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Is Tofu Keto-Friendly? Everything You Need To Know

Latest updates by: Hassan Thwaini

Let’s face it. You’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet and are thinking about going keto, but struggling to find keto-suitable meat alternatives, right?

Vegans and vegetarians naturally incorporate a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables into their diet. However, they also eat a lot of lentils and legumes which, although are high protein, can significantly impact carb intake when following the keto diet.

So what about tofu?

Can you safely use tofu suitably in your keto diet?

Well, you’re in luck. We’re going to go over the top tips when it comes to adding tofu into your keto diet and answer the question, “is tofu keto-friendly?”.

So, keep reading to learn more!

What Is Tofu?

image of What Is Tofu

If you’ve been living under a rock and have not yet realized that plant-based meat alternatives have been taking the world by storm, then strap in.

Tofu is made primarily out of soybeans. Soybeans are first converted into soy milk before going through a coagulation process.

During coagulation, white curds remain which are known as tofu, and what you find in your local store in the shape of a cube.

So the question here is, does tofu made from soybeans contain the same nutritional properties as whole soybeans?

Nutritional Value

Firstly, let’s take a look at the nutritional content of one cup of soybeans in order to compare just how the carbs, protein, and fats are transferred over to tofu.

Soybeans

In one cup (180g) of cooked soybeans (*):

  • 254 calories
  • 19.9 grams of total carbs
  • 12.3 grams of net carbs
  • 11.5 grams of total fat
  • 22.2 grams of protein
  • And a whole host of nutritious micronutrients!

Now, we know what you’re thinking – 12.3 grams of net carbs?! That’s way too much.

But here’s the deal. Legumes such as soybeans contain large amounts of fiber which are not taken into account when counting net carbs.

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Tofu

Now, during the process where soybeans turn into tofu, the keto-friendly magic happens.

Firstly, you need to know that tofu comes in two different varieties: extra firm tofu, soft tofu, and silken tofu. All of these are made from soybeans, however, that determines if the consistency is extra firm or soft depends on how much water is pressed out of the tofu during manufacture.

Let’s take a look at the macronutrient profile of one serving of firm cooked tofu (*):

  • 82.8 calories
  • 1.8 grams of total carbs
  • 1.4 grams of net carbs
  • 5.3 grams of total fat
  • 9 grams of protein

As you can see, the high-carb soybeans lose the majority of their carbs and fats when converted into tofu. Soft tofu, on the other hand, contains only 2 grams of at but 5 grams of carbs, making it not as keto-friendly.

So there you go, the carbs in tofu are much more suitable in the high fat, low carb keto diet and make this wonderful meat substitute ideal to keep you in ketosis. However, do make sure not to over-indulge and try to only eat tofu one meal a day.

Keto Tofu: The Bigger Picture

image of Low Carb Keto Tofu The Bigger Picture

Let’s face it, the macronutrient profile in one serving of tofu looks too good to be true. But in order to answer your question of “is tofu keto-friendly?” properly, we need to look at the overall nutrition that comes around from eating tofu.

There have unfortunately been some conflicting views on whether eating tofu brings us many health benefits or not.

Let’s take a look at the health benefits tofu can have on your body:

Nutritional

Tofu has various health benefits proven by academic literature. These benefits arise from soybeans.

Tofu is absolutely jam-packed full of nutrients and protein which help muscle regeneration and provide us with energy.

Furthermore, tofu contains a large number of beneficial micronutrients, and essential amino acids (proteins) are needed to carry out the regular function of your body (*).

Prevent Heart Disease

A few studies have been shown that link eating tofu to the reduction of heart disease. This could be due to the fact that chemicals known as isoflavones found in soybeans improve the elasticity of blood vessels, improving blood flow. (*, *)

A high intake of soy isoflavones has also been shown to improve various heart-protecting factors in menopausal women, by aiding with weight loss and improving the levels of good cholesterol in the body. (*)

Finally, tofu contains another beneficial compound called saponin. Animal studies have proven the benefit these have on reducing the risk of heart disease by reducing bad cholesterol levels and enhancing bile acid disposal. (*)

Beneficial Isoflavones

Isoflavones are found naturally in plants and found in vast quantities in soybeans. Tofu is made from soybeans.

The function of these isoflavones is their ability to mimic the function of phytoestrogens which can attach to estrogen receptors and mimic the function of estrogen.

