If you are buying fresh tofu, make sure that the tofu blocks are immersed in clean water and have no dried-out splotches. Boxed tofu has an expiration date.
Whether fresh or opened from a box, tofu can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week if it is submerged in water, which must be changed daily to ensure freshness.
If tofu is left out for a few hours, take a moist towel and cover the block to preserve moisture.
If you can’t eat what you have while it’s at its peak, it can be frozen.
Tofu Nutrition & Health Benefits
Whether you try your own hand in preparation, eat the delicious tofu dishes in Asian restaurants, or substitute tofu scallion spread for cream cheese on your next bagel, it pays to add more tofu to your diet.
Health Benefits. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.; in October 1999, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced that 25 grams of soy protein a day helps fight coronary heart disease. The FDA allows the health claim labels on foods that contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving and are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium. (Four ounces of firm tofu generally contain about 13 grams of soy protein.) Research reviewed by the FDA shows that soy protein, when included in a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet, lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, without adversely effecting high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels. According to the FDA, clinical studies have shown that consumption of soy compared to other protein, such as those from milk or meat, lowers total and LDL cholesterol.
Universities and health researchers continue to conduct tests to show the positive correlation between eating soy-based foods and lowering the risk of clogged arteries, heart disease, and even diabetes. More recent studies have explored the sub-nutrients of soy and tofu, finding that consuming soy isoflavones can reduce chances of cancer. Where tofu is regularly part of meals, like China and Japan, statistics show that these people suffer only 10% of the cancer and heart disease that Americans do.
Protein. Per the above, if you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, tofu is an accessible (and inexpensive!) source. Tofu also contains 9 essential amino acids and is also free of saturated fat or cholesterol.
Low-Calorie. Tofu has from 15 to 23 calories an ounce, depending on the texture and density. The more firm, the more dense and less water, the more calories per ounce. The next closest protein values, white fish like haddock and flounder are 31-33 calories and ounce, and skinless white meat chicken is 40 calories an ounce. A large egg white has 17 calories and 3.6 grams of protein; but the entire egg has 59 calories and 6.5 grams of protein. (One ounce of tofu, chicken, or fish equates to 28.35 grams, but they are not 100% protein.)
Digestibility. Tofu is a stomach-friendly food: the manufacturing process removes the fibers from soy beans, making it easily digestible food. If you’re under the weather or have an upset stomach for other reasons, tofu provides nutrition without compounding the problem.
Estrogen. Asian women don’t suffer the side effects of menopause like Western women do, including hot flashes and osteoporosis, thanks to estrogen- and calcium-packed soy.
According to a soy survey done in 2004 by Opinion Research, 44% of respondents like foods that are natural, nutritious, convenient and taste good, but feel that such foods are hard to find. It’s hard to disagree that tofu is easy to find, and easy to work into every part of the day—even tasty tofu chip snacks!
Read A Day With Tofu, about delicious tofu products we enjoy all through the day.