Tofu is a common menu item at many restaurants nowadays and it's found in everything from stir-fries to sandwiches to soups to salads and more.
While the vegetarian protein source can be a healthy meal option, you might want to think twice about ordering it if you're following a gluten-free diet.
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Is Tofu Gluten-Free?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and these grains' derivatives, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
In its natural form, tofu is a gluten-free food that's safe to eat because it is made of soy — a type of legume — which isn't a gluten food.
While plain tofu is generally safe to eat, you'll want to pay attention to the ingredients when buying tofu products or ordering at a restaurant. Often, tofu is served in soy sauce marinades, which aren't usually gluten-free.
As with all gluten-free foods, cross-contamination is also a risk that you need to consider.
Cross-contamination happens when foods come in contact with gluten ingredients either through preparation or manufacturing, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation.
If tofu is prepared or cooked in the same dish or area as a gluten-containing food, it can potentially become unsafe for those who have gluten sensitivity or intolerance.
What to Look for in Gluten-Free Tofu
You can avoid cross-contamination risks by checking the packaging and reading the nutrition label on the foods you buy — tofu included.
First, check the ingredient label and allergen listing for any wheat, rye or barley-based foods. Then, look for a "Gluten-Free" label on the product.
This label is regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and indicates that the food you're buying contains less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten, which is a generally safe amount for individuals with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
For even more reassurance, buy foods that are Certified Gluten-Free by qualified third parties, like the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).
The GFCO has especially strict standards, certifying foods that have only 10 ppm of gluten or less, according to the organization's website.
Gluten-Free Tofu Brands
- Mori-Nu Firm Tofu ($11.99 for 3, Amazon.com)
- Nasoya Organic Extra Firm Tofu ($2.89, Target.com)
- Simple Truth Organic Extra Firm Tofu ($1.79, Instacart.com)
- Nasoya Organic Silken Tofu ($1.99, Instacart.com)
A Gluten-Free Tofu Recipe
Soy is high in protein and low in saturated fat, making it a great meat alternative, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Tofu is also a source of complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids your body can't produce on its own.
If you're concerned with potential gluten contamination while dining out, you can make a delicious tofu recipe right at home.
Veggie Tofu Scramble
- Calories: 196
- Protein: 10 grams
This veggie tofu scramble makes an excellent high-protein vegan breakfast dish. While this recipe originally calls for mushrooms and peppers, you can add in any of your favorite veggies for an extra boost of fiber and vitamins and minerals.
Alongside a solid protein count, this scramble is prepared with two tablespoons of olive oil, adding to your meal's healthy fat content. Healthy, unsaturated fats such as olive oil help your body absorb vitamins all while contributing to your overall heart health.
Get the Veggie Tofu Scramble recipe and nutrition info here.