Tofu on Trial

To eat or not to eat? That is the question at the heart of this discussion, Tofu on Trial. Have you heard people say that tofu is bad for you? And others who say it’s the best thing ever. Who do you believe? Read on so you can make the decision for yourself.

Tofu on Trial, a discussion of the pros and cons of a controversial food

I read a post recently where someone was listing the top 10 foods you should NEVER eat. At least not if you wanted to live. Do you know what was on her list? Tofu! My jaw dropped to the floor.

Tofu? On a “toxic” do not eat for fear of death list? My first impulse was to run into the kitchen, scour my refrigerator and eliminate this scourge of humanity from my life. I mean, I don’t want to die! At least not today.

Then my rational brain kicked in (I’m so glad I’ve got one of those). I know it’s in action when my right eyebrow lifts ever so slightly.

I took a second look at that list of dietary no-no’s. Did she mention things like the Pufferfish that has so many deadly toxins that it’s 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide? No, she didn’t. Did she talk about Rhubarb Leaves which contains acid that can lead to a burning sensation in the mouth, vomiting, and possibly even death? Hmm. I think she missed that one. Did she point to a certain variety of mushrooms, actually called Death Cap Mushrooms, which  have been attributed in several deaths? Nope.

Saying that no one should eat tofu is, in my mind, like saying no one should eat peanuts or gluten. Yes, there are some people who have allergies or intolerances to these foods, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to avoid it. And that’s when it dawned on me. This is HER list of things that she has decided, for whatever reason SHE doesn’t want to eat.

Don’t you hate it when people do that? They create some mantra for themselves and then share it as if it’s the gospel truth that we all have to pay attention to.

Insert eye roll here.

The health benefits of tofu.

I decided to do a little research on tofu by reaching out to the good folks at Best Food Facts. They’re not vegan or Paleo or flesh-eating carnivore focused. They’re completely unbiased.

So here’s how my correspondence with them went:

Question: Is tofu good for you?

Answer: Tofu is a nutritious food made from soybeans by a process that starts with the dry beans, which are washed, soaked and ground in water. The mixture is filtered and the resulting soy “milk” is heated and a natural mineral coagulant, such as a calcium or magnesium compound, causes curds to form. The tofu curd is filtered to remove the whey and the solid mass is pressed into a rectangular shape. The firmness of tofu will depend on how much whey is removed and which coagulant was used. Recipes for tofu will usually specify what firmness is recommended: very firm, firm, soft or silken.

Whatever its firmness, tofu is a healthful, high-quality protein source that has all essential amino acids needed for growth. Because tofu is usually made with calcium-based coagulants, such as calcium sulfate, it can be an excellent source of this important mineral. Tofu contains other minerals and vitamins, essential fatty acids, no cholesterol and little saturated fat.  Soyfoods contain bioactive components that scientists have shown to have positive health benefits, reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

So tofu is good for you and is a versatile ingredient in a wide variety of recipes—from Asian stir-fries to vegetarian lasagnas. Enjoy tofu as part of your varied diet!

Barbara P. Klein, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Food Science and Human Nutrition,  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The important thing to note here is Dr. Klein’s last sentence, “Enjoy tofu as part of your varied diet.” Of course if you were eating nothing but tofu day in and day out, there would be a problem. I once read about a girl in the UK who ate nothing but chicken nuggets…for years! Can you even imagine?

Our diets are meant to have variety. And, with Dr. Klein’s blessings, mine is going to include tofu as part of that variety.

What about you? Do you eat tofu? You can contribute to the conversation here or on my social network circles.

Check out the conversation on G+!!


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