Updated: Mar 31
Foodpairing for Tofu
There are many health benefits to eating foods made from soy, such as tofu. However, whenever discussing soy, it’s important to talk about the conflicting reports and stories about it, particularly when it comes to its estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects.
Soy contains a lot of isoflavones, which is a type of plant estrogen. In the human body, it functions similar to human estrogen, but it’s much weaker. While some research suggests possible negative effects from consuming large quantities of soy for this reason, the general consensus is that it is safe to consume several times a week, and probably more often[i].
This is important, since soy is high in B vitamins, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids your body needs. This is not true for all plant proteins. One of the most well-known soy foods is tofu.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is made from condensed soy milk that’s pressed into solid blocks. The process is similar to cheese making[ii]. Some is firm while others are soft, depending on how it is made. Tofu can actually be made from any bean, including green beans or black beans[iii]. However, the nutritional value of tofu made from other beans, as well as the health benefits, will be different from soy tofu.
According to traditional Chinese medicine books, tofu nourishes the qi while detoxifying the body. There are a lot of great reasons to eat tofu.
Tofu Health Benefits
Tofu is an excellent source of protein and one of the few vegan foods that contains all nine essential amino acids[iv]. Tofu also contains high levels of calcium, manganese, copper, and selenium, as well as phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, several B vitamins, and much more[v].
In addition, it is gluten free and does not contain cholesterol[vi], which makes it a good choice for those who have hypertension, hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterol, arteriosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.
Tofu can nourish your body and qi, increase the iron content of your blood (which gives you a lower risk of anemia[vii]), and it can help with the development of bones and teeth due to its high calcium content[viii].
One of the best parts of tofu is that it can be paired with many different foods. That’s because it often takes the flavor of whatever it’s cooked with. However, at Foodpairing with Purpose, we don’t just talk about which foods taste good together, but also which food pairings provide the most health benefits. Here are some combinations that you may want to try:
Tofu + Kelp/Seaweed
o Kelp contains a lot of iodine, and too much iodine over an extended period can cause health issues for some people[xi]. Tofu can promote the excretion of iodine.
Tofu + Fish
o Tofu has a large amount of calcium, while many types of fish are high in vitamin D[xii], which your body needs to absorb calcium[xiii]. In that sense, these foods work together. In addition, tofu can also help increase protein absorption.
Tofu + Eggs
o Much like with fish, eggs contain a lot of vitamin D, which can help calcium absorption.
Tofu + Ginger
o This combination can help your lungs, relax your airway, and even ease a cough[xiv].
Tofu + Mushrooms
o Eating tofu with mushrooms can help improve blood circulation.
Tofu + Leeks
o Eating this combination to help treat constipation due to the fibre and nutrients in both foods.
Tofu + Zucchini or Lettuce
o This can help promote weight loss by making you feel full without consuming a large number of calories.
What Foods Shouldn’t Be Eaten with Tofu?
While tofu has many health benefits and goes well with many foods, there are some pairings you will want to avoid. These include:
Tofu + Spinach
o Tofu contains magnesium ammonia and calcium sulfate. Spinach contains oxalic acid. These can combine to produce magnesium oxalate and calcium oxalate, which is difficult for the human body to absorb.
Tofu + Honey
o Since honey contains many enzymes and tofu has a large amount of protein, eating the two together can be difficult for the body. It can even lead to diarrhea.
Tofu + Radishes
o This combination contains goitrogens, which can disrupt thyroid function[xv].
Tofu + Bamboo Shoots
o This combination can make it difficult for the body to absorb the nutrients in both foods.
[i] Harvard T.H. Chan. Retrieved 2022, August 31. Straight Talk About Soy https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/soy/ [ii] Healthline. Retrieved 2022, September 1. What Is Tofu, and Is It Healthy? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-tofu [iii] KQED. Retrieved 2022, September 1. DIY Soy-Free Tofu: Yes, You Can Make Tofu From Any Bean You’d Like https://www.kqed.org/bayareabites/118116/diy-soy-free-tofu-yes-you-can-make-tofu-from-any-bean-youd-like [iv] Health.com. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Is Tofu Healthy? Here's What Nutritionists Say https://www.health.com/nutrition/is-tofu-healthy [v] Livestrong. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Tofu Nutrition: Benefits, Risks, Recipes and More https://www.livestrong.com/article/13728220-tofu-nutrition/ [vi] Medical News Today. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Everything you need to know about tofu https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278340 [vii] National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Strong negative association between intake of tofu and anemia among Chinese adults in Jiangsu, China https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18589021/ [viii] Southern Arizona Periodontics, P.L.C. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Can Tofu Improve Your Gum Health? https://sazperio.com/blog/can-tofu-improve-gum-health/ [ix] Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Renal diet for vegetarians: What about protein? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/expert-answers/renal-diet/faq-20058205 [x] NIH. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Effect of Tofu (bean curd) ingestion and on uric acid metabolism in healthy and gouty subjects. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9598181/ [xi] Medical News Today. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Is seaweed good for you? Benefits, nutrition and all else you need to know. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323916#side-effects-and-risks [xii] Healthline. Retrieved 2022, September 1. 7 Nutritious Foods That Are High in Vitamin D. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-high-in-vitamin-d [xiii] NIH. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/nutrition/calcium-and-vitamin-d-important-every-age [xiv] Healthline. Retrieved 2022, September1. The Best Natural Cough Remedies https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies#ginger [xv] Very Well Health. Retrieved 2022, September 1. Goitrogens, Thyroid Disease, and Your Diet. https://www.verywellhealth.com/thyroid-disease-goitrogens-diet-3233164