Is Tofu a Processed Food or Whole Food?

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Tofu is a processed food.

Any food that has been altered from its original (“whole”) form is “processed.”

Even peanut butter is processed, since it consists of grinding up peanuts (even with no other ingredients added).

There is nothing inherently bad about a food being processed. It’s only bad if the process somehow removes nutrition, or adds other ingredients that may be unhealthy.

How Tofu is Made (Processed)

There are 5 main steps to make tofu:

  • Soybeans are soaked
  • Soybeans are heated in water (boiling)
  • Okara (soybean pulp) is separated from milk
  • Curds are pressed into blocks (tofu!)
  • The blocks are packaged with minerals like calcium (preservatives)

Here’s a short video if you prefer a visual walkthrough:


Making tofu really isn’t all that different from cooking beans.

SUMMARY

Tofu may be processed, but only “minimally” compared to cooking beans, and no unhealthy ingredients are added.

Is Tofu Healthy?

Besides being convenient, tofu has a lot to offer.

First, it has great macros, especially for vegan athletes looking to get more proteinTofu is a complete protein, one of the few plants that are.

On top of that, tofu also contains quite a bit of nutrition.

Here are the vitamins and minerals in 100 calories of firm tofu (about 1/2 block):

 Tofu (Firm)
Calories100
Nutrient% of RDA
Vitamin A0
Riboflavin5.7
Niacin1.4
Vitamin B65.7
Calcium28.6
Iron12.9
Magnesium12.9
Phosphorus17.1
Potassium5.7
Copper15.7
Manganese44.3

That’s a decent variety, and a significant amount of important nutrients like calcium and iron.

SUMMARY

There’s nothing inherently unhealthy about tofu. Like most other minimally processed foods, it’s perfectly fine to eat in moderation.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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