Not everyone’s mouth waters at the thought of tossing marinated tofu on the grill, but sneaking tofu into favorite recipes will boost the nutritional value and could even ward off heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Meat, chicken, fish, dairy products and eggs qualify as high quality proteins, providing all eight essential amino acids. But only one plant food can make this claim: soybeans.
“Tofu is nothing more than soy milk that has been coagulated and pressed into blocks,” explains Connie Cahill, spokeswoman for the Ohio Soybean Council. “And a lot of people, even though they’re not vegetarians, incorporate it into their diet.”
Of the 44 grams of protein recommended daily for women and 56 for men, four ounces of tofu checks off nine to 13 grams without the high fat content many meats carry. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave soy products a boost in the 1990s, stating that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease. Soy protein also comes with a side of calcium, iron, zinc and other vitamins, helping lower cholesterol, prevent cancer and maintain healthy hearts.
With three main types of tofu available in the United States -firm, soft and silken-it can complement anything from a sandwich to salad dressing to a delectable dessert. Firm tofu works well in stir fry meals, soups or on the grill. It also provides more protein, fat and calcium than other forms. Soft and silken tofus lend themselves to blended recipes, such as soups.
Incorporate the nutrient powerhouse into typical daily menus by adding chunks to soups and stews, crumbling bits into meatloaf or stirring silken tofu into sour cream for baked potatoes, tacos and other dishes. Cahill noted that soy milk and powerbars, simple substitutions for other nonsoy products, are consumers’ largest soy purchases. “But 80 percent of the foods in the supermarket have soy in them,” she said.
With Ohio ranking fifth in the nation for soybean production, finding tofu in the Buckeye State doesn’t present a problem. Look for tofu with the produce at local grocery stores as well as in the dairy and deli sections. With a little tofu, even an extra helping of mashed potatoes or chocolate silk pie could lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. For more information on the health benefits of soybean products such as tofu and for recipes, visit the Ohio Soybean Council.