As you learn more about tofu and other plant-based protein foods, you may have noticed nutritionists mention that tofu is very digestible, making the proteins easier to access.
On the other hand, you may have also heard some say that tofu is hard on their stomachs and difficult to digest. So what’s the truth? Is tofu easy to digest?
Because of how tofu is made and processed, it’s much easier to digest than whole soybeans and other protein-rich vegan foods.
However, because it is a plant-based food and retains some of the plant fibers, tofu is less digestible than meat. So, the digestibility of tofu depends on what you compare it to and the state of your digestion.
Let’s take a closer look.
Is Tofu High in Fiber?
Tofu does have some dietary fiber, although not as much as “high-fiber” foods. Tofu has just 0.4g of dietary fiber per 100 grams.
For people looking for high-fiber, protein-rich plant-based foods, tempeh is a better choice than tofu for fiber content.
Is Tofu Hard on Your Stomach?
The honest answer is that soybeans can be hard on your stomach.
Legumes, and many nuts and seeds, contain compounds that are difficult to digest and may cause digestive distress or flatulence.
Soybeans, other legumes, and pulses contain complex saccharides, enzymes, and phytates, along with natural fiber that is not easily broken down in our digestive system.
Many of these compounds are made more digestible with ordinary food preparation methods like heating and cooking, soaking and boiling, or grinding and chopping.
For example, when soybeans are made into tofu, they are ground up, soaked in water, strained and filtered, then heated and coagulated.
This process makes tofu much more digestible than whole soybeans.
Another factor to consider is the state of your digestion. If you are new to eating tofu or legumes, your gut bacteria are less accustomed to digesting these foods.
However, as you eat more of these foods over time, your body will produce more of the bacteria necessary to digest tofu, resulting in less gas and less discomfort.
Is Tofu Easier to Digest than Meat?
Meat is actually easier to digest than tofu.
Humans have enzymes and gut bacteria optimized for digesting meat, and meat is low in fiber and other non-digestible compounds.
When meat is cooked and well-chewed, it is one of the most digestible foods.
Best Ways to Eat Tofu for Easy Digestion
Here are some tips to make tofu easier to digest:
If you are new to eating tofu or legumes, it is best to start small.
The suggested serving size for tofu is 3oz/85g, but you may want to start with half that amount for a few days and see how your body feels.
Marinate In Acid
Marinating tofu is the best way to impart flavor, and all great marinades include a combination of fats, acids, and seasonings.
However, ensure that your marinade consists of an acid, which may help break down some of the compounds in tofu before you eat it.
For example, rice wine or apple cider vinegar, lemon or lime juice, and many prepared hot sauces are high in acid and would make a good marinade.
Alternate With Tempeh
Tempeh is another high-protein soy-based food, but tempeh is fermented.
Fermentation imparts different flavors, makes food more digestible, unlocks some less accessible nutrients, and adds prebiotics to your diet.
Alternating tofu with tempeh may help boost your gut bacteria to improve your digestion of legumes.
Try Making Your Own Tofu
Making your own tofu from soy milk is easier than you think, and heating the soy slurry (especially in the microwave) makes the tofu more digestible.
In addition, some people have found that experimenting with heating at different stages and for different time lengths makes their tofu more delicious and digestible.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Some people are simply sensitive to soy and will always have digestive issues when eating it.
If you continue to experience discomfort when eating tofu, don’t continue to force it. There are dozens of other delicious vegan proteins to choose from.
Tofu is much easier to digest than whole beans and much easier to digest than many other plant-based foods because the grinding, soaking, and heating process makes tofu more digestible.
However, tofu does retain some of the indigestible compounds that make legumes hard on the body, and some people are more sensitive to it than others.
For people new to eating these foods, starting with small amounts of tofu and eating it consistently can give your digestive system time to adapt and increase the bacteria that break down the saccharides, allowing you to digest it more easily and more completely.
Another alternative is to choose tempeh instead of, or alongside, tofu.
As a fermented food, it is easier to digest and improves your gut bacteria while providing much of the same nutrients as tofu.
Tempeh is also higher in fiber than tofu, which is also good for your digestive health.
Hopefully, this explains why some people say that tofu is so digestible, and others claim that it gives them digestive problems.
The answer depends on what you compare tofu to and your gut health and digestive system.
Be consistent, and you will soon unlock the powerful nutritional benefits of tofu without the unpleasant digestive side effects.