Since the veganism movement began, tofu, a plant-based substitute for meat and dairy products like cottage cheese manufactured from soybean, has become quite popular among vegans and vegetarians. As a result, tofu is a superfood that is a favourite among healthy eaters worldwide. So much so that there is a day dedicated to tofu called “World Tofu Day,”. It is observed every year on July 26 to celebrate and promote the consumption of tofu as a staple food.
As more people choose a plant-based diet, tofu’s appeal has grown. It is especially valued and cherished by vegans and vegetarians since they may forgo eating meat while still obtaining its essential protein. It is also a weight watcher’s delight for its easy availability and texture in soups, salads, stir-fries and even curries.
World Tofu Day: The History
Although tofu may be unfamiliar to westerners, it has been a staple of Japanese cuisine since 900 AD. Moreover, it continues to rank among the nation’s most beloved dishes because that is where it’s a part of the daily staples.
Interestingly, tofu was first produced in China around 179 BC, during the Han Dynasty, as a cheap substitute for people who couldn’t buy meat. But the Japanese adopted tofu in the 6th century during the Nara period in Japan and improved its texture and flavour using the appropriate methods.
Thus, by 900 AD, tofu had earned significance in Japanese cuisine. Over time, it gradually lost that prominence. Still, since 1803, it has gained it back thanks to its low price, making it a dish for everyone, not just the wealthy.
The Chinese and Japanese languages use a variety of names for tofu, often known as bean curd in English. It wasn’t until the 1800s, when English translations of cookbooks started to appear, that the word “tofu” was first used. As the meat substitute gained popularity in the West in the 1970s, cookbooks began using the term “tofu” as an official descriptor. Tofu has become a staple for those who wish to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. It has evolved into a staple dish and a wholesome substitute for them.
The Society for the Protection of Animals founded World Tofu Day in 2014. The idea behind it was to treat it like a global celebration to encourage the adaptation of tofu. In addition to providing individuals with the information regarding necessary nutrients, National Tofu Day aims to highlight the many ways that tofu has inspired people worldwide.
Making of Tofu
Tofu, commonly called bean curd, is a bland, soft product manufactured from soybeans. Dry soybeans are soaked in water, mashed, and heated to create tofu. The mixture gets divided into soy “milk” and solid pulp (okara). To separate the curds from the whey, salt coagulants including calcium, magnesium chlorides, and sulphates get added to soy milk.
In addition, acid coagulants like citric acid or glucono delta-lactone may be utilised in specific circumstances. Finally, soy milk gets poured into moulds to allow the whey, which is rich in carbohydrates, to drain off. The resulting soft cakes are sliced into squares and kept in water until they are ready to be sold, either in bulk or in little tubs with water.
Tofu is available in a variety of textures:
A firm block has curds that are visible and tightly packed; it should feel hard. It’s hard body develops a rubbery feel during cooking, making each block manageable. Firm tofu holds up well to frying and filling.
Of all the block tofus, this one is the most compact. The block is considerably squatter than all the others, and the curds are compact. This tofu is best suited for heartier meals because it has the most crunch. It is the perfect dairy-free alternative to paneer in Indian dishes.
The curds in soft tofu can easily mix with the residual whey since it gets pressed for the shortest duration of any block tofus. This smooth block retains texture when broken apart, as it frequently does with a light touch. It tastes mildly milky and has a delicate body akin to Jell-O.
Soft tofu functions just as well in savoury meals as in sweet ones due to its resemblance to soft desserts. Soft tofu shouldn’t be shallow-fried because of its high water content because the sputtering and spit-back can be harmful. However, one must coat the cubes thoroughly in batter and deep-fry. As a result, you would get deliciously soft nuggets of soy heaven.
The second most popular type of tofu is silken. Soy milk gets coagulated without causing milk to curdle. Every cake maintains its moisture while cooling because it is also not squeezed. The tofu, whether soft, firm, or extra firm, looks smooth and “silky” because curds do not develop in it. Silken tofu, which is more delicate than other tofu, must be handled carefully to avoid breaking.
Nutritional Value of Tofu
Tofu has a high nutritional density because it has few calories and a lot of nutrients. Also, depending on the coagulant used to manufacture it, it has a different nutritional composition. For instance, nigari-set tofu has a little bit more fat and potassium but less calcium, protein, and fibre than calcium-set tofu.
