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What is tofu?

what is tofuA staple in Asia for 2,000 years, tofu is known for its extraordinary nutritional benefits, as well as its versatility. Tofu, also known as soya curd, is a soft cheese-like food made by curdling soya milk with a coagulant. Tofu is a rather bland tasting product that easily absorbs the flavours of the other ingredients. Tofu is sold in water-filled packs or in aseptic cartons. Fresh tofu is usually packaged in water and should be refrigerated and kept in water until used. If the water is drained and changed daily, the tofu should last for one week. Tofu can be frozen for up to three months. Freezing will change its texture however, it will make the tofu slightly chewier.

Types of tofu

Firm tofu - Firm tofu is dense and can be cubed and stir-fried, grilled, scrambled, pickled, smoked, baked, barbecued or served in soups. Firm tofu is higher in protein, fats and calcium than other types of tofu.

Soft tofu - Soft tofu is more suited for recipes in which tofu needs to be blended.

Silken tofu - Silken tofu has a creamy structure and is also used in blended dishes. In Japan, silken tofu is consumed as such with some soy sauce.

Benefits of tofu

Rich in Nutrients - Tofu is rich in both high quality protein and B-vitamins. Tofu is, therefore, an excellent substitute for meat in many vegetarian recipes. As opposed to soya milk, tofu contains a lot of calcium. This calcium originates from the coagulant (nigari). When making tofu, the soy proteins are precipitated with calcium, providing tofu with a ready source of calcium. Calcium in tofu contributes to the prevention of osteoporosis.

Easy to digest - An additional benefit of tofu is that it is extremely easy to digest. This is because the soybean's fiber is removed during the manufacturing process.

Reduce cholesterol - As most other soyfoods, tofu reduces heart disease by lowering the level of the "bad" LDL cholesterol, and as the result maintaining the level of "good" HDL cholesterol.

Rich in isoflavones - Tofu is rich in isoflavones. When making tofu, the soy isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, remain bound to the soy protein. Firm tofu contains about 35 mg isoflavones per 100g. Isoflavones will reduce the risk of osteoporosis, a disease associated with reduced bone density and increased bone fractures. Isoflavones will also lower rates of breast cancer and prostate cancer, and reduce menopausal symptoms including mood swings and hot flushes.

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