Tofu, also called bean curd, has gained popularity over the years especially as a vegetarian- and vegan-approved source of protein. It seems to have a healthy reputation with consumers, but what is tofu exactly? The truth is tofu is made from soy, and the majority of the time soy is bad for you.
Soy is actually one of the most commonly genetically modified foods in the world, and tofu is made from soybeans, water and a coagulant, or curdling agent. According to Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of “The Whole Soy Story,” soy is not a health food, does not prevent disease and has not even been proven safe. Furthermore, numerous scientific studies link soy to digestive troubles, malnutrition, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders, as well as heart disease and cancer. (1)
These are some of the main reasons why soy protein makes the list of the health foods you should never eat. But is all soy bad? The important thing to know is that soy products fall into two groups: fermented or unfermented. Unfermented soy products include tofu, edamame and soy milk, while miso, natto, tempeh and tamari are fermented soy products. All soybeans (even organic, non-GMO ones) naturally contain antinutrients, toxins and plant hormones. However, fermentation is what makes soy products health-promoting. Without fermentation, what is tofu? It’s just a rubbery, white piece of questionable and health-hazardous non-meat protein.
What Is Tofu?
People often wonder what is tofu made of? It makes perfect sense why tofu is often called bean curd since it’s made by curdling soy milk (from soybeans) and then pressing the resulting curds into soft, white blocks. The process of making tofu is relatively similar to the way that cheese is made from milk. Tofu nutrition is impressive, and that’s why many people assume it’s such a great health food. Per serving, it’s low in fat and calories yet high in protein, amino acids, iron and calcium. (2) So what is tofu’s downside? I’ll tell you why gaining these nutrients from eating tofu is not worth the negative repercussions below.
There are actually many different types of tofu, including fresh tofu, soft or silken tofu, firm tofu, extra firm tofu, processed tofu, fermented tofu, dried tofu, fried tofu, and frozen tofu. The healthiest options on this list are the fermented varieties, which include pickled tofu and stinky tofu. Pickled tofu, also known as preserved tofu or fermented tofu, consists of dried tofu cubes that have been allowed to fully air-dry under hay and slowly ferment from aerial bacteria. Stinky tofu is a soft tofu fermented in a vegetable and fish brine. Unfortunately, most of the tofu eaten in the United States is unfermented, and unfermented tofu really shouldn’t be consumed.