Tofu is high in protein, but is it also a low-carb food? Learn more about whether tofu is keto-friendly and how to eat tofu on a keto diet.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a food product made by allowing soy milk to curdle and pressing those curds into a block. There are different types of tofu, named and classified based on the firmness or softness of the blocks.
The most common types of tofu are:
Tofu originated in China centuries ago and is a staple of many Asian cultures. Because it is a nutrient dense, yet low fat food, tofu has risen in popularity throughout the world and is widely available at most major grocery stores.
How Many Carbs Are In Tofu?
The exact number of carbohydrates depends on the specific type of tofu. The firmer the tofu, the higher the carb count. That’s because firmer tofu has more bean curds, they’re just pressed together tightly. Softer tofu has fewer curds and higher water content, and therefore, fewer carbs.
That being said, overall, tofu is a low carb food and any type would make a great plant-based protein to incorporate on a ketogenic diet.
The difference between the tofu with the fewest grams of carbs (silken tofu) to the tofu with the highest amount of carbs (extra firm tofu) is a difference of 5 grams total carbs, or 3 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fiber). So if you don’t care for the texture of silken tofu, a firmer option can be a keto-friendly substitute.
The type of recipe you’re preparing will also help determine which type of tofu is best. Since silken tofu contains so much moisture, it doesn’t hold its shape very well. It is best utilized in sauces, desserts, and dips, where its creamy texture is ideal. For pan-frying or making crispy baked tofu, you’ll want to choose something firmer.
Is Tofu Healthy?
I hesitate to label certain foods “healthy” or “not healthy” because as the saying goes, you can always have too much of a good thing. However, there are quite a few health benefits of tofu that are worth noting.
1. Tofu is High in Calcium
This is especially helpful if you’re trying to find non-dairy sources of calcium. Even if you do enjoy dairy products, tofu can be a great way to supplement your calcium intake and ensure that you’re getting the daily recommended amount.
According to TofuBud, “Traditional tofu contains roughly 176mg per serving. Good-quality tofu with added calcium, called calcium-set tofu, should have approximately 350mg of calcium per serving. That’s about 30% of the recommended daily intake of calcium.”
2. Tofu is a Good Source of Protein
If you’re following a plant-based diet, tofu can be a way to get plenty of protein without meat.
The American Heart Association points to this stat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture: “half a cup of firm tofu offers 21.8 grams of protein with 181 calories and 11 grams of fat. Most of that fat is of the healthy polyunsaturated kind.”
3. Tofu is a Nutrient Dense Food
In addition to protein, tofu provides:
- Healthy fats
- Minerals such as Calcium, Manganese, Copper, Selenium, Iron, Magnesium, and Zinc
- Vitamin A
- Amino Acids: Tofu provides all 9 essential amino acids that the body does not make on its own (source)
- Isoflavones: flavonoids that may have anti-inflamatory or even anti-cancer properties (source)
3. Tofu May Lower the Risk of Heart Disease
The FDA has put out mixed messages about tofu and heart health. However, there is substantial research that shows soy products, including tofu, can actually be heart healthy.
A 2021 study in the European Journal of Nutrition of nearly half a million people in China with no history of cardiovascular heart concluded that eating soy at least four times a week lowered the risk of fatal heart attacks, compared to subjects who rarely consumed soy.
Another 2020 study in Circulation involving more than 210,000 health care workers in the United States found that higher soy intake led to a “moderately lower risk” of developing coronary heart disease.
Is It OK To Eat Tofu Every Day?
Tofu is made from soybeans. Most experts agree that it is safe to eat tofu or soy-based products every day. In fact, some experts even recommend eating up to 4-5 servings of tofu or soya products daily, to reap some of the health benefits above.
According to Healthline, there is one exception: “Because of tofu’s weak hormonal effects, some doctors suggest that women with estrogen-sensitive breast tumors limit their soy intake.”
As with anything, you can have too much of a good thing, so there probably IS such a thing as eating too much tofu. However, the overall consensus seems to be that it is ok to enjoy tofu every day if you like.
What Is The Best Kind Of Tofu To Eat On A Low-Carb Diet?
To recap, all tofu is low enough in carbohydrates to fit into most keto eating plans. There is a slight variance in carb count from silken tofu (lowest in carbs) to extra-firm tofu (highest in carbs), but you’re still looking at about 5 grams or fewer total carbs per serving either way.
The main consideration when choosing a type of tofu is the specific dish you’ll be preparing. As its name suggests, firm or extra-firm tofu is sturdier and will hold its shape better. This is ideal for frying or baking.
Silken tofu has a much softer, almost creamy consistency. It mashes and blends well, making it the perfect choice when you’re looking for a vegan ingredient to use in dips, sauces, and creamy desserts such as custard.
In Conclusion: Tofu is Keto
To sum it up, tofu can be a wonderful addition to almost any keto diet. And you don’t need to be a vegan or vegetarian to cook with tofu!
I personally love tofu because it is such a versatile protein. It is so mild in taste that it doesn’t compete with the flavors of the dish in which you use it. You can use tofu in so many different types of foods, especially since there are many different types of tofu!
My husband and I often make bowls with tofu as the main ingredient. One of my favorite keto tofu recipes is Crispy Keto Firecracker Tofu.
More things to love about tofu:
- High protein
- Good source of calcium
- Versatile for use in many types of recipes
- Will not overpower flavors
Want to Learn More About Keto?
Check out these helpful posts:
- How many carbs can you eat on keto?
- Keto-friendly Food List
- What is the Keto flu and how to avoid it?
- What is a Targeted Keto Diet?
- 8 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight on Keto
- What are the Best Keto Sweeteners?
- Can You Eat Fruit On Keto?
- What Vegetables To Avoid on Keto
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