When I told my family I was no longer eating meat ten years ago, the first words out of my mother's mouth were, "but how will you get the proper vitamins/nutrients/minerals?"
Nowadays, people have more knowledge regarding vegetarian and vegan diets as the movement grows to reduce or remove animal products from our diets. The truth is that with a little effort, you can easily get all of the nutrition you need from vegetarian protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Calcium is one mineral our body needs to maintain healthy bones and carry out essential bodily functions. People who eat a moderate amount of dairy and meat quickly hit their recommended dairy intake because both are considered calcium-rich foods. Vegan and vegetarian diets can still be high in calcium by incorporating a few other calcium sources regularly.
Dark, leafy green vegetables, beans, and seeds are excellent sources of calcium for vegans.
Tofu is a massive source of calcium, but not all tofu is created equal. Differences in processing your tofu affect how much calcium is in it. It's essential to learn the differences so you can buy high-quality tofu with the calcium content you need.
Keep reading to get the low-down on these critical points:
- why we need calcium sulfate
- how much calcium is in tofu
- how to properly prepare tofu
- a list of other vegan sources of calcium that will help keep your body strong
Why do we need to eat calcium?
Calcium is a vital mineral needed to perform many of our day to day bodily functions. Our bodies don't naturally produce calcium for us, so we must take in adequate calcium levels in our diet.
The most common knowledge surrounding calcium is its ability to help maintain good bone health!
The majority of calcium storage in our bodies is within our bones and teeth. Bone mass and density lower as we age, so this store of calcium will help to keep our bone structure healthier throughout time.
However, calcium does much more than maintain bones - it helps our blood vessels, muscles, and blood clotting. Calcium sulfate also helps our nerves to transmit essential signals throughout our bodies. It helps to maintain balance and control with other nutrients in the body, like magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.
Recommended daily allowance of calcium
The National Institute of Health recommends adults between the ages 19-50 ingest 1,000mg of calcium daily. This amount increases to 1,200mg a day for seniors due to inevitable declining bone density as the body ages.
Does tofu have calcium?
Tofu calcium content varies from brand to brand.
Traditional tofu contains roughly 176mg per serving. Good-quality tofu with added calcium, called calcium-set tofu, should have approximately 350mg of calcium per serving. That's about 30% of the recommended daily intake of calcium.
Always be diligent in reading tofu nutrition fact labels before purchasing!
What is coagulation in food?
Coagulation is the crucial determiner of calcium-levels in firm tofu. It's a process that changes a protein's structure from liquid to solid through heat, acid, enzymes, or mechanical manipulation.
For example, when you cook an egg, the egg white turns solid. The process of using heat changes the protein structure within the egg white from a liquid to a solid.
How does coagulation come into play during tofu-making?
Tofu is made by adding in a coagulating agent to soy milk to create soy curds. The curds are pressed to remove water. The tofu then gets pressed into the slabs you see in the grocery store.
Silken and soft tofu are lightly pressed, whereas extra-firm and firm tofu are pressed more thoroughly to remove most of the water content.
What coagulating agent is used to make tofu?
A few common coagulating agents affect tofu nutrition.
When calcium sulfate is used for coagulation, the resulting tofu is high in dietary calcium. Calcium sulfate is a naturally occurring mineral that creates tofu, which is tender and slightly brittle in structure. It is tasteless, so the flavour of the tofu is unchanged.
When magnesium chloride or calcium chloride are used, the resulting tofu contains a much lower amount of calcium. Calcium chloride is often used in the US for tofu production due to its cheaper cost. It also imparts no extra flavour into the tofu.
How to cook tofu
Preparing good-tasting tofu doesn't have to be complicated. Quickly turn this mild-flavoured protein into a delicious dish with very little preparation required.
- Buy calcium-enriched firm or extra firm tofu. Remove from packaging.
- Press the tofu for 15 min.*
- Chop your tofu into 1-inch cubes or thin slabs.
- Marinate your tofu for 20-30 min. Make your marinade or use a premade marinade.
- Pan-fry the tofu in the marinade until golden brown. Flip every few minutes to ensure each side gets crispy.
- Serve with your choice of side dish.**
* Use this tofu press to save time. If you don't own a press, don't skip this step! It's crucial for avoiding sogginess and absorbing sauces. You can press your tofu between two heavy plates for 2-3 hours instead.
** We recommend jasmine rice or rice noodles to pair with most soy dishes.
Vegan calcium sources
Tofu is one part of a diet rich in calcium, but what else can you eat to ensure you're hitting 1000mg a day?
Here is our own list of foods that are rich in calcium:
- soybeans, tempeh, and calcium-fortified soy milk
- peas, beans, and lentils
- nuts, especially almonds
- sesame seeds and tahini
- chia seeds
- flax seeds
- gluten-free ancient grains like amaranth and teff
- seaweed and nori
- bok choy
- mustard, turnip, and collard greens
- blackberries and raspberries
- blackstrap molasses
Our final word on tofu calcium
Adding calcium into your vegan or vegetarian diet doesn't have to be hard - incorporate a few of these nutrient-rich foods into your daily meals and snacks, and you'll be hitting your calcium targets quickly. Be sure the tofu you are purchasing from the store has calcium!
Cook up tofu a few times a week! Add it into your pasta, and stir-fries for an extra calcium kick. Scrambled tofu at breakfast is a fantastic option to replace traditional egg dishes.