Tofu supplies of full spectrum of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals, protecting against a variety of health conditions including heart disease and cancer.
Tofu, made from the curds of soybean milk, is primarily available in three textures: firm, extra firm and silken.Silken tofu has a custard-like consistency and is usually substituted into dressings, protein shakes and desserts.Firm and extra firm varieties are usually cut up into chunks that stand up well to marinating and can be sautéed, grilled or baked.Tofu itself is rather bland, but strongly absorbs the flavors used to prepare it.
Proponents of tofu for heart health point to the low incidence of heart disease in populations that consume tofu regularly, such as in Asia.The soy protein and isoflavones in tofu are considered a powerful cholesterol fighters - studies show that regular tofu consumption can lead to up to a 30% drop in overall cholesterol.Tofu is believed to lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, strong indicators of heart disease.One serving of tofu also contains 15% of the daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy substance normally found in fish.These fatty acids not only improve cholesterol but are also believed to aid in helping blood to clot properly.
Menopause Hormone Balance
The isoflavones in tofu act as a form of estrogen in the body, and have been shown to be beneficial to women in both peri-menopause and menopause.In peri-menopause, some believe that the plant estrogen in tofu can help the body regulate the dramatic fluctuations of the hormone during this time.When estrogen levels are low in menopause, isoflavones can help maintain hormone levels and fend off estrogen loss.The body's supply of estrogen affects many potential health conditions, including osteoporosis, breast cancer and gynecological cancers, so regulating this hormone is of vital importance to women.
The same isoflavones that protect women in menopause can be beneficial in fending off prostate cancer in men.Studies have shown that isoflavones can help slow prostate cancer growth and protect against enlargement of the prostate gland.
Strong Muscles and Energy
One 4 ounce serving of tofu packs 18% of an adult's daily requirement for protein, and protein is crucial in building muscle.That same 4 ounce serving also contains one-third of the daily requirement of iron, as well as strong doses of antioxidants manganese, copper and selenium.These nutrients contribute to maintaining energy levels. Anti-oxidents are also believed to help prevent against a myriad of cancers by protecting DNA.
Tofu is a good source of dietary calcium, protecting against bone weakness, loss, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.A single serving delivers 10% of the daily value for calcium, yet has less calories than many dairy products.
Because tofu packs so many nutrients into a serving of between 70-100 calories, it can be a great part of a weight loss regimen or a way to maintain a healthy weight.It delivers the protein benefits of meat while still being low in saturated fat and sodium.
With all these health benefits, tofu isn't just for vegetarians anymore.Adding tofu to your diet, in moderation, can improve your overall well-being and help protect against serious health problems.