Energetics of Tofu: Just Another Soy Product?

Ah yes, that non-descript jiggly white stuff that vegetarians and vegans can’t seem to get enough of. What is so great about this seemingly strange food?

Tofu was discovered over 2000 years ago by the Chinese and legend has it that it was discovered by accident when a cook added a type of sea vegetable to a pot of soybean milk, which caused it to curdle and viola, tofu. Some people even call it the cheese of Asia, since it resembles a block a farmer’s cheese. Although, unlike cheese, tofu has very little flavor itself. Which is not a bad thing, as it is able to absorb the flavors of the ingredients around it making it perfect for any dish.

Varieties

There are 2 main varieties of tofu and it is distinguished by its texture.

Silken Tofu: This type is smooth and very similar to custard.  It is usually found in sealed aseptic packages.  You can buy silken tofu in soft, firm or extra firm. You can even find low-fat and lite versions in some stores. It is easily pureed, so it makes a great milk, sour cream or yogurt substitute.

Regular Tofu: This is also available in soft, firm or extra firm, its texture is much more granular. This type is sold in bulk or pre-packaged containers.  You can use it in dishes such as stir-fries, soups, and salads.

Best Way To Choose and Store

Most tofu is found pre-packaged, so make sure that when buying you are checking the expiration date. Some silken tofu can be purchased non-refrigerated, always make sure that the aseptic packaging is not punctured prior to use.

All opened tofu should be rinsed well and then kept in a container covered by water. When storing tofu, make sure to store it in the fridge (unless you buy aseptic packaged silken tofu) and change the water daily.  Stored properly, tofu can last up to a week.

Tofu can be frozen in its original packaging and will last for up to 5 months if stored properly.  Be aware, freezing tofu can change its texture and color.  Always squeeze water from thawed tofu prior to cooking it.

Nutrition

Tofu and its main ingredient soy have many great heart benefits. Research has shown that a regular intake of soy protein helps lower total cholesterol levels, LDL, triglycerides, and the tendency of platelets to form blood clots. These benefits come from the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically Alpha-linolenic Acid, selenium, calcium, and magnesium.  Calcium is also great for bone health since it helps build bone density and prevent accelerated bone loss.  Other bone-benefiting minerals found in tofu is manganese, copper, and phosphorus.

Tofu and soy also have shown great benefit in alleviating menopause symptoms. Soy contains phytoestrogens, specifically the isoflavones genistein and daidzein, which help dock estrogen receptors and act like weak estrogens. Perimenopause is a time when a women’s estrogen is fluctuating and phytoestrogens can help maintain balance. During menopause when a women’s natural ability to produce estrogen drops, phytoestrogens have enough activity to reduce uncomfortable symptoms.

Tofu and soy products are not just a great source of protein, but of iron as well.  Iron is an essential mineral that plays an important role in hemoglobin synthesis, a factor in energy production via the transportation and release of oxygen.

Energetics

Cooling in nature, tofu benefits the Metal element (lungs and large intestine). It moistens dry conditions, relieves inflammation of the stomach, neutralizes toxins (especially in cases of alcoholism, chronic amoebic dysentery, dietary changes and healing reactions), and reduces heat signs accompanying heart disease and high blood pressure.