Spotlight on Tofu
Tofu (aka Bean curd) is a popular food made from soya. It’s made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it – similar to how dairy cheese is made by curdling and solidifying milk. In this post, we shine a spotlight on Tofu which is becoming increasingly popular, especially as a meat substitute in much loved dishes.
Tofu isn’t anything new, in fact it’s been used in both Thai and Chinese cooking as a staple for generations (we’re talking a thousand years and a bit). It can be cooked in different ways to change its texture from smooth and soft to become crisp and crunchy. Legend has it that Tofu was accidentally created when a Chinese cook accidentally curdled soy milk when he added nigari seaweed.
Tofu is a great source of protein and contains all eight essential amino acids. It also contains iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, copper, zinc, vitamin B1, selenium, and phosphorous.
- Heart Matters – Consuming tofu can help to lower levels of LDL cholesterol, which in turn can decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
- Protected Liver – studies suggest that tofu can be used to prevent liver damage caused by free radicals.
- Strong Bones – Tofu strengthens your bones and muscles, preventing major problems like arthritis and bone loss. Stronger muscles and bones are made possible by the rich dose of iron and calcium you get in a single serving.
- Weight loss – A single serving has less than 100 calories. If you’re looking for a food that can help you reduce your calorie intake and enhance weight loss, tofu is an excellent option.
- For women – Containing isoflavones (a kind of phytoestrogen) which have a similar structure to the female hormone estrogen, tofu is known to be a great addition to the female diet. The isoflavones naturally bind to oestrogen receptor sites in human cells include breast cells (which could help reduce the risk of breast cancer). Furthermore, for those entering menopause (where your body stops its natural production of estrogen) the phytoestrogens in tofu, will act as a weaker form of estrogen, which may help relieve symptoms by boosting levels slightly, reducing hot flushes in some women.
Selection and Storage
- Available in both bulk and individual packages, both of which are refrigerated, you can also purchase tofu in sealed containers kept at room temperature, which doesn’t need to be refrigerated until opened.
- When opened, all tofu needs to be rinsed, covered with water and kept in a refrigerated container. If you want to keep it fresh for up to a week, you need to change the water often. If kept in its original package, then you can freeze it for up to five months.
- If you are selecting tofu on the basis of fat content, the firmer tofus are usually the highest in fat, and the softest tofus, often called silky or silken, are the lowest.
- If you are looking for tofu with higher calcium content, look for products that specifically say “calcium-precipitated” on the label or that include calcium sulfate in their ingredient list.
- If you are looking for tofu with higher magnesium content, look for products that say “nigari tofu” or “prepared from nigari flakes” on the label.
- Finally, if you are looking for a tofu that is more easily digested and more likely to contain nutrients in forms that are better absorbed, look for fermented tofu.
Getting more in your diet
- Extra firm tofus are best for baking, grilling and stir-fries, while soft tofu (such as silken tofu) is suitable for sauces, desserts, shakes and salad dressings.
- Try experimenting on your own – you could slice it; marinate it; grill it; chop it into small pieces and fry it with garlic and other herbs until golden; blend soft tofu with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice to make an aioli dip; scramble it with your favourite veggies and tumeric to give it a “yellow” hue similar to scrambled eggs; add cubes of tofu to miso soup etc.