While meat is a great source of protein, it’s just not an option when you’re maintaining a vegan diet that abstains from using animal products. The next time you’re in search of an easy-to-prepare protein source that’s vegan, but can’t stomach the thought of dal, consider tofu. It is silky, tender and easy to cook, apart from being packed with the protein, fibre and healthy carbs you need to feel satisfied and energised.
Anupam Dey, a Kolkata-based dietician, says tofu, made from soybean curds, and seen as an alternative to paneer, is a versatile ingredient with many health benefits. “Tofu is naturally gluten-free and low in calories. It contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of amino acids, iron, calcium and other micro-nutrients,” he says.
“Genetics and environmental factors play a huge part in how our bodies react to certain foods. But if you are a vegetarian or vegan, soy-based foods, like tofu, can be an invaluable part of your diet,” says Dey. Given its neutral taste and a range of consistency, tofu, he says, has an amazing ability to work with almost all types of flavours and foods. A staple ingredient in Thai, Japanese and Chinese cooking, it can be cooked in different ways.
“Extra firm tofus are best for baking and grilling, while soft tofu is suitable for desserts and salad dressings. Of course, it is up to you to experiment,” says Dey.
Countless research has demonstrated the many benefits that tofu can provide; it is thought to provide many of the same benefits as soybeans. On World Vegan Day, celebrated annually by vegans around the world on November 1, take a look at what makes tofu an excellent food from a nutritional and health perspective:
1. Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids, according to a report in Self Nutrition Data. It is also an excellent source of iron and calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, copper, zinc and vitamin B1.
2. Soy protein (from which tofu is derived) does not have as much of an effect on cholesterol as previously thought, according to a research by American Heart Association. The benefit for the heart is not due to a direct relationship to reduced cholesterol, but rather because soy products are generally used as a substitute for unhealthy choices and also because they are low fat yet high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
3. Tofu contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones – a group of chemicals found in plant foods. They have a similar structure to the female hormone, estrogen, and therefore mimic the action of estrogen produced by the body. They naturally bind to estrogen receptor sites in human cells including breast cells – potentially reducing the risk of breast cancer, according to a study in US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information.
4. Due to the phytoestrogen content of soy, many women decide to include soy rich foods, like tofu, in their diet as they enter menopause, found a study in American Society for Nutrition’s Journal of Nutrition. “During the menopause, the body’s natural production of estrogen stops and symptoms may arise. As phytoestrogens act as a weak estrogen, they may help relieve symptoms by boosting levels slightly, reducing hot flushes in some women,” Dey says.
5. People with type 2 diabetes often experience kidney disease, causing the body to excrete an excessive amount of protein in the urine. A report in Web MD indicated that those who consumed only soy protein in their diet excreted less protein than those who only consumed animal protein.
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First Published: Nov 01, 2018 09:48 IST
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