According to (the U.S Department of Agriculture/USDA), One hundred grams of calcium-set, firm tofu provides:
- Energy: 144 kCal
- Carbohydrates: 2.78 g
- Fat: 8.72 g
- Protein: 17.3 g
- Calcium: 683 mg
- Iron: 2.66 mg
- Phosphorus: 190 mg
- Potassium: 237 mg
- Selenium: 17.4 µg
The HealthifyMe Note
Condensed soy milk makes tofu in a method analogous to creating cheese. Tofu has a high protein and fat content but few calories. It also includes calcium and manganese, among other significant vitamins and minerals.
Antinutrients in Tofu
Tofu contains numerous antinutrients, like the majority of plant-based meals. These substances reduce the body’s capacity to absorb nutrients from food and are naturally present in plant-based diets. According to research, the two categories of antinutrients present in tofu are:
These substances might inhibit the absorption of some minerals, including calcium, zinc, and iron.
Trypsin, an enzyme required for the correct digestion of proteins, is blocked by these substances. Additionally, this could result in indigestion, bring on stomach pain, and hinder the absorption of several nutrients.
Soaking or boiling soybeans will help lower the antinutrients it contains. A study highlighted that sprouting is yet another practical technique. For instance, sprouting soybeans before manufacturing tofu can reduce phytates and trypsin inhibitors by up to 56 and 81 per cent, respectively. At the same time, up to 13 per cent more protein gets added.
Antinutrients may occasionally even offer a few health advantages. By acting as a natural iron regulator, phytates, for instance, may stop the body from absorbing excessive amounts of iron from animal meals.
Top Health Benefits of Tofu
Tofu includes isoflavones, which are potent antioxidants. As a result, it reduces the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Isoflavones are natural substances found in soy. This oxidative stress plays a role in ageing and the onset of certain chronic diseases. According to research, about 3.5 mg of isoflavones get included in every gram of soy protein.
Supports Heart Health
Numerous studies showed that the mix of fibre, protein, and isoflavones in tofu might be what makes it good for the heart. This combination may also explain why tofu and other whole soy foods, as opposed to soy supplements, seem more effective at lowering cholesterol.
Additionally, researchers claim that substituting tofu for animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy likely reduces the overall amount of saturated fat in the diet, improving heart health.
Improves Bone Health
Soy isoflavones present in tofu may prevent bone loss or improve the mineral density of bones, according to recent studies.
Prevents Certain Cancers
According to a recent study on tofu, women who consume it frequently may be up to 32% less likely to acquire breast cancer. Similarly, tofu may reduce the incidence of prostate cancer in men by up to 51%. In addition, other studies indicate that tofu may lower the risk of colorectal or colon cancers by 8–12% and gut tumours by 7%, particularly in women.
Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
Tofu may help prevent type 2 diabetes. According to a review of studies published in 2020, people who regularly ate tofu had a lower risk of developing this illness.
Alleviate Menopausal Symptoms
Isoflavones in tofu are also frequently referred to as phytoestrogens. Also, they mimic a weak form of the estrogen hormone in the body. Some women find that this aids in the relief of perimenopausal symptoms like low mood and hot flashes.
Is Tofu Healthy for Everybody?
Tofu is usually harmless for most people unless one has a soy allergy. However, soybeans interfere with the thyroid’s function as goitrogenic foods.
People with a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones may avoid taking too many soy products because the tofu contains oxalate. However, research indicates that soy products with a small level of oxalate and a moderate amount of phytates might be helpful for those with kidney stones.
Some Simple Tofu Recipes to Try Out
Shahi Tofu is a vegan adaptation of the well-known Shahi Paneer traditional dish from North India.
Ingredients (for Marination)
- Extra Firm Tofu: 200 g
- Lime Juice: ½ tsp
- Salt: ¾ tsp salt
- Hot Water: 2 cups
Ingredients (for Curry)
- Medium Tomatoes (roughly Chopped): 4
- Cashews: ⅓ cup
- Oil: 1 tbsp
- Ginger cut into pieces: 1 inch
- Green chilli cut into pieces: 1
- Cinnamon stick: 1 inch
- Cloves: 3
- Black peppercorns: 4
- Black cardamom: 1
- Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
- Asafetida: A pinch
- Cumin powder: ½ tsp
- Coriander powder: ½ tsp
- Red chilli powder: ½ tsp
- Dry fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi): 2 tsp
- Garam Masala: ½ tsp
- Golden raisins: 1 tsp
- Cilantro finely chopped: 1 tbsp
- Salt to taste
- Cut tofu into 1-inch squares with 1.4-inch thickness.