This has been proven to help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Isoflavones can positively influence the levels of estrogen found in the blood and improve menstrual rhythm. (*, *)

A lot of people had a controversial opinion about tofu as food and complained of its possibility to increase the risk of breast cancer when consumed in various diets for long periods of time. However, one study disproved this controversy and showed no increase in breast cancer risk when vegan and vegetarian diets including tofu were followed for 2 years. (*)

Reduced Cancer Risk

Studies have shown that regular consumption of tofu reduced stomach cancer risk by 61% in men, and 59% in women. (*,*)

Furthermore, another study has shown that tofu can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by up to 50%. (*)

However, eating tofu can be harmful to some, and some studies have concluded the following:

Reduced Testosterone

On the flip side, males who are vegans and are wanting to adopt the keto lifestyle need to be aware that tofu may have a negative impact on testosterone. (*)

Testerone is the primary hormone that gives men unique characteristics such as hair and muscle. A vast reduction in testosterone can not only alter mood but change your attitude and interest in hobbies you may have.

Estrogen-Sensitive Breast Tumors

Your doctor may recommend that you limit your intake of soy products such as soy sauce, soy milk, and tofu if you have estrogen-sensitive breast tumors.

As isoflavones can mimic estrogen function and potentially cause increased estrogen to circulate around the body, they can increase the incidence of cysts and promote diabetes.

Can You Have Tofu On The Keto Diet?

image of Can You Have Tofu On The Low Carb Keto Diet

Looking at tofu from only a nutritional aspect, we can see that the macronutrient profile fits perfectly into the keto diet with only 1.4g of net carbs per serving and a whopping 9 grams of protein. This makes tofu keto-friendly and healthy.

However, defining whether or not tofu is keto-friendly is not that easy. We need to take into account the properties of the food as a whole.

The truth behind tofu is far from keto-friendly due to the negative impacts it has on our bodies.

Firstly, soybeans are legumes, which are famously not incorporated into the keto diet because of their high carb nature.

Secondly, soybeans are mostly genetically modified. This poses certain health risks if we decide to eat them, and does not mean they are healthy. (*)

So, what does this mean for you?

Well, soybeans, as we have established, are GMO’s, cause certain negative health impacts, and are higher carb. Tofu is made from soybeans, and so carries the risks associated with them, apart from the higher carbs.

Therefore we classify the tofu as dirty keto because although servings of tofu will not interfere with your state of ketosis, there is still a negative health impact of the food.

Can I Lose Weight By Eating Tofu?

Generally speaking, tofu is a suitable plant-based supplement to include in most diets to help with weight loss given its low-fat, high protein, and low-calorie content. However, for most of us following a low carb or keto diet, tofu may not be our best option.

Why? Well, to help induce weight loss on the keto diet, we need to make sure that the majority of our energy comes from fats, which tofu lacks. It is, therefore, harder to induce a state of ketosis using tofu instead of fatty meats.

However, other fad diets highly praise tofu’s diversity and its application as a healthy plant-based alternative to meat. Tofu supplements adequate proportions of proteins and essential nutrients to justify being a staple part of vegan and vegetarian diets.

Vegan Ketogenic Diet Recipes

Preparing tofu is essential when deciding to apply tofu to your keto recipes. Below you’ll find the best way to prep your tofu:

  1. Drain tofu
  2. Wrap in paper towels and press to release any excess water
  3. Cut into your desired shape
  4. Marinate your tofu in a sauce of your choice

Adding tofu to your keto recipes has never been easier. Simply follow the above preparation guidelines and add to a frying pan to obtain fried tofu.

Fried tofu is versatile and works as a perfect meat replacement in many dishes such as stir-fries.

Why not try our favorite recipe below?

Scrambled Tofu

  • Break the tofu into small pieces and crumble
  • Add to a frying pan with some nutritional yeast, turmeric, and oil
  • Add a little bit of almond milk and simmer gently
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Add 1/4 tsp sugar to counteract the bitterness of turmeric
  • After 10 minutes, put your tofu on top of some smashed avocado on toast
  • sprinkle with chili flakes
  • Enjoy!

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The Final Say

Tofu made from soybeans that have been coagulated into soy milk carries the same risks as consuming soybeans from a health perspective. However, the low carb content of tofu makes it more suitable for the keto diet.

Tofu is a dirty keto product because of its negative impact on our health. If you wish to incorporate tofu into your keto diet, then you must do so in consideration and read the packaging of certain brands to identify the macronutrients that suit your carbohydrate needs.

image of net carbs in tofu is tofu low carb, ketogenic friendly

Read: Is soy sauce keto-friendly?


Hassan Thwaini

Hassan Thwaini is a qualified pharmacist and hospital specialist at the University of Sunderland. His main focus is to help people utilize their environment and develop a Keto-based diet to help give everybody a healthy lifestyle.


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