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1. I heard soy is a “complete” protein, what does that mean?
A “complete” protein contains all of the 8 amino acids that our bodies need to take in from food because we can’t make them ourselves. Many legumes (beans) and vegetables only contain a few of these amino acids, so if they are your only source of protein, you need to make sure you eat a variety of them throughout the day to get all of the amino acids. However, soy protein is a complete protein and contains all of the amino acids that your body needs. Tofu is an excellent source of protein.
2. I keep hearing soy contains isoflavones? What does that do for my body?
Isoflavones help regulate cell growth, which actually safeguards against some cancers and also play roles in regulating cholesterol levels. Multiple studies on soy have associated eating plenty of soy with lower rates of breast cancer, especially in Asian populations. Furthermore, there are lower rates of breast cancer in many Asian countries, where diets are higher in soy.
Soy is is also good for your heart. One study suggests that eating foods that contain isoflavones (like soy products) every day may help young adults lower their blood pressure, particularly African-Americans. It is thought that the isoflavones work by encouraging your body to produce nitric oxide, which helps to dilate blood vessels and reduce the pressure created by blood against the vessel walls.
Whole soy foods contain high levels of healthy protein and fiber. Fiber helps to reduce bad cholesterol. Plus, soy is a much better source of protein for your heart than saturated-fat-rich animal-derived foods.
3. Is tofu high in calcium also? Are other soy products high in calcium too?
Not all tofu is created equally and only those that use the natural coagulate of calcium sulfate will contain more calcium than its other popular counterpart, magnesium choloride. AFC tofu and soy products uses calcium sulfate and each serving of 3 oz traditional tofu or organic tofu will provide you with 10% daily value of calcium from a 2,000 calorie diet while 3 oz of baked tofu will provide you with 25% daily value of calcium from a 2,000 calorie diet.
4. What about soy burgers, soy energy bars and other processed soy? Is it just as good as eating tofu?
Soy burgers and soy energy bars are not your best choice. Why? Because these foods are made of processed forms of soy. Look for the words “soy protein” on the label – this means the soy it contains is processed. When soy is processed, the nutrients are stripped away. When it comes to this, nutritionists consider it to be a “ghost” of a health food.
Other highly processed “frankensoy” products look and taste just like frankfurters, steak strips, cheese and other foods. Avoid these. Foods like these are also likely to be loaded with added sugars, fats and refined flours.
5. What can I do with tofu and how do I add it into my diet?
There are two types of tofu recipes. You can either use tofu as a mystery ingredient and try to hide the flavor of tofu within the dishes or recipes that feature tofu. There are times when tofu can act as a filler to extend other, more expensive ingredients, like ground sirloin in a meatloaf. However, at AFC, we encourage you to try recipes in which the flavor of tofu is enhanced. Click here to view and print recipes.
6. What kind of tofu should I buy?
When standing at the refrigerated produce section of your grocery store, it might be confusing to see all these differently packaged tofu that look essentially the same: “extra-firm”, “firm”, “medium-firm”, “medium”, “soft”, and “extra soft”. Take a look at the recipe you are planning on using tofu with since there are major texture differences between the two extremes.
Basically, use extra firm or firm tofu if you want the tofu to hold its shape – if you plan to marinate and broil or bake your tofu in slices, or if you are dicing and stir-frying it. If you’re blending the tofu with other ingredients to make soup, smoothie, creamy filling, or spread, or you’re using it as a fat replacement in batter or a ground meat dish, you’ll want to use the softer texture tofu.
Quick Guide to Tofu Textures:
Firm or Extra-Firm – This type of tofu holds its shape well. It’s great for grilling, baking, sauteing or stir-frying.
Medium – Crumble it and use in recipes as an extender or substitute for scrambled eggs, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, or cottage cheese.
Soft or Extra-Soft – Use this as a creamy, thickening ingredient in smoothies, soups, pasta dishes, dressings and sauces, or as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream in some recipes. You’ll need a blender or food processor.
7. Once I open tofu, how do I store it in my refrigerator?
Unopened tofu can be kept in the refrigerator until it’s expiration date. If the tofu is already opened and there are leftovers, it can be stored for up to 5 days as long as you change the water every day. It’s best to store it in a sealed glass or plastic container with a few inches of water enough to submerse the entire tofu.
Freezing tofu is also an option. Some people freeze tofu on purpose because once it’s thawed, it has a more porous texture and can soak in sauces/flavoring more quickly. However, it will have a grainier texture.
8. What are some tofu cooking tips?
Since tofu does not have any particular taste, it takes on the flavor of whatever it is cooked with. Here are some ways you can use tofu in your favorite recipes and with your favorite foods: