A good source of protein, calcium and other essential nutrients, the health benefits of tofu are plenty. But, is it good for your child’s health? Let’s take a look.
By Dr Siddhant Bhargava
A byproduct of soybean, Tofu is preferred by many to meet their nutritional requirements. A naturally gluten-free and low-calorie food, tofu is an important source of protein, especially for vegans and vegetarians. Even for those who wish to stay off meat for a while, tofu can act as a wonderful substitute!
However, there are conflicting opinions about the health benefits of tofu. So, can tofu be given to children? Is it good or bad for a child’s health?
To understand if tofu is good for your child’s health, first it is important to understand what tofu is.
Tofu otherwise known as soy curd, is obtained by coagulating soy milk to create curd. Soy milk is obtained from soybeans. The soy curd is then pressed and compacted into several white blocks. These white blocks are referred to as tofu. So, this is how tofu is made.
Energy: 76 kcal
Protein: 8 gm
Fat: 4.9 gm
Carbohydrate: 1.9 gm
Tofu has emerged as a super food due to its many health benefits and is good for babies and children alike. Different types of tofu can be used to make a variety of dishes. Some of these are silken tofu, firm tofu, dried tofu, fermented tofu and low-fat tofu.
Several studies have been conducted on soy and its byproducts, but not specifically on health benefits for kids. Having said this, let us look at the benefits of tofu for children.
Rich in isoflavones: Soy contain a high concentration of isoflavones (a crystalline compound whose derivatives occur in many plants, especially beans and legumes). Isoflavones are a good source of antioxidants.Though the process of turning soy to tofu reduces the amount of isoflavones from 1267mg to 455mg, it is still enough to provide vital health benefits.
Contains all nine amino acids: Amino acid consumption is essential for children in terms of increased turnover in protein synthesis. Tofu contains all nine essential amino acids.
High in protein: Compared to other sources of vegetarian food, soy is protein-rich with low content of carbohydrates. It can be used as an alternative for meat and can help in transition to a vegetarian diet.
Rich in iron: Tofu contains high amounts of iron, and thus helps prevent anaemia. Deficiency in iron can lead to a drop in the number of healthy red blood cells that cause anaemia and tofu can tackle this.
Protects heart and improves blood cholesterol levels: Tofu contains saponin (phytochemicals found in most vegetables, beans and herbs) which has protective effects on heart and helps to improve blood cholesterol levels. It also helps in removing bile acids.
Tackles obesity: Soy has been found to alleviate complication of obesity by decreasing the activity of lipoprotein lipase and by improving insulin resistance.
Reduces the risk of diabetes: According to a group of scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, foods rich in isoflavones are linked to reduction in diabetes. It could be because of the low carbohydrate and high protein content that soy is good for glycemic response in diabetic people.
Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease and other metabolic disorders.
Note: Children and adults who are allergic to soy should try to stay away from tofu.
So, go ahead and feel free to give tofu to your child. Tofu can be incorporated in a child’s diet for its many health benefits. Mainly consumed as a good source of protein, tofu is safe for all age groups. It is also high in iron, calcium and antioxidants making it an ideal food choice to give your child.
The author is co-founder, fitness & nutritional scientist – Food Darzee.
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