Tofu is an affordable and versatile plant-based food that has been steadily increasing in sales and popularity worldwide for decades.
As more people seek high protein plant-based foods, they learn more about cooking and preparing tofu.
As a result, it has become more widely available in ordinary grocery stores and markets and has become a regular part of the American diet.
But how much protein is enough protein? Is tofu better than meat? Let’s explore these questions.
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Is Tofu a Good Meat Replacement?
Several factors make tofu suitable as a meat replacement. Here are some of the most important factors to consider.
Like meat, tofu is high in protein, with all nine essential amino acids humans require in their diet.
Tofu is also lower in fat and calories than meat and is a good source of calcium and iron.
Flavor and Texture
Many plant-based high protein foods have a texture meat lovers find unpleasantly mushy or spongy.
However, firm and extra-firm tofu, especially when pressed and marinated, can have a great savory flavor and satisfying texture and mouth feel.
In addition, tofu’s fantastic ability to absorb flavors from other spices and seasonings allows it to enhance almost any dish or recipe.
Soy and tofu require a lot of water to grow and create, and there is a high energy cost for producing and transporting tofu throughout the supply chain.
However, a beef burger has more than twenty times the ecological impact of tofu.
Tofu uses 12 times less carbon, 40 times less land, and almost 10 times less water than beef.
Is Tofu Protein as Good as Meat Protein?
Meat, dairy, and eggs are all considered “complete” proteins because they all have the nine essential amino acids that people need to eat in their diet.
Very few plant-based foods contain all nine amino acids; most high-protein plants contain some essential amino acids, but not all of them.
Soybeans and tofu are complete proteins containing all nine essential amino acids, which makes tofu an excellent source of plant-based proteins.
Because it is a comprehensive source of all nine essential amino acids, the quality of the protein in tofu is as good as in meat.
Many nutritionists would say that tofu is not as “good” a source of protein as meat because tofu is high in water, so it has less protein by weight than meat does.
Therefore, a person needs to eat more tofu to get as much protein as is in meat.
However, tofu is also lower in fat and calories than meat, so eating a larger amount does not carry the same health consequences as high-calorie, high-fat foods.
Is it OK to Eat Tofu Every Day?
Tofu is a healthy food that is high in protein, low in fat and calories, and easy to digest.
Tofu is an excellent choice for many people who want plant-based protein or want to eat a more nutritious diet.
Tofu and other legumes are high in isoflavones. Many isoflavones in tofu are phytoestrogens, naturally occurring chemicals structurally similar to the estrogen hormone in the human body.
Therefore, it can bind to our estrogen receptors and either affect our hormone levels or act on the body similarly to a hormone.
This topic is highly controversial, and the science is inconclusive, partly because we don’t have a sound scientific understanding of the endocrine system, to begin with.
Phytoestrogens have been studied primarily in animals, with dramatically different conclusions. Some studies suggest that:
- Phytoestrogens may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers in women
- Phytoestrogens may reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
- Phytoestrogens may promote a higher sperm count, concentration, and motility in adult men
- Phytoestrogens may lower sperm count or be associated with testicular cancer when consumed by males in utero
- In babies, some isoflavones may stimulate cell growth, inhibit it, or may have no effect at all
Many people aren’t clear whether tofu, isoflavones, or phytoestrogens are safe due to decades of rumors, myths, and conflicting research.
In contrast, some people purchase them as a dietary supplement and claim they have fantastic health benefits.
The truth is that human beings have been eating isoflavone-rich legumes for all of history, and soybeans currently form a large portion of the human diet worldwide.
Phytoestrogens have been deemed generally recognized as safe by the US FDA. Recent large-scale reviews of the literature tend to conclude that:
- Soy foods high in isoflavones and phytoestrogens do not affect testosterone levels in adult men
- Soy foods and isoflavones have a wide range of positive effects on the body and are deemed overall more beneficial than harmful
However, a few studies show that the isoflavones and phytoestrogens in soy foods and tofu may affect the development of babies and children.
Therefore, until more research is done, pregnant and breastfeeding women may want to reduce the amount of soy and other isoflavone-rich foods in their diet; young children should probably not eat tofu or soy foods daily.
Tofu is a high protein, low calorie, healthy food that is better than meat for your body and the environment.
Stir fry it and serve it with rice or throw tofu in a hearty soup – it’ll make for an excellent protein in almost any dish.
The isoflavones in tofu may have a lot of health benefits and are not shown to harm adults when eaten even day.
Because of the conflicting research and many unknown factors, pregnant and breastfeeding women may want to reduce their tofu intake and not regularly feed soy foods to young children, but it’s always best to consult with a pediatrician or nutritionist.
For healthy adults, it’s not difficult to argue that tofu is better than meat and makes for an excellent meat substitute.