Tofu, also known as bean curd, is the compressed curds of soy milk. Tofu originated in China about 2000 years ago, and soon became a very popular ingredient throughout Asia. This largely coincided with the spread of Buddhism, in which the high protein level of tofu is essential in the vegetarian diet of this religion.
First used in the English language around 1770, tofu is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient. It is highly versatile, being eaten in burgers, salads, flans, soups or desserts. It has a spongy texture, and with a somewhat neutral flavour itself, it absorbs the flavour of the dish you are cooking. It is not only a healthy addition to a dish but it adds a textural dimension to a recipe.
Tofu is a good source of protein, providing all of the amino acids required in the diet, as well as minerals such as calcium. However, if you are prone to thyroid problems, then limiting the amount of soy in your diet may be necessary.
Two main types of tofu exist– that originating in China, often known as regular tofu, and that from Japan, known as silken tofu. Silken tofu has a much softer and creamier texture than regular tofu which keeps its shape more when being handled and cooked.
On top of the simplicity of just two types of tofu, tofu also comes in different consistencies, ranging from soft to extra-firm. Choosing a consistency largely comes down to preference and the type of recipe you are making, with soft tofu being good for pureeing or pie fillings, and firmer tofu for stir fries or for crumbling.
Having enough protein in the diet is vital for building and repairing tissue. Meat and eggs are often seen as the main source of protein in the diet, but for vegetarians and vegans, in particular, finding an alternative can be important. This is where tofu is often an excellent option, vegetarian or not, as it is relatively high in protein.
Not only this, but tofu is low in saturated fats and has no cholesterol. It is a great source of iron, calcium and magnesium and is also gluten-free.
70 kcal, 8.2g protein, 4.2g fat, 1.7g carbohydrate, 0.9g fibre
Tofu is well-known for its high protein levels, and as it is good protein, this has been found to lower high blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, this is not the only health benefit that tofu should be praised for.
A constant battle with weight is one familiar to many people, but research suggests that tofu, particularly fermented tofu, contains certain peptides which break down protein and are sometimes associated with prevention and treatment of obesity.
High in calcium, tofu is often used as a dairy free source of this mineral, which is very important for bone health and regulating muscle contractions, such as in the heart.
Tofu is often seen as a good ingredient to combat the effects of ageing. It is thought to reduce hair loss and improve elasticity of the skin, and some people even form a paste from tofu and apply it to the skin. Eating tofu has also been seen to reduce risk or delay progression of age-related mental diseases.
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