- Sock tofu pieces in hot water for 5 mins. Drain and add it to a bowl. Marinate it in salt and lime juice.
- Meanwhile, in a pan, heat oil on medium heat. Once hot, add cinnamon stick, clove, black peppercorns, black cardamom, ginger, green chilli, cumin seeds and asafetida. Sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add chopped tomatoes and cashews. Also, add salt, turmeric, cumin powder, coriander powder, and red chilli powder. Then, stir and mix everything.
- Cover the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes on medium to high heat, stirring frequently.
- When tomatoes seem mushy and cooked, remove the pan from heat and let it cool down for around 5 mins.
- Put everything in a high-speed blender and puree it.
- Put the same pan on low to medium heat again. Add the pureed gravy to the pan.
- Add sugar, garam masala, and dry fenugreek leaves and raisins. Taste and adjust the salt if required.
- Add marinated tofu pieces and mix everything. Cook for 2-3 mins stirring in between.
- Remove from heat and garnish with chopped cilantro. Enjoy with Naan/ Roti or Rice!
Herbed Tofu & Spinach in Tomato Basil Sauce
A pan-fried herbed tofu topping is added to a tomato, capsicum, and spinach sauce to create the mouth wateringly delicious Herbed Tofu & Spinach In Tomato Basil Sauce recipe. Prepare this delectable and straightforward Herbed Tofu & Spinach In Tomato Basil Sauce for a great weeknight dinner.
- Tofu: 250 g
- Spinach (chopped): 100 g
- Red Bell pepper (Capsicum), sliced: 1
- Onion, finely chopped: 1
- Garlic, finely chopped: 4 cloves
- Homemade tomato puree: 2 cups
- Mixed Herbs (Dried): 2 tbsp
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 1 tbsp
- Cayenne Pepper: ½ tsp
- Black pepper powder: ½ tsp
- Water: ½ cup
- Corn flour: 1 tsp
- Salt, to taste
- To begin making Herbed Tofu & Spinach In Tomato Basil Sauce, remove the tofu from the cover and keep it between paper towels to remove any excess water.
- Next, you can heat oil in a skillet. Once the oil is hot, add onions and saute till the onions turn translucent. Then add garlic and saute for a minute. Finally, add the tomato puree and saute.
- Cook covered on low heat till the tomatoes are cooked thoroughly and become a thick paste. All the raw smell of the tomatoes should go away. Also, this will take about 15 minutes. Stir in between to ensure the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- After the tomatoes get cooked, add one tablespoon of mixed herbs and the capsicum. Saute for a minute. Next, add the torn-up spinach pieces and saute. Add 1/2 cup of water and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for five more minutes and then turn off the gas.
- Now remove the tofu from the paper towels and place them on a plate.
- Sprinkle cornflour and mixed herbs on both sides of the tofu.
- Heat a pan and add some oil. Pan fry tofu till it turns golden brown on the outside.
- Place the tomato, capsicum, and spinach sauce on a serving plate. Then place the herbed seared tofu on the top, and the Herbed Tofu & Spinach In Tomato Basil Sauce is ready to be served.
- Serve Herbed Tofu & Spinach In Tomato Basil Sauce with Cream Of Mushroom & Spring Onion Soup, Creamy Polenta, for a lovely weeknight dinner.
The HealthifyMe Note
Tofu is a healthy eater’s delight. However, too much tofu can lead to uric acid accumulation in the lower part of the abdomen and may lead to gout in the worst-case scenario. It may also cause an imbalance in estrogen secretion. In addition, it may interfere with iodine absorption in the body. Therefore, like all things great, eat tofu in moderation. Learn to study how your body feels after eating the same. If you are experiencing discomfort or bloating, immediately take a break. Instinctively you will learn about your body and its response to even healthy foods.
Tofu is rich in protein and other beneficial nutrients. It adds flavour to stir-fries, smoothies, soups, sauces, and even desserts. In addition, tofu contains compounds that can fend off diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer.
This soy product may also aid bone and brain health, among other things. As a result, tofu is a fantastic addition to a balanced diet.