Q & A with Melissa Stevens, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition Program Coordinator for Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation
Question: What is tofu? Is it good for you?
Answer: Tofu is also called soybean curd or bean curd. Regular tofu is made in a similar manner as cheese, starting with soy milk extracted from ground, cooked soybeans. The soy milk is heated, then curdled or solidified with the addition of salts (nigari, magnesium chloride, or calcium sulfate) or acid. Salts work like rennet to separate the soy milk into curds and whey. The curds are ladled into settling boxes that are perforated and lined with cloth. The whey drips out of the boxes, the remaining curds are pressed, and the result is tofu. The more the tofu is pressed, the firmer and more nutrient and calorie dense it becomes. The tofu is then water-packed in cartons or vacuum packed in oxygen free plastic wraps. You'll find this type of tofu in the produce section of most grocery stores or in the dairy case.
The second type of tofu is termed silken. Silken tofu resembles yogurt and is made by adding thick soy milk to a coagulant and lactone. This type of tofu often comes aseptically packed in a 10-ounce box that needs no refrigeration. It is usually found in the produce aisle or where other Asian ingredients are located.
Tofu is flavorless but has the ability to act like a sponge, taking on the flavors and aromas of the foods or seasonings it's cooked with. Some stores now carry flavored tofu such as curry, Italian and mesquite.
Below are three most common forms of tofu available:
- Soft: Soft tofu has a custard-like texture and soft, delicate taste. This kind of tofu works best in smoothies, to top salads or miso soup, in baked goods, as scrambled eggs, or as a replacement for mayonnaise and other creamy-textured sauces and dips.
- Firm or Regular: This is the most versatile form of tofu. It works well in frying, grilling, and sautéing. Firm tofu is not as silky as soft, yet not as grainy as extra-firm tofu. For those of you trying tofu for the first time, this is your ideal one to choose.
- Extra-Firm: This tofu can be handled much more roughly than soft or firm varieties. Extra-firm tofu has a grainy, coarse texture and is often used in dishes that require the tofu to maintain its shape (e.g. grilling). However, the crumbled version of this extra firm tofu is a great substitute for ground pork or hamburger.
Keep in mind that silken tofu also comes in soft, firm and extra-firm, however the extra firm is fairly soft, and never as firm as the regular varieties.
Tofu is an excellent protein source for those on meatless diets. Tofu is also a good source of B-vitamins and iron; and tofu processed with calcium-sulfate is a good source of calcium. Tofu is low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. So, for those willing to experiment with tofu, I think you will find it tasty and good for you!
Here's to your health!
For more information on a heart-healthy diet plan, please contact the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program at 216.444.9353 (or toll-free at 800.223.2273, extension 49353) and we can schedule a nutrition consultation.
For more information on tofu, see:
*a new browser window will open with this link. The inclusion of links to other web sites does not imply any endorsement of the material on the web sites or any association with their operators.