To Your Health: High quality protein in tofu

To Your Health: High quality protein in tofu By Pam Carter, RD Tackling tofu

April is National Soyfoods Month and one of the most well-known sources of soy is tofu. Tofu has been used for centuries in Asian cooking, but most people in the United States are still a little intimidated and confused about how to use this white block of food. Tofu is basically the curds and whey of soymilk. This cheese-like food is made by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant and pressing the curds into a solid block. These intimidating blocks are bursting with nutritional value.

Tofu is made from high-quality protein. It contains all nine amino acids, making it an ideal vegetarian substitute for meat. It�s low in saturated fat, low in sodium and contains no cholesterol. Tofu is rich in saponins, which are said to aid in lowering cholesterol levels. Tofu also contains isoflavones, which may help to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

There are different forms of tofu available in American grocery stores.

Firm tofu is somewhat dense and solid and holds up well for slicing and grilling or cubing in stir-fry dishes. Firm tofu works well in desserts and dressings and as a cheese substitute, particularly for cottage cheese, ricotta or cream cheese. Firm tofu also is higher in protein, fat and calcium than other forms of tofu. Choose this style of tofu if you want to cut it into cubes for stir-frying or crumble it into salads. Freezing firm tofu will make it chewier and give it a meatier texture.

Soft tofu is a good choice for blending or using in soups. Soft tofu is much less dense � ideal for blending into dressings, shakes, dips, custards, puddings and sauces. It can be used to reduce the amount of egg used in a recipe and to replace sour cream or yogurt.

Silken tofu has a creamy, custard-like texture. Silken tofu works well in pureed or blended dishes. Silken tofu makes a great substitute for sour cream, cream cheese, salad dressing, mayonnaise or yogurt in recipes.

Speaking of recipes, tofu acts like a chameleon when added to any dish. Think of tofu as a flavor sponge; it works by soaking up any flavor that is added to it. If you�re planning on marinating some pieces of tofu, it will soak up the marinade, taking on its flavor. If you use it in desserts, it will take on the flavors of the sugar, sweeteners or spices. To grill or broil tofu, select firm tofu and cut horizontally into 1 inch-thick slices. Marinate, then place on a lightly oiled rack and either grill or broil until a light crust forms.

Here is an easy recipe to get you started experimenting with tofu. Enjoy this tofu cheesecake the next time you want a rich creamy dessert.

Silken Tofu Cheesecake

All you need

1/4 (one fourth) c. graham cracker crumbs (4 squares)

1 pkg. (10.5 oz.) silken tofu

3/4 (three fourth) c. liquid egg substitute

1/2 (one half) c. sugar

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. nonfat ricotta cheese

All you do

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray an 8-inch springform pan or 8-inch pie pan with vegetable oil spray.

2. Evenly spread graham cracker crumbs on bottom of pan.

3. Drain tofu well. Put it into blender container along with egg substitute, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and nonfat ricotta cheese. Blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary.

4. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool 15 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate.

5. Decorate with favorite fresh fruit, if desired. Cut into 8 wedges to serve.


Hy-Vee registered dietitians are available to the public to answer questions about smart eating. For more information, recipe ideas or to contact your local dietitians, visit and click on health or call toll-free 866-865-4878.

This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

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