Tofu: Benefits, Side Effects, And More

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

Tofu is the talk of the town. It is not new to Asian kitchens and now it is popular globally. It is pro-choice for vegans, vegetarians, and even bodybuilders.

But the bigger its name gets, the more questions arise. Several questions arise about its nutritional content, impact on hormones, and side effects.

Some wonder if it is fit to eat for children and others consider safety regarding certain health conditions when consuming tofu.

If you are also willing to try it but hold back due to doubts, you landed at the right place. This article will provide answers to all questions arising in your mind about tofu. 

Tofu is a widely known soy product that is made from soy milk directly or fresh/ dried soybeans. The beans are soaked in water and ground well to make a liquid.

It is then boiled and filtered to give soy milk. It is then coagulated by magnesium or calcium salt. The curd formed is pressed into solid white blocks. The tofu-making process is similar to cheese-making.

Often nigari is used to help tofu solidify and keep its form. It is also a mineral-rich coagulant that helps tofu retain its solid shape. 

It is an old ingredient of Asian cuisine which is used to make everything from curries to desserts. It is also called by other names like soybean curd or bean curd.

Its nutrient-rich profile makes it one of the best plant-based alternatives to animal protein sources like meat and dairy. It blends perfectly with the dish you put it in. 

Moreover, it can help you lose weight as it is low in fat and high in minerals like iron and calcium. Sometimes you will find tofu which is made from Genetically modified soybeans.

The Nutritional Profile Of Tofu

Tofu is an ideal complete protein available which is made from plant sources. Besides all the essential amino acids, it contains numerous other minerals making it nutrient-dense. 

Now when talking about the nutrient profile, the variety of tofu you are taking is also taken into consideration. If you are opting for calcium-set tofu, you will likely get more nutrients than the one which is a nigari-set.

Types Of Tofu

  • Silken Tofu

    You can guess by the name that it is the smoothest, softest tofu. It is available in firm and extra-firm varieties. You can add it to dishes for creaminess or use it in desserts, smoothies, or dips.

  • Firm Regular Tofu

    It is the most basic one and still retains some soft texture. It is the best for sandwiches, stuffing, and salads.

  • Extra Firm Regular Tofu

    It contains the least water, has a different texture, and holds its shape the best. So this one is easiest to cut into cubes, strips, or slices.

    You can add the cubes to your curries, try kebab or stir-fry them, and add basic spices to enjoy a high-protein snack.

  • Prepared Tofu

    It is your go-to option when running out of time. Since it is prepared already, you do not have to press it to get rid of water or cut it into cubes. Just quickly add it to the dish, enjoy the savory and save time.

Health Benefits Of Tofu

  • May Prevent Cardiovascular Disease

    Tofu is a soy product, so it contains isoflavones. These help lower bad cholesterol levels.

    It also aids in weight management and reduces the risk of obesity, which can otherwise cause cardiovascular disease. It is also great to combat high blood pressure. 

  • May Reduce Risk Of Cancer

    The genistein present in it acts as an antioxidant that prevents the growth of cancerous cells. 

    However, tofu is also accused of causing breast cancer. Moderate consumption of up to two servings may not cause any harm. For safety reasons, consult your doctor before consuming it. 

  • Could Help In Type 2 Diabetes

    Research suggests that tofu might be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes. 

    Usually, people suffering from type 2 diabetes also develop kidney disease leading to excessive urine formation and excretion. A lot of protein is also excreted as a result. 

    The good news is the protein from plant sources is better retained by the body than from animal sources. So, tofu might be the perfect protein dose for diabetics. 

  • Kidney Function

    Disrupted kidney functions are hard to deal with. Dialysis and transplant on top of that are tiring and difficult.

    Eating tofu might help with renal function which may make things a little better. It might also show some positive effects on certain biomarkers. 

  • May Improve Menopause Symptoms

    Menopause is a challenging phase in a female’s life. Hot flashes, fatigue, and hormonal changes are commonly experienced by women. Consuming a soy-rich diet might help as the isoflavones work as a phytoestrogen.

  • Could Prevent Liver Damage

    Free radicals cause damage to the body. The liver is also its primary organ that could get affect. Luckily, studies show that tofu may help tackle these free radicals and prevent damage. 
  • May Aid In Weight Loss

    Tofu comes in handy in weight management. It is low in calories and fats. It is also a filling food item and protein-rich.

    Several experiments concluded that the subjects consuming tofu benefited from it and shed a few pounds. When combined with a weight loss regime, it works better.

  • Could Act As Antidepressant

    This benefit does not have enough evidence but one study conducted on pregnant women concluded that 49 grams of tofu a day prevent depression during pregnancy. 

Risks Of Consuming Tofu

  • Consists Of Antinutrients

    There is no lie in the fact that tofu is a nutrient-rich food. However, it also contains antinutrients. These prevent the body from absorbing nutrients. 

    The first one is phytates. It reduces mineral absorption. A few of them are zinc, iron, and calcium. 

    The other one is a trypsin inhibitor. It blocks the enzyme trypsin which leads to improper protein digestion. 

    The person may experience abdominal pain and indigestion as symptoms. 

    Antinutrients affect you more if you lack balanced meals or are already prone to deficiencies. Cooking tofu well,  sprouting soybeans before making tofu and fermentation are a few other steps that lower antinutrient impact. 

  • Sexual Disruption

    Although a limited soy intake causes no harm to anyone, a high intake can. According to several doctors, high soy intake affects testosterone levels and might disrupt the sex drive. 

  • Thyroid Problems

    Isoflavones might not only be good but have certain downsides. It may affect thyroid function and interfere with absorption. Thus, a high intake might make you prone to hypothyroidism. 

  • Kidney Stones

    Tofu is also high in oxalates. These cannot be absorbed by the body and are excreted in the urine. It may then combine with calcium to form calcium oxalate which may form kidney stones.


Tofu is a great protein source offering limited calories and abundant nutrients. Originally a Chinese gem and star of Asian households, it gradually fetched recognition worldwide.

It is available in so many varieties and can be flexibly used in several recipes. It has a long list of benefits for the overall body but also has certain downgrades.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *