Tofu is an excellent plant protein source. It's also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. To put that into perspective, all animal-based foods are complete proteins but most plant-based foods lack certain amino acids. So, if you're following a vegetarian or vegan diet, tofu can help you meet your daily protein needs (about 50 grams, depending on your size).
Soybeans pack a wealth of fiber-a 1/2-cup serving supplies about 5 grams-so you'd think that tofu would follow suit. However, tofu is relatively low in fiber. The reason being, soybeans actually lose the majority of their fiber when they're processed into tofu. To get fiber when you're eating tofu, make sure you're pairing it with fiber-rich foods like avocados, sweet potatoes and quinoa.
Tofu packs a solid amount of iron, a mineral that helps your body convert nutrients into energy and maintain a healthy immune system. This is particularly attractive to vegetarian and vegan athletes, who are more at risk for low iron levels than meat-eating athletes. However, it's important to note that the type of iron in tofu, nonheme iron, is not as easily absorbed as the heme iron found in animal-based foods. To help your body absorb plant-based iron more effectively, try pairing tofu with vitamin C-rich foods.
Tofu made with the coagulant calcium sulfate contains a surprisingly high amount of calcium, an essential mineral that contributes to healthy bones. The amount of calcium varies between tofu types and brands, but one 3-ounce serving can deliver around 10 percent of your daily needs (1,000-1,300 mg). This is especially good news if you're dairy-free.
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