Food experts often present tofu as a superfood packed full of nutrients, but it's essential to understand tofu's nutritional content and how it fits into your diet. Tofu has become a popular meat-substitute for vegetarians and vegans because tofu has a high protein content and can be easily adapted to suit a range of dishes.
But are there carbs in tofu?
Unlike meats, however, tofu does contain a small level of carbs. The carb content in tofu could affect how regularly you include it in your diet if you're going low carb or keto for weight loss purposes.
In this article, we explore tofu carbs content, and we see if tofu could be the best low carb vegan protein for you!
How is tofu made, and what's it made from?
Tofu is wholly vegetarian and friendly, even though the production process is strangely similar to making cheese. Tofu has long been an integral part of East Asian diets for thousands of years, and it's an essential component of many dishes in China, Japan, and Korea. Tofu has, in recent years, been taken on as a vegetarian alternative to meat, providing lots of protein and being readily flavoured (you can easily make it taste like meat).
Tofu is produced from soybeans. Soybeans are turned into soy milk, which is then separated into beancurd and whey (just like cheese) using a coagulant. Once the beancurd has been scooped out, tofu presses are used to mould it into a firm block of tofu.
Are there carbs in tofu?
It takes just three ingredients to prepare tofu: soybeans, water, and a coagulating agent.
The nutritional content primarily comes from the soybeans, of course, and consequently, there are carbs in tofu.
Let's look at the nutritional value that you find in a 3.5 ounce serving of tofu. Keep in mind, this is an average (and it can vary depending on the type of tofu and its firmness), but this gives us a good idea of what we are consuming.
Average tofu nutritional value:
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
- Fibre: 1 gram
- Fat: 4 grams
- Calories: 70 cal
Is tofu low carb?
There are carbs in tofu; however, at just 2 grams per serving, you can still classify it as a low-carb food. Tofu is suitable to include in low-carb diets and keto-diets. In comparison, a 3.5 ounce serving of pasta will have up to 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Tofu is often used as a substitute for chicken or beef, both of which contain 0 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Comparatively, tofu has more carbs, but the difference is minimal.
Carbs in tofu: how the firmness affects the carb content
As we mentioned, the total carb content on your tofu depends on the firmness of the tofu itself.
Tofu is produced to be a distinctive level of 'firmness.' While the production process and ingredients essentially remain the same, the firmness produces a varying carb content in the tofu once complete.
Tofu is classified as one of the following:
- Silken (softest)
Silken tofu nutrition will vary from extra-firm tofu nutrition, so it's important to know how much variation there can be. Extra-firm tofu is more compact (firmer) than a smoother, silkier, silken tofu (which has a much softer texture). As a result, the firmer the tofu is, the higher the carb content is going to be.
To put this in perspective, a 3.5 ounce serving of silken tofu will have around 1.4 grams of carbs (below our average). A 3.5 ounce serving of extra-firm tofu can have 2.3 grams of carbs. It's a large percentage increase, so if you're trying to cut out as many carbs as possible in your diet, you'd want to eat softer tofu rather than firmer tofu.
Tofu health benefits
You can include tofu in a low carb diet, but tofu's benefits are significantly more than its low-carb content. Tofu is packed full of nutrients. It's low in calories but extremely high in essential nutrients such as protein and fat. There's even a sizeable quantity of fibre in there too.
On top of this, there are several other vital nutrients present in tofu. Let's take a look at what other nutrients you can find in a 3.5 ounce serving of tofu.
Nutritional elements in tofu:
- Manganese: 31% of the RDI
- Calcium: 20% of the RDI
- Selenium: 14% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
- Copper: 11% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
- Iron: 9% of the RDI
- Zinc: 6% of the RDI
These are valuable nutrients, and we can find a huge percentage of our RDI (Recommended Daily Intake) in just one serving of tofu. For instance, we need calcium for bone growth, and we need iron for carrying oxygen around our bodies. These are vital nutrients, and they are found in huge quantities in tofu.
Is tofu good for weight loss?
Okay, so tofu has both a carb and fat content; however, these values are still conducive to weight loss. The fat content of tofu is much lower than meat equivalents such as chicken or beef, which can be up to 15 grams per 3.5-ounce servings.
You can still classify tofu as low-carb and low fat. Substituting meat for tofu can easily result in a loss of fat and calories in your diet. Additionally, tofu's high protein content allows you to repair muscles after exercise, rather than having them broken down to be used for fuel.
In short, yes. Tofu is good for weight loss.
Tofu health risks
But are there any health risks when it comes to consuming tofu as part of your diet (particularly a weight loss diet)?
As with any food, there are pros and cons to consider when deciding if tofu is a good fit for your diet. Tofu is often seen in a negative light because of its connection to the soybean industry. The vast majority of soybeans are produced in the US using GMO techniques, and while these have no proven ill-effects yet, the science is still in its early stages.
Possible adverse environmental effects cause some people not to buy tofu. However, there is one easy way around this. Simply buy non-GMO soybeans, which are increasingly available in stores.
Tofu also only works as part of a well-balanced diet that includes exercise. If you're not trying to lose weight, you might need to supplement your diet with more fat and carbs to maintain your body weight!
How can I cook healthy tofu?
There's no point delving deep into tofu's nutritional content if you're not going to cook it well either. Keeping those nutrients inside your tofu is an integral part of the cooking process; after all, why would you want to lose those healthy nutrients?
You can prepare tofu in many ways, and it complements a surprising number of dishes. To keep from adding calories and fat, remember to avoid using oils that are high in saturated fats. Tofu is naturally low in fat, so there's no reason to add to it!
We don't suggest frying your tofu if you want to keep it as healthy as possible. Instead, go for boiling, steaming, or even grilling. These cooking methods allow the tofu to maintain its high nutritional content.
For example, tofu works well in soups or stews. The broth boils the tofu as the soup cooks, making your meal incredibly easy. If you want to fry tofu, try to stir-fry it on high heat, just as you would vegetables, to keep in the goodness.
Good carbs in tofu or bad carbs in tofu?
Tofu has some major health benefits, particularly when you need a vegetarian/vegan substitute for meat. Of course, there are some downsides too, but we'll let you decide if the positives outweigh the negatives.
So, yes; there are carbs in tofu. However, they are low in quantity which means the benefits of tofu are make it great for a low carb or keto-friendly diet. Tofu packs a lot of protein, too, as well as plenty more useful nutrients.
Will you be adding tofu to your diet?