Tofu is the superfood that everyone loves because it’s low in calories, low in fat and high in protein. It’s ideal for weight loss and it’s packed full of healthy nutrients.
You can cook it in all kinds of ways, and it soaks in the flavors of the food around it to make for a fantastic dish. But what is tofu made of and how healthy is it really?
Does it have fewer calories than chicken? And is it as good for weight loss as everyone suggests? In this article we answer all these questions and discuss the health benefits of tofu.
What is tofu and what is it made of?
The history of Tofu goes back thousands of years. In fact, it's thought to have first been made by accident in China. Across Asia, it remains a staple food to this day.
But what is tofu made out of? Tofu is also known as beancurd, and it's totally plant-based. Tofu is made from soybeans which have been turned into soy milk. Using a coagulation process similar to the one for making cheese, the soy milk is then pressed into solid tofu. Unlike cheese though, tofu is completely vegan, and for this reason, it's become a staple of meat-free diets across the world in recent years.
This versatile plant-based meat substitute changes in texture and consistency, depending on the method used to process the final product.
Tofu is not only vegan and low in calories, but it’s also low in carbohydrates, it’s gluten-free, and, in our opinion, rather tasty too!
Tofu nutrition facts
Tofu comes from soybeans, beautiful pale Asian beans packed with protein and all nine amino fatty acids! Tofu also boasts a range of macro and micronutrients.
Most notably, tofu contains phytoestrogens, yes, estrogen for plants. Studies have shown that these estrogens could bind to the oestrogen receptors found in women, which could help lower their risk of breast cancer, contrary to a rumor that soy can increase breast cancer risk.
There are also claims that tofu and other soy products can help combat heart disease and support women through menopause.
Let's take a more in-depth look at the nutrition of firm tofu. Remember this will change depending on the type of tofu you eat, but since firm tofu has the highest calories, this is a good place to start. Eating softer tofu will bring all these numbers down.
Here are a few firm tofu nutrition facts for you, for an average serving size of 80g:
- Calories 117
- Fat: 7g
- Carbohydrates: 2g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 14g
- Sodium 11 mg
But let's break these tofu nutrition facts down even further.
How many carbs in tofu? Generally, in 1/5 of a pack, you'll only find 2g of carbs, but it depends on the firmness of the tofu. It also contains 2g of fiber which is excellent news for your gut.
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.
As we mentioned, the total carb content on your tofu depends on the firmness of the tofu itself.
Tofu is produced to have 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 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.
As mentioned, there are a few different types of tofu you might find in your local supermarket. They all have a different number of nutrients and calories, so it's good to know the difference.
Tofu is usually classed as either soft, medium, firm, or extra firm. You may find places where soft tofu is called silken tofu as well. The softer your tofu, the more water it has. The firmer your tofu, the less water it has. As there's more water, there would be fewer calories in firm tofu than in extra firm tofu, for example.
Even though there are more calories in tofu that is extra-firm, there would also be more protein and a higher nutrient count too.
Tofu is usually prepared in large batches and cut up into smaller blocks for sale after processing. This is how you're going to buy your tofu, so you might be wondering how to tell how many calories are in a block of tofu?
Here are a few quick calorie facts for a block of medium firmness tofu:
- Size of tofu block: 340g
- Calories per block: 320
- Servings per tofu block: 4
- Average serving size per person: 85g
- Calories per serving: 80
That gives your average tofu block just one calorie per gram. Don't forget, the less firm your tofu block is, the fewer calories there will be.
Of course, you can also prepare your tofu in a variety of delicious ways, but remember, the way you prepare tofu can also affect the number of calories it'll end up having. The most popular preparation methods are frying, steaming, or boiling. The healthiest way to prepare tofu is by steaming or boiling, as this preserves the most nutritional value.
Frying is much less healthy, and the oil can double the number of calories you'll be eating. For that reason, there are many more calories in fried tofu than there will be in a similar-sized portion of steamed tofu.
Does tofu have protein? When it comes to protein, tofu is your best friend! It is packed with protein. It's also a complete protein because it contains all 9 amino acids. This makes it great for vegans, veggies and people who don't like to eat too much meat.
The protein found in tofu keeps you fuller for longer, which means you'll be less likely to get cravings and overindulge.
To choose the healthiest block of protein goodness, opt for organic, with no added preservatives. Or better yet, make your own! This is the best way to make sure no nasty GMO's are present and that you're getting the best nutrition out of your tofu.
Tofu vs chicken
If you're eating less meat, one of the biggest challenges is to make sure you get enough protein into a meal without using meat! We all know the benefits of protein in chicken breast. But how much protein does tofu have, compared to chicken?
For every 100 grams of tofu, you will find 8 grams of protein. How much protein in chicken? Skinless roast chicken is comprised approximately 46% of protein.
Calories, taste, and convenience all play a role in picking your perfect protein.
Tofu has become a rising star in the meat substitute world, especially because it is full of protein. 3oz of tofu is comprised of about 18% protein while skinless roast chicken comes in at approximately 46%. But that doesn’t mean it's any less healthy! Tofu and chicken protein isn’t the only nutritional value to take into consideration.
Studies show that people often over-consume protein without even realising it. The recommended amount for a sedentary person varies between 46 and 56 grams per day.
That depends on the type of meat. When comparing protein in tofu, chicken, and beef, tofu protein levels fall right in the middle! But when it comes to our comparison, chicken has 188% more protein than it’s plant-based counterpart.
If you are looking for other plant based sources of protein, you’re always going to win with beans, lentils and other kinds of vegetables.
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.
However, it’s not a good idea to eat tofu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, just because it’s low in calories. Moderation is vital in any diet.
Health benefits of tofu
There's no point delving deep into tofu's nutritional content if you're not going to cook it well. 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 also don't suggest frying your tofu. Instead, go for boiling, steaming, or even grilling. These are the cooking methods that allow the tofu to maintain its high nutritional content.
As with every other manufactured product, different tofu brands have different values. Nutrition in tofu depends on what it's made from and what was added to it.
Besides preservatives, watch out for the spiced and flavored brands, especially if you are gluten-free, as some spices use gluten as a filler. No matter what flavor persuasion you prefer, please read the labels and make sure it's full of quality ingredients.
By carefully considering what goes into your tofu, you'll reap the health benefits of adding this delightful food to your life.
Aside from the nutritional benefits already explored, tofu contains what are known as isoflavones. This is a phytoestrogen which is similar to normal hormonal estrogen and is known to remedy certain things like:
- Reducing hot flashes during menopause
- Preventing certain cancers, like breast and prostate cancer
- Reducing the risk of a heart attack
- Potentially helping with osteoporosis
Final say: is tofu healthy?
The tofu health benefits are fantastic. Slowly incorporate this option into your weekly dinners, and be amazed at the many fabulous flavors it can take on! From flavor to function, tofu is a clear winner when it comes to the eternal debate of tofu and chicken.
You really can't beat tofu if you're looking for a healthy addition to your meals. It's great for vegetarian and vegan diets, as it's packed full of protein and as we've seen, it really is low in calories.
With the average tofu serving size having just 80 calories to its name, it's great for weight loss and diets. There really aren't too many other foods out there with so few calories, yet such great nutrition. And if we've made you hungry, then don't forget, you can cook tofu in so many ways too!