Tofu & Weight Loss

Food: Vegetarian Barbecue, vegetables and tofu kebabs
Skewers of tofu and vegetables on a grill. (Image: Ina Peters/iStock/Getty Images)

People who follow a vegetarian diet tend to weigh less than meat eaters, according to an article published in "Nutrition Reviews" in April 2006. Although vegetarians often consume soy products, such as tofu, this doesn't necessarily mean that eating tofu will improve your weight-loss results. It is lower in calories than some animal-based protein sources, however, so trading some of your meat-based meals for meals based on tofu may help you lower your daily caloric intake.

Use Tofu to Save Calories

A 3.5-ounce serving of firm tofu has just 70 calories. The same amount of silken tofu has 55 calories, and a 3.5-ounce serving of soft tofu has 61 calories. All of these types of tofu have fewer calories than many of the typical animal-based protein foods eaten by people on a diet. For example, 3 ounces of chunk light tuna canned in water has 73 calories, and the same amount of grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast has 128 calories. A 3-ounce serving of grilled beef tenderloin with the fat trimmed off has 168 calories, or more than twice the calories in tofu.

Increase Satiety With Protein

Eating a protein-rich food, such as tofu, instead of one higher in carbohydrates or fat, will help you feel full for longer and may make it easier to stick with a reduced-calorie diet. A study published in "Obesity" in April 2011 found that people who got 25 percent of their calories from protein felt fuller and were less likely to be preoccupied with thinking about food than people who got a more typical 14 percent of their calories from protein.

Soy Vs. Other Protein Sources

The evidence is mixed on whether soy protein has a greater effect on weight loss than other types of protein. One study, published in "Nutrition" in 2007, found that people who got all of their protein from soy foods lost more body fat and lowered their cholesterol more than people who followed a more traditional diet with two-thirds of their protein coming from animal-based sources. Another study, published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" in April 2007, found that a reduced-calorie diet including at least 15 grams of soy protein per 1,000 calories consumed didn't result in any more weight loss than a typical reduced-calorie diet.

Incorporating Tofu into Your Diet

Tofu can be a bit intimidating for people who aren't used to cooking with it. Try blending silken tofu into smoothies or creamy soups, adding cubes of extra-firm tofu to stir-fries or marinating and grilling or sauteing firm tofu to add to salads or main dishes. You'll get more flavor if you press the water out of your tofu before marinating it and if you use marinades that don't contain oil.


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