backup og meta
Health Screening
Ask Doctor

The Low-Carb Magic of Tofu

Medically reviewed by Jezreel Esguerra, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Jan 06, 2023

The Low-Carb Magic of Tofu

What are the benefits of tofu? Fans of Japanese and Chinese food usually have interactions with tofu. Also known as bean curd, tofu is high in protein and fat but low in carbs. This makes tofu acceptable when considering a low-carb vegetarian or vegan diet.

Based on legends, tofu originated either in Japan or China. And it is believed to have been discovered accidentally by a Chinese cook. Interestingly, the story goes that the Chinese cook discovered tofu more than 2,000 years ago by accidentally mixing a batch of fresh soy milk with nigari (what remains when salt is extracted from seawater).

Tofu is made of condensed soy milk that is pressed into solid white blocks in a process similar to cheesemaking. It is a very flexible ingredient. In fact, firm tofu can even replace hamburgers in vegetarian burger options, but with much lower fat and cholesterol content.

Nutritious Benefits of Tofu

What are the benefits of tofu? Tofu contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs. Aside from fat and carbs, tofu also contains a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of tofu offers:

  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Carbs: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Manganese: 31% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 20% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 14% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 12% of the RDI
  • Copper: 11% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 9% of the RDI
  • Iron: 9% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 6% of the RDI
  • This comes with only 70 total calories, which makes tofu a highly nutrient-dense food.

    Types of Tofu and Their Benefits

    There are several types of tofu available for various uses, each with their own charm, as listed below:

    • Fermented tofu – This is the briny, creamy variety, which has been pickled. It is served as a dip for fresh vegetables or can be used to season rice or porridge.
    • Silken tofu – Also known as Japanese-style tofu and is generally used in desserts, smoothies, puddings, and dips. Silken tofu is also an egg substitute in baking. It is creamy and soft in texture and with very high water content.
    • Regular tofu – With a spongy texture, regular tofu can be sold as soft, medium, firm, and super firm depending on its water content. In general, you may use the soft variety in soups, and the firm variety for stir-fry dishes. Tofu can even be baked. Extra firm tofu can also be used as a meat substitute.
    • Smoked tofu – It has a rich, deep flavor and is eaten raw as an appetizer or added to a salad. Traditionally, this variety was smoked over tea leaves, but now it is done over beech wood.
    • Seasoned tofu – Already pre-seasoned with different flavors, such as barbecue or teriyaki.

    It is no surprise that in most lists of recipes involving low carbs, tofu inevitably appears.

    Sample Tofu Recipe

    On the website of the Mayo Clinic, a recipe for one of these vegetarian dishes in vegetarian chili with tofu is present. This allows to fully bring out the flavor and benefits of tofu. In this dish that serves four, the ingredients are:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
    • 12 ounces extra-firm tofu, cut into small pieces
    • 2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes with no added salt
    • 1 can (14 ounces) kidney beans with no salt added, rinsed, and drained
    • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans with no salt added, rinsed, and drained
    • 3 tablespoons chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon oregano
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)

    In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent, for about six minutes. Add the tofu, tomatoes, beans, chili powder, and oregano. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro. Ladle into individual bowls and serve immediately.

    Key Takeaways

    From its origins steeped in urban legend, tofu has gone on to be a popular dish worldwide. The benefits of tofu are numerous and varied. High in protein and fat but low in carbs, vegetarians and vegans famously choose tofu as a substitute for meaty options because of its flexibility.

    Learn other Nutrition Facts here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Jezreel Esguerra, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Jason Inocencio · Updated Jan 06, 2023

    ad iconadvertisement

    Was this article helpful?

    ad iconadvertisement
    ad iconadvertisement