Tofu is the best option if you want a vegan protein-rich food option to replace eggs and meat. Besides protein, it is rich in iron and calcium and has low calories. Still, do you have questions like, is tofu vegan, and what is tofu made of?
Tofu is a 100% vegan item, and it comes from soy milk. Wait, if it comes from milk, how is tofu vegan? Soy milk is a processed form of soybeans. It is naturally gluten-free and a perfect option for all your meals.
There you have your answer – tofu is vegan! However, there is more to this exquisite food item. Tofu comes in a plethora of forms that you must know about. In some stores and eateries, it may have added products that you need to be aware of. Read on to discover all about tofu types, health effects, alternatives, and more!
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is the ideal option if you are looking for a high-protein vegan food product that is also low in fat. Are you still confused about the ingredients in tofu and its preparation? Here are the key ingredients of tofu.
- A coagulant (calcium chloride, magnesium sulfate, or calcium sulfate)
First, soybeans are soaked in water and ground, followed by boiling. The mixture is then filtered to produce a plant-based drink – soy milk. Tofu is prepared by coagulating soy milk to convert it into curd. These curds are pressed and left to settle, forming thick white blocks called tofu.
It is a relatively traditional item, originating over 2000 years in China. Countries like Japan, Korea, China, and Southeast Asian regions widely use it in multiple dishes. That said, it has recently gained popularity in western countries as well.
Tofu is a highly nutritious food product now commonly found in several American dishes. Moreover, it is reasonable, being the perfect plant-based food source even for non-vegans.
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
Tofu has a creamy texture with a relatively mild or bland taste. It has no flavor, absorbing flavor from the sauces and marinades it is prepared in. The best part about tofu is you can include it in most of your savory and dessert recipes.
Apart from that, you must know that tofu may have varying tastes in different regions. While it may taste completely flavorless in North America, East Asian countries prefer a slightly higher beany taste.
How is the taste different? It greatly depends on the manufacturing process. You can alter the taste using the hot or cold grinding method for relatively bland or beany flavor.
Tofu is one of the best protein-rich vegan-friendly options for you. It also contains multiple amino acids, carbs, and other nutrients essential for your health. Here is a detailed list of its nutritional content:
The nutritional content of tofu per 100 g or 3.5 oz:
Apart from the facts mentioned above, tofu contains minerals like copper, magnesium, and zinc in small quantities. It also includes vitamin B1 and all nine essential amino acids.
Types of Tofu
Whether you want to purchase tofu for cooking or choose from a restaurant menu, you must know the different types. Moreover, though they have the same ingredients, different kinds of tofu greatly vary in texture and taste.
Now that you have the answer to your question, is tofu vegan? Here are some common types of tofu:
- Silken: With the highest water content, this type of tofu is extra-soft and creamy. You can use it as cream or cheese in sauces, desserts, smoothies, and more.
- Firm: The most common type, firm tofu, is a white cube. You can eat it fried, in a stew, as a filling, or spread.
- Extra Firm: With slightly less water content than firm tofu, this type cannot absorb flavor from a sauce or marinade. You can still eat it fried or with other dishes.
- Fermented: It can be of two types – pickled and stinky tofu. While the former is a vegan option, the latter isn’t. Pickled tofu is soaked in saltwater and rice wine, getting a savory taste.
- Frozen: When soft tofu is frozen, it forms ice crystals. Consequently, the tofu gets cavities when defrosted, resulting in multi-layered frozen tofu.
Non-Vegan Tofu Varieties You Must Be Aware Of
Though standard tofu is a vegan option, all its products may not be so. You may come across several tofu options that include additional ingredients for flavor. That is why you must thoroughly check the product ingredients while purchasing. Here are some of the popular non-vegan tofu food items.
Stinky Tofu: As the name states, stinky tofu has a strong odor resulting from fermentation. Commonly found in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries, this tofu is fermented in dairy milk or shrimp brine. Therefore, it is a non-vegan item.
That said, you might also find vegan stinky tofu varieties. That is why you must always confirm before opting for this dish.
Egg Tofu: Pre-dominantly a Japanese food item, this type contains whole eggs. It has a savory flavor and is rich in protein and minerals. Even though it contains vegetable protein, egg tofu is a non-vegan dish you must avoid.
Other Tofu Varieties: Apart from stinky and egg tofu, you might find some mixed dishes. For example, fish-flavored tofu, shrimp tofu, etc. These dishes include animal products and are not vegan.
Is Tofu Good for Health?
Are you still wondering whether you should include tofu in your diet? Soy contains isoflavones—beneficial plant compounds that add to the tofu’s health benefits. You may have a clearer outlook after reading the benefits of the vegan-friendly item.
Cardiovascular Problems: Eating a balanced diet of tofu can help reduce heart-related diseases. The soy isoflavones in this food help lower cholesterol levels, which further controls blood pressure. Additionally, tofu is low in fats, aiding in reducing cardiovascular risks.
Cancer: Soy helps curb the risk of cancers in the breast, digestive system, and prostate. Isoflavones positively impact the menstrual cycle and estrogen levels in a woman’s body. It also reduces the chances of stomach cancer.
Kidney: Soy protein helps people undergoing kidney transplantation and other processes by enhancing renal function. It also aids in controlling the blood sugar level, thus proving beneficial for diabetic patients.
Other Benefits: Tofu or soy isoflavones have multiple benefits reducing bone loss, improving brain functionality, preventing aging, and aiding weight loss. Additionally, it is beneficial for women going through menopause.
Note: You must not consume tofu in large quantities as it may prove harmful.
Are There Any Side Effects of Tofu?
Despite the multiple health benefits, tofu can also have a few adverse effects on health. If you are allergic or intolerant to legumes or soy, you must altogether avoid eating tofu. That is because soymilk is the primary ingredient in this food item.
Even if you are sensitive to soy, consuming tofu may lead to stomach aches, diarrhea, skin irritation, sickness, etc. Before adding tofu to your diet, you must confirm the same with a health professional.
Vegan-Friendly Alternatives to Tofu
Do you dislike the taste of tofu? Are you looking for vegan alternatives to tofu? You need not worry, as there are multiple vegan-friendly alternatives to this soy-rich food product. Here are some of those options.
Tempeh: A nutrient-rich soy item, tempeh is a plant-based product perfect for your daily protein requirement. It has a chewy, wholesome texture along with a nutty flavor. Tempeh is highly beneficial for your gut, though it may have a higher calorie content than tofu.
Seitan: If you are allergic to soy, seitan is the best vegan option. It is high in protein and minerals, containing wheat gluten and water. Moreover, it is comparatively rich in protein and lower in fat than tofu. Seitan, too, doesn’t have any strong flavor.
Soy-Free Tofu: Do you like tofu but are allergic to soy? You have fantastic tofu made from almonds, peanuts, sesame, or chickpea. All of these are entirely plant-based, perfect for vegans.
Protein-Rich Alternatives: If you are looking for protein-rich foods, you have options like tasty grains, nuts, and beans. For example, quinoa and barley are the perfect protein replacements for rice and cereal.
You can also opt for beans like lentils, pinto, red kidney, and cannellini with plenty of protein. Another excellent option is adding nuts to your diet. Be it snacks or seasonings, you can add them to baked items, sauces, and more.
Turning into a vegan may leave you with limited food choices for your daily meals. However, the good news is there are multiple vegan items like tofu that you can include in your daily diet!
It comes in several forms and styles, allowing you to add to a wide range of dishes. That said, though you can eat tofu every day, do not exceed it by 120-240g per day.
So, go ahead and enjoy your vegan regime with this exemplary dish!