What Are the Health Benefits of Tofu?

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Tofu has a number of healthful properties.
Tofu has a number of healthful properties. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Many have preconceived notions about a squishy, white block of soybean curd, but there is no misconception about the health benefits the powerhouse food provides. The value of tofu's influence is found within a variety of issues from aging to bone density, and heart function to cancer risks.

Meat Substitute

Tofu is an essential alternative for those who cut down on or eliminate meat from their diets. Choosing to become a vegan or vegetarian is a personal decision often guided by a desire for better health, and meat substitutes as a fortifying protein source are the foundation for many who choose this lifestyle, according to Leo Galland, M.D., in Health Benefits of Tofu. The texture of tofu in its various forms and flavors makes it a perfect replacement for dishes such as lasagna, enchiladas, stroganoff and even sushi.

Healthful Properties

When eaten regularly, tofu has been found to lower bad cholesterol, reduce menopausal symptoms, decrease cancer risks, strengthen older bones and help prevent premature aging. According to Galland, it is also a good source of vitamin E, calcium, energy, total fat, carbohydrates, fiber and isoflavones, which scavenge free radicals responsible for deteriorating cellular function. At the same time, however, recent studies suggest that tofu may shrink brain size, increase cancer risks and estrogen levels both in men and women, and decrease male testosterone.

Versatility

Tofu assumes flavor profiles of the foods it's cooked with, making it much easier for people to reap the health benefits of this otherwise tasteless soybean curd. Tofu, which comes in soft, firm and extra firm, can be broiled, fried, baked, grilled, pureed, scrambled and frozen. Freezing the firm variety gives it a chicken-like texture when thawed, making it perfect for casseroles and other hearty recipes. Silkier varieties make creamy soups, sauces, dressings and desserts.

Diabetes

Tofu may be especially beneficial for diabetics, because it is a complete protein that enables better regulation of sugar levels. Diabetics who are not fond of tofu owe it to themselves to have it prepared by someone familiar with its versatility.

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