By-Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Tofu is made by coagulating soymilk to create curds. The curds are then pressed and compacted into the gelatinous white blocks recognized as tofu. It is an important source of protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians. Tofu is available for purchase in health food stores and online. A diet that contains a variety of plant-based foods appears to contribute to overall health and wellbeing, and a lower risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can enhance the skin and hair, boost energy, and help maintain a healthy weight. Research has linked tofu, with its high levels of isoflavones, to a lower risk of several age- and lifestyle-related diseases. (1)
Differences between Tofu and Paneer
Paneer and tofu appear to be alike even though they are prepared with different varieties of milk. Many vegetarians prefer paneer, a milk product and tofu, a soy product. Cooking tofu is quite a tedious task, but paneer can be easily made at home. Tofu, a versatile food product, is preferred by people who are trying to lose weight because of its low calorie, low-fat content, and also it is easily digestible and more nutritious for the body. The taste and texture of both are similar. Their originality is one of the main differences. The fat content in both the products vary as paneer is made from milk with high-fat content and tofu is obtained from coagulated milk or soy milk with low-fat content. Paneer is perishable because it is made out of fresh milk and tofu can last for a significant period. (2)
The benefits of Tofu
- Studies have shown that if you eat enough tofu, you can get the appropriate amount of protein, total fat, carbohydrates, and fiber. To get the same amount you must eat about twice as much tofu as you would meat, but tofu is lower in calories so it balances out.
- Tofu has less cholesterol, fewer triglycerides, and less low-density lipoprotein than meat. That means if you switch out meat for tofu on a regular basis, it can actually help you lower these numbers. This is great news for people who want to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure (hypertension), as well as help those who already suffer from those conditions.
- Tofu is known to be high in calcium. In fact, a four ounce serving of tofu contains about as much calcium as a full eight ounce glass of cow’s milk. Calcium is an essential nutrient for growing children. It is also important for women who are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.
- It is been widely documented that tofu contains isoflavones, which have a variety of health benefits. Examples include the ability to ease symptoms of menopause and potentially lower the risk of some cancers, most notably breast cancer.
- Tofu has been shown to be very filling. Including it regularly in your meals can help prevent accidental overeating. Since tofu is low in calories, that means you will be consuming fewer calories overall and that can help combat obesity and other weight-related issues.
- It contains no saturated fat. Saturated fat is one of the worst kinds of fat and can contribute to heart disease, hypertension, and other diseases. This helps increase the value of tofu for those who want to be more heart smart.
- Tofu is considered to be a “complete food” because it contains all eight essential amino acids that people need to live.
- It is been shown that tofu has a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglycerides, lessen depression, decrease inflammation, and help alleviate rheumatoid arthritis.
- It also contains a decent amount of selenium. Selenium has antioxidant properties that help prevent cell death and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- Tofu has a good amount of iron, copper, and manganese. These nutrients work to help the body absorb each other and all three are essential for a healthy diet but can also help boost energy.
- Soybean foods in general are high in fiber. Fiber can help keep us regular in the bathroom, but fiber can also reduce the risk of stroke, control blood sugar, relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, and lower the risk of hemorrhoids. (3)
Varieties and Preparation
Tofu can be purchased in bulk or individual packages, refrigerated or not. You can also find it dehydrated, freeze-dried, jarred, or canned. Generally, heavy processing is unnecessary to make tofu, so choose varieties that have short ingredients lists. Once opened, tofu blocks need to be rinsed prior to use. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week by covering with water; as long as you change the water often. Tofu can also be frozen in its original package for up to five months. Finally, making your own tofu with soybeans, lemon, and water is also possible. Tofu can be found in a variety of shapes and forms. Homemade tofu is also surprisingly easy to make. (4)