blocks of marinated tofu can be a great replacement for chicken or beef in dishes like stirfry and fried rice.
As you can see here – tofu is a versatile food that is a great substitute for meat and easily changeable. It is also incredibly absorbent with a very neutral flavor – this allows you to marinade and season it to the kind of flavors that you value.
Now let’s examine the health benefits of tofu. Before starting this section it’s worth noting – as with anything diet-related – that some of these can change depending on the person eating the food.
Tofu might not be the right match for your healthy diet – these are just some of the more commonly known health benefits.
Protein – Tofu is a great way for you to get complete protein without resulting in eating meat. Tofu includes all nine of the essential amino acids commonly needed by humans that aid in the repair and growth of the body.
Soy Products And Isoflavones – isoflavones are a kind of flavonoid (a compound found in many different fruits and vegetables) that are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
There has been some research that isoflavones can help to find chronic diseases, especially those linked to inflammation.
Isoflavones have also been linked to a reduction in cholesterol levels, this can be helpful to combat conditions such as heart disease.
On the other side of the coin, there have been many negatives associated with tofu over the years. As with almost any food, eaten in moderation the effects of tofu are not likely to be negative,
but there have been some negatives associated with adopting a large amount of soy-based protein into your diet – however, whether or not these are true remains debated to this day.
There have been some links between soy foods and cancer. Some research has suggested that if you are to intake a large amount of soy over a long time period, you could be more likely to get breast cancer.
It is worth noting that this research is dubious and controversial – and certainly needs more evidence.
There is some debate as to how damaging tofu is to the planet. Tofu is processed food and this takes a lot of energy to create.
Generally, humans would need to consume more tofu than meat for the same nutrients, so we need more quantities if we are to replace it.
There are many arguments about tofu being damaging to the environment because of its energy cost as well as tofu being made from deforested land in the Brazilian rainforest.
It is becoming known that meat production is also very damaging to the environment, so the answer as to which choice is more problematic is something that we do not yet know.
The main thing to remember is that both choices have costs, and if you’re an environmentally conscious person then it’s best to consider these before making your purchases.
We hope this article has told you all you need to know about tofu! As a fairly new staple to people’s diets, we’re still learning a lot about the benefits and negatives of tofu, as well as the best ways to cook it and integrate it into our food.
If you’re looking for a clean, morally-safe alternative to meat – tofu is a perfect thing to add to your diet.
As with all things related to diet, make sure you add it slowly and check yourself for any possible negative effects. We recommend adding tofu to stirfries, rice and ramen before committing to larger quantities.
Good luck and happy cooking!
Frequently Asked Question
Is Tofu Vegan?
Tofu is almost always vegan-friendly! It is one of the unique selling points of the product and is often marketed for vegans and vegetarians.
Is Tofu Healthier Than Meat?
This depends on the quality of meat and tofu you’re comparing. Different meats contain vital nutrients but sometimes come with added cholesterol or saturated fats which can be bad for you.
Tofu is generally cleaner, but you need to make sure you check what is inside it. Some kinds of tofu come with additives!
Is Tofu A Vegetable?
Tofu can be classified as vegetable protein. It comes from soybeans, which is a plant, but it is processed into what we would call a vegetable protein food.
It’s more similar to something like eggs or meat, except it has nothing to do with animals.