Learning what is and is not a good source of protein is a great idea whether you’re making efforts to gain mass, lose weight, build muscle, or just make sure your nutrition balance is solid. That said, not all of us want to eat animal-based foods like meat and dairy to get the macronutrient into our bodies every day. Though there are lots of options in the plant-based world, tofu inevitably enters into the discussion, so I thought I’d dive into that for this week’s post.
What is Tofu?
Tofu is made from curdling soy milk, so it’s essentially soybean curd. To make it, dried soybeans are cleaned, soaked and ground down. Fresh water is added, and it’s gently boiled for up to a half hour before being strained. The remaining liquid holds onto much of the beneficial nutrients from the soybean and is called the milk. That is then heated at a low temperature with nigari or another coagulant to cause it to gel. The edible blocks left behind are tofu.
Great, but is it a good source of protein? Stop rushing me! I’ll get to that, I promise. I’m trying to show off how smart I am about tofu!
Right, so there are different types of tofu. They’re mainly determined by firmness and softness, which essentially tells you the moisture content. You’ll usually find silken, soft, medium firm, extra firm, and super firm in stores.
Thank you for your patience. Now, we can step out of the grocery aisle and into the nutrition examination.
Is Tofu a Good Source of Protein?
I know, right? It was the title of the article, and I’m only just getting to it now. I regret nothing. If I’ve had to listen to Bree telling me all these cool facts about tofu over the last few years, I’m not going to waste this opportunity to share them now that the opportunity is here!
So, when it comes to deciding if tofu is a good source of protein, it is important to recognize that not all tofu forms have the same content. Overall, the firmer the tofu, the more protein it contains (calories, too, since less of its weight is just water). Glad you knew about firmness now, right?
Each brand has its own ingredients balance or precise definition of its firmness, but overall, you can count on a firm tofu containing about 8 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving (around a half cup). For the average person, that’s about 15 percent of what you need in a day.
Though this doesn’t make it a good source of protein in the same way as most meats, it’s a solid plant-based source. A 3-ounce portion of steak, for instance, is about 21 grams of protein. The 15 grams in tofu isn’t nearly as high, but it’s still a good amount. Plus, when you consider that 3 ounces of tofu comes with 80 calories but that 3 ounces of steak is about 230 calories, you’re actually getting more protein per calorie when you eat tofu!
Other Nutrients in Tofu
In that same 3-ounce serving of firm tofu, you’ll also get approximately the following:
- 80 calories
- 5 grams saturated fat
- 5 milligrams sodium
- 2 grams carbohydrates
- 1-3 grams fiber
- 130 milligrams calcium
So, in my opinion, yes, tofu is a good source of protein, particularly if you’re watching your calorie intake or are making a specific meat-free choice for the meal, day, or as a lifestyle.