Market research company Nielsen says sales of tofu soared 40% in the first half of 2020 compared with the first half of 2019, according to The Washington Post. In line with that statistic, a recent survey by the nonprofit group Mercy for Animals conducted in the U.S. and four other countries found that more than one-fourth of consumers had reduced consumption of animal products since the pandemic emerged.
Why the beefed-up interest in soymilk-based tofu? Broadly speaking, consumers are hunting for affordable alternatives to meat as they try to make ends meet during the pandemic recession. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ground beef cost $4.55 per pound in September 2020, with pork chops at $3.80 per pound and boneless chicken breast at $3.30 a pound. By comparison, tofu costs around $3 per pound.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also partly attributes the ascendence of tofu to the pandemic’s connection to animals. As PETA notes, the coronavirus is thought to have originated at a Chinese market where live and dead animals are sold for food. “Previous influenza viruses have originated in pigs and chickens — but never in vegan foods like tofu,” PETA says.
Is tofu healthy?
Not only is tofu cheaper and more ethically produced than meat, but it’s bursting with health benefits.
“Tofu is one of the world’s most concentrated sources of high-quality vegetable protein,” market research firm Technavio says.
Technavio notes that tofu contains more protein than beef, fish and chicken. For example, each 100-calorie serving of tofu offers 11 grams of protein, compared with 8.9 grams of protein for 100 calories of ground beef, according to The Spruce Eats.
The health advantages don’t stop there, though. Tofu also supplies:
- No cholesterol.
- Ability to modestly lower bad cholesterol.
- Little saturated fat. Although 50% of the calories in tofu come from fat, a 4-ounce serving of tofu contains just 6 grams of fat, according to the University of Michigan’s Rogel Cancer Center.
- High level of healthy polyunsaturated fats.
- Eight essential amino acids.
- Beneficial minerals such as calcium, iron and phosphorous.
- Possible protection against heart disease.
- Soy isoflavones that potentially minimize bone loss and boost bone mineral density during menopause.
- Potential to decrease the risk of breast cancer thanks to the presence of phytoestrogen.
- Possible reduction of the risk of diabetes.
A bonus: Most brands of tofu are organic and non-GMO.
What to do with tofu
The question really should be: What can’t you do with tofu? Tofu is a versatile food. How versatile? Here are some examples from the Rogel Cancer Center of how to take advantage of silken, soft, firm and extra-firm tofu.
Use silken tofu:
- In place of cream in sauces.
- As a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream in salad dressings or dips.
- As an ingredient for pie filling, custard or cheesecake.
Use soft tofu:
- As a substitute for soft cheeses in recipes such as lasagna.
- In fruit-and-vegetable purees.
- In breakfast smoothies. Either soft or silken tofu works in a smoothie.
Michigan State University Extension suggests a rainbow fruit smoothie with 1 cup of frozen mango, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup of tofu and 1 1/2 cups of 100% orange juice.
Use firm and extra-firm tofu: