September 13, 2023/Nutrition

5 Reasons To Eat More Tofu

A protein powerhouse, tofu builds muscle, protects your heart and lowers cancer risk

bowl of cooked tofu

Many meat-eaters are catching on to what vegetarians and vegans have known for some time: Tofu is an excellent addition your plate, whether you regularly eat meat or not. This soybean and water mixture (sometimes called bean curd) is quickly becoming a crowd-pleaser for all types of eaters.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

And there are many reasons behind tofu’s rising popularity: It works well in many dishes, is easy to use and is super healthy. Registered dietitian Natalie Romito, RD, LD, agrees and shares why tofu should become a regular part of your meal plan.

Why tofu is healthy

With 10 grams of protein in a 3/4-cup (100 grams) serving, tofu is an excellent plant protein source. The high protein is one reason people who follow a vegetarian or vegan meal plan favor bean curd as an alternative to meat.

Tofu’s an especially good choice for people who eat vegan to ensure they meet their recommended daily protein intake.

“Unlike animal sources of protein like beef, tofu is cholesterol-free,” says Romito. And while a serving of tofu has 5 grams of fat, it’s mostly polyunsaturated fats. These fats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that help control cholesterol.

A 3/4-cup serving of tofu has about 100 calories, 5 grams of fat and 1 gram of fiber. It’s also packed with these vitamins and nutrients:

  • 100–200 milligrams of calcium (8% to 16% of your daily value or DV).
  • 2.04 milligrams of iron (11% DV).
  • 0.67 milligrams of manganese (29% of DV)
  • 0.2 milligrams of copper (22% of DV)
  • 0.16 milligrams of pantothenic acid (B5) (17% of DV)

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Tofu health benefits

Tofu provides you with high levels calcium, manganese, iron and vitamin B5, which is needed to break down carbs and fat for energy. And tofu contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. It’s also a primary source of isoflavones — a type of plant-made flavonoid with a range of health benefits, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.


Here are five reasons to make tofu a regular part of your meals:

1. Improves heart health

Soybeans and soy products like tofu are rich in isoflavones. These flavonoids (plant-based chemicals) help lower your blood pressure and offer other heart-protective benefits. A 2020 study found that people who ate a serving of tofu each week had an 18% lower risk of heart disease than those who didn’t.

A different study found that people who ate soy products four or more days a week had a lower risk of heart attacks. “Tofu is a great option for anyone following a heart-healthy diet — which should be all of us,” says Romito.

2. Lowers cancer risk

In the past, people were concerned that soy foods increased cancer risk. “Isoflavones weakly mimic estrogen, so there were uncertainties about a potential link between soy and breast cancer,” notes Romito.

But decades of studies haven’t found a connection. Some of the evidence:

  • A 2023 systemic review of close to 50 studies showed that people who ate more soy products, fresh fruits and vegetables had a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer.
  • A 2012 study found a lower risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) in participants who ate half a serving or more of soy products every day.
  • Other studies suggest that eating more soy products may reduce your chances of developing lung cancer and prostate cancer by as much as 10%.

3. Builds muscle

Tofu is a complete protein — it has all nine essential amino acids that your body needs to work well. “Your body uses amino acids in protein to repair tissues, carry nutrients and build muscle,” says Romito.

4. Strengthens bones

Tofu also contains calcium and magnesium, which help your body build and maintain strong bones. Calcium- and magnesium-rich foods may prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Magnesium is also an important nutrient for healthy nerve and muscle function.


5. Helps with weight management

Protein can help shed pounds. It takes longer and requires more energy (calorie burn) for your body to break down protein. As a result, you feel fuller for longer, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.

How to use tofu

Tofu is extremely versatile. You can use it instead of meat or as a base for nutritious smoothies and delicious desserts.

Tofu contains soybeans, water and a substance that binds the two together (a coagulant). It’s often pressed into a block shape. There are different types or textures of tofu, which reflect the amount of water.

Tofu types include:

  • Firm: Firm tofu resembles feta cheese. You can use firm tofu in many dishes and fix it all kinds of ways — fried, in stews or as spreads. “Firm tofu is easy to chop and cook with, which is why it’s the most common type,” says Romito.
  • Extra-firm: Firm and extra-firm tofu are very similar. Extra-firm tofu has slightly less water, making it easier to fry. But it doesn’t absorb marinades or sauces as well as firm tofu.
  • Medium (regular): You usually find medium (also called regular) tofu in Asian dishes. It has a soft texture similar to silken tofu but is more compact. Regular tofu absorbs sauces and broths, making it a good choice for soups and marinades.
  • Silken: Also known as Japanese-style tofu, silken tofu has the highest water content. It looks a bit like fresh mozzarella cheese (burrata). Silken tofu easily separates in your hands.

If you’ve never cooked with tofu, consider starting with this simple and delicious recipe for sesame seed-crusted tofu. It requires just eight ingredients and comes together easily. Pair the tofu with a salad or roasted root vegetables for a complete meal.

You can also try one of these tasty tofu recipes:

  1. Chocolate espresso tofu mousse.
  2. Creamy kiwi-lime smoothie.
  3. Eggless tofu salad sandwich.
  4. Grilled jerk tofu with cucumber salad.
  5. Moroccan sweet and spicy soup.
  6. Tofu manicotti with spinach and cheese.
  7. Tofu, noodles and pea pods in a Thai peanut sauce.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Tofu turkey hotdogs sit on a plate and in hotdog buns covered in diced onions and cheese.
June 23, 2021/Recipes
Recipe: Tofu or Turkey Dogs With Sauerkraut

Prepare this quick, easy and tasty meal in minutes.

Egg salad topped with sliced radishes and cilantro sits open-faced on a piece of toast beside a small bowl of chopped celery.
June 21, 2021/Recipes
Recipe: Herb-Friendly Egg Salad With Tofu

Make a protein-packed picnic lunch with this simple recipe

recipe greek sald with tofu cucumbers and tomatoes
May 27, 2021/Recipes
Recipe: Greek Tofu Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumbers

A delicious light salad option

A stir-fry made with tofu, broccoli and shiitake mushrooms
March 17, 2021/Recipes
Recipe: Tofu, Broccoli, Shiitake Mushroom Stir-Fry

Flavorful, vegetarian and heart-healthy

Close up of lion's mane mushroom growing on a tree
April 19, 2024/Nutrition
Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushrooms

These trendy fungi may promote a healthy brain, heart and gut, but more research is needed to say for sure

Salmon over lentils and carrots
April 15, 2024/Nutrition
Psoriasis and Diet: How Foods Can Impact Inflammation

A well-balanced diet with anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce flare-ups and severity of psoriasis symptoms

Beef cut, chicken breast, cod filet and ground beef, with spices and seasoning
April 5, 2024/Nutrition
Are You Eating Enough Choline-Rich Foods?

This vital nutrient helps your brain and body in many ways — and most of us need more of it

Variety of foods that contain the antioxidant lutein
April 4, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Lutein? Learn About Its Health Benefits

This powerful carotenoid can help with your eye and skin health, LDL reduction and cognitive function

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey