The CACFP meal patterns are undergoing many changes starting in October, 2017. One of the exciting new improvements is that tofu will be creditable on the Food Program for the first time since the program began in 1968! Below are facts on tofu and tips on how to use it.
FAST FACTS ON TOFU
- Tofu is made from soybean curds, it’s naturally gluten-free and low calorie; it contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium, especially for vegans, vegetarians, and those looking to move toward a more plant-based diet.
- Tofu is a bargain. It usually costs less than just $2 for a portion which should serve several people, depending on how you are using it. It's a great source of protein if you're cooking and eating on a budget!
- Tofu maybe help lower LDL cholesterol It may offer relief for certain symptoms of menopause
- Half a cup of tofu contains 94 calories
Possible health benefits of consuming tofu
Countless studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant-based foods like tofu, decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease. It also promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight. Recent studies have shown that due to its high levels of isoflavones, tofu consumption is associated with a lower risk of several age and lifestyle-related diseases, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease Consuming tofu as an alternative to animal protein lowers levels of LDL cholesterol, which is also referred to as "bad" cholesterol; this, in turn, decreases the risk of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.
- Breast and prostate cancer Genistein, the predominant isoflavone in soy, has antioxidant properties that inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Previously, there has been confusion regarding the safety of consuming soy after a breast cancer diagnosis. This is because isoflavones have a chemical structure that looks similar to estrogen However, moderate amounts (less than two servings a day) of whole soy foods are known not to affect tumor growth or a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, regular soy intake may decrease breast cancer recurrence. Although evidence is not strong enough to recommend soy to all breast cancer survivors, evidence is mounting.
- Type 2 diabetes People who have type 2 diabetes often experience kidney disease, causing the body to excrete an excessive amount of protein in the urine. Evidence from a recent study has indicated that those who consumed only soy protein in their diet excreted less protein than those who only consumed animal protein The authors of the study concluded: "The findings indicate that isolated soy protein consumption improves several markers that may be beneficial for type 2 diabetic patients with nephropathy [damage to the kidney]."
- Osteoporosis Soy isoflavones are known to decrease bone loss and increase bone mineral density during menopause and have also been reported to reduce some other menopausal symptoms.
- Liver damage Studies have suggested that tofu of all types that has been curdled with various coagulants can be used to prevent liver damage caused by free radicals.
- Age-related brain diseases Based on geographic epidemiological findings, it has been observed that populations that consume greater amounts of soy have, in general, less incidence of age-related mental disorders.
A half-cup serving of tofu contains:
- 94 calories
- 2 grams of carbohydrate
- 5 grams of fat
- 10 grams of protein
- 44 percent of daily calcium needs
- 9 percent of magnesium
- 40 percent of iron
Potential health risks of consuming tofu
Possible risks in consuming soy foods have been heavily debated recently, especially regarding breast cancer. There is not enough evidence from human clinical trials to substantiate the claim that the isoflavones in soy contribute to breast cancer risk.
The soy and cancer study that started the controversy concerned only those with a specific type of breast cancer (estrogen receptor positive). Some early studies suggested possible increased tumor growth in rats with a high intake of soy. As more advanced research was done, scientists found that rats metabolize soy completely differently from humans, making the earlier studies invalid.
Now we know that moderate amounts of whole soy foods do not affect tumor growth or a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. In fact, at least 10mg of soy per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25 percent.
Findings from animal models have also suggested that there exists a positive correlation between tumor growth and the degree to which an isoflavone-containing product has been processed. Therefore, it is better to consume tofu and other soy foods that have undergone minimal amounts of processing, like soybeans or edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soymilk.
If anyone has concerns regarding consuming genetically modified soy or products processed with hexane gas, go organic. The USDA National Organic Standards prohibit the use of GMOs and hexane. You can also look for products with the Non-GMO Project Verified seal. Some brands with this seal include Silk, Amy's, Back to Nature, and West Soy. For a complete list of products with the verified seal, visit nongmoproject.org.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
HOW TO BUY AND CREDIT TOFU
On the Food Program, only commercially prepared tofu is creditable. A serving is one quarter cup or 2.2 ounces with at least 5 grams of protein of firm, extra firm, soft or silken tofu. It must be recognizable on the plate, in other words, not incorporated into smoothies or baked into desserts. Also, tofu products such as links and sausages are only creditable when they have a CN label or Product Formulation Statement from the manufacturer showing how the product meets the CACFP requirements.
Tofu comes in several different consistencies: extra firm, firm, soft, or silken.
- Firm and extra firm tofu is denser than soft or silken tofu and retains more of its shape when cooked. This makes it suitable for grilling and stir-frying.
- Soft tofu works well in casseroles and soups.
- Silken tofu is best for puddings and dips, and can also be blended into smoothies for added protein. Its neutral flavor allows it to be easily incorporated into any recipe, and many meat substitutes comprised of tofu are made to taste and feel like the meat they are imitating (for instance, tofu sausage and tofu burgers).
How to Cook with Tofu
Tofu is amazingly versatile and adaptable. It absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it’s cooked with, from sweet to savory. It works in a variety of cooking methods.
- Add it to salads and soups
- Stir-fry it
- Roast it
- Cook it in place of eggs in tofu scramble
- In tacos with tomatoes, spinach and spices
- Mashed with veggies in quiche or muffins
- Bake it into tofu nuggets instead of chicken nuggets.
More Cooking methods
Marinated tofu: Tofu will soak up flavorful marinades like a sponge, particularly if you cut it into bite-sized pieces first. Try a simple marinade of soy sauce and rice wine to begin with, and then play around with things like hot sauce, minced ginger, garlic, and brown sugar.Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes. The longer you can let the tofu marinate, the more flavorful it will be.
Pressed tofu: Even extra-firm tofu can still contain a fair amount of water and end up soft. When making something li8ke tofu-loaf or pad thai, press the tofu between two plates to squeeze out the water. The resulting tofu is nicely compact.
Baked tofu: Diced into small pieces and baked in a low oven, tofu slowly dries out and becomes chewy. These bites are perfect for snacking, adding to salads, or rolling up in a veggie burrito.
Crispy seared tofu: You can sear tofu just as you would sear meat. Place it in a single layer in a hot pan and let it cook without stirring. The bottom becomes golden and crispy, a wonderful contrast to the custardy middles. Shake the pan every few minutes until all sides are golden.
Diced or crumbled tofu: The way you cut tofu also changes the experience of eating it. For soups, dice the tofu into tiny cubes, but leave them larger for stir-fries and noodle dishes. Crumbled tofu does well in things like casseroles and dumplings where a more uniform texture is desired.
Below is a link for 52 tasty tofu recipes:
- Medical News Today, by Megan Ware, RDN, LD
- Greatist.com/healthy-tofu-recipes by Laura Newcomer