Eating nutritious foods is very important when pregnant. The need for protein increases significantly during pregnancy. From 46 grams per day in the non-pregnant state, the recommendations for pregnant women are increased to 60 grams per day1. Eating tofu during pregnancy is one way to meet your increased daily protein needs during pregnancy.
Craving tofu while pregnant is most beneficial for vegetarian mothers whose diets are deficient in meat or eggs. However, in that case, there is no need not to 1worry about missing good-quality protein. Tofu is a good source of plant protein.
It provides several health benefits during pregnancy. However, there are also certain risks associated with its consumption. This article sheds light on various aspects of eating tofu during pregnancy.
What Is Tofu?
Tofu is a soy product. It is made from curd that is in turn made by coagulating soy milk. This curd is then squeezed into a thick white mass called tofu. Tofu is available in the market in the form of blocks with different textures.
It has been widely used in traditional Asian cooking for over a millennium and can easily be included in your list of pregnancy superfoods. Tofu absorbs any flavor used in cooking, making it a favorite amongst chefs.
Is It Safe to Eat Tofu During Pregnancy?
Yes, you can have tofu during pregnancy. Tofu is Gluten-free, low in calories, contains zero cholesterol, and is an excellent source of proteins. It is also loaded with many vital minerals and vitamins that are essential during pregnancy.
However, never overdo it. Too much tofu during pregnancy invites many unwanted side effects. Also, it is recommended to eat tofu with a variety of other healthy foods during pregnancy.
Related Reading: Top 10 Protein-Rich Foods For Pregnancy
Who Should Not Eat Tofu?
Even though Tofu, if taken in moderation, is safe during pregnancy, some expecting mothers should avoid it.
- Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer should avoid tofu as studies show phytoestrogens in soy and soy products can stimulate breast cancer cell growth under certain circumstances
- Women with hypothyroidism should avoid tofu during pregnancy. Tofu contains isoflavones that mimic estrogen. Too much estrogen can hinder thyroid hormone production, thereby, aggravating hypothyroidism
It is reasonable to have 3-4 tofu servings per week and a small glass of soy milk (200ml) two to three times per week.
Types Of Tofu
If you wish to incorporate tofu in your pregnancy diet, you must first understand the different varieties of tofu. Tofu is divided into five types based on its consistency.
- Silken: Silken tofu is an un-pressed and undrained variety of tofu. This type of Tofu contains the highest water content. This is the softest tofu, which is often used in creamy, blended dishes. Many women use silken tofu during pregnancy as an alternative for eggs
- Medium: This type of tofu undergoes one extra step during the manufacturing processing. As a result, the majority of the water is squeezed out. This tofu is somewhat softer than firm tofu, and is firmer than silken tofu. Medium tofu is more or less similar to a softer type of cheese
- Firm: This is the most popular type of tofu and has a similar consistency to feta cheese. This tofu absorbs flavours nicely and is suitable for stir-frying and pan-frying
- Extra-firm: Extra-firm tofu is more often used in stir-fries and baking. This tofu retains its shape well. You can slice it into a shape you wish and can be fried in all frying methods like pan-frying, stir-frying, and deep-frying. This type of tofu is an excellent choice for grilling
- Super-firm: The texture of super-firm tofu most closely resembles that of meat. This tofu has a high protein content and is quite dense. It won’t break apart while cooking as the water content is low. Therefore, super firm Tofu is an excellent option if you’re in a hurry. However, if you bake or grill super firm tofu at high temperatures, it may dry out faster. The firmer the tofu is, it will be harder for it to absorb the flavours
All types of tofu are safe in pregnancy if they are cooked and stored properly once opened.
Health Benefits Of Eating Tofu During Pregnancy
Compared to other legumes, soy is high in protein but low in carbohydrate content. Soybeans are also rich in B vitamins, fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. Tofu, a soy product, carries all these benefits as well.
Tofu is rich in manganese, copper, and iron. It is also a good source of selenium and unsaturated fatty acids, in particular linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid. Tofu is well known for its high isoflavones content as well.
Related Reading: Soy Sauce During Pregnancy- Safety And Potential Risks
Following are amazing health benefits of tofu during pregnancy:
1. Appealing to pregnant women
This is one of the significant factors in flavour of tofu during pregnancy. Tofu has a nice texture and doesn’t have a strong flavour. This is great news for pregnant ladies who have issues with strong odours and tastes.
2. Excellent source of protein
Tofu is high in proteins, which aid in the healthy development and growth of the fetus. It is regarded as a high-quality protein source since it includes all eight necessary amino acids. Tofu has 8 g of protein per 100 g, which is 16% of the daily need.
3. Rich in vital minerals
Contains all the vital minerals essential for the healthy progression of pregnancy.
- Calcium: It helps in the development of bone, teeth, nerves, and muscles of the fetus. It also helps reduce the risk of mothers contracting osteoporosis in the future
- Potassium: Helps in preventing gestational hypertension
- Iron: Helps with extra blood production. Also, improves haemoglobin level and prevents iron deficiency anemia. Iron helps strengthen immunity
- Manganese: aids muscle relaxation and brings down the risk of premature uterine contractions
- Copper: Copper during pregnancy helps develop the fetal heart and blood vessels
- Selenium: Selenium is an important nutrient for thyroid function. Optimal thyroid functions are very important for the healthy development of the fetus
3. An excellent substitute for fish
Omega-three fatty acids play a vital role in pregnancy. It is important for fetal brain development and also helps in increasing fetal weight. Fish is a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. But if you are vegetarian or if you developed an aversion towards its smell or taste during pregnancy, tofu can be a good replacement.
4. Rich in antioxidants
Tofu is loaded with antioxidants. Flavonoids and Isoflavonoids present in tofu help lower the risk of contracting potential diseases. Consuming tofu during pregnancy may also protect the baby from contracting diabetes and obesity in the future.
5. Helps maintain a healthy weight
Just like being underweight during pregnancy invites many complications, putting on excess weight also brings about many complications that come in the way of healthy progression of pregnancy and labor. Therefore, it is important to maintain optimal weight throughout the pregnancy.
Tofu is low in calories and rich in vegetable protein. Therefore, eating tofu during pregnancy helps the expecting woman to feel full for a longer period. This is very beneficial for the mothers who experience frequent hunger pangs and overweight gain associated with it.
Side Effects Of Consuming Tofu During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a period when you should be especially vigilant about what you eat. To minimize the potential consequences of overconsumption, it is best to eat all food products, no matter how nutrient-dense it is, in moderation during pregnancy.
Following are some negative effects associated with overconsumption of tofu during pregnancy:
- Excessive consumption of tofu during pregnancy may increase the risk of breast cancer
- As the isoflavones in tofu hinder thyroid hormone production, expecting mothers with thyroid issues should eliminate tofu from their menu. Remember, the fetus depends completely on the mother’s thyroid hormone in the first trimester. Therefore, anything that hinders its production should be avoided.
However, all of the aforementioned issues are solely related to excessive tofu intake during pregnancy.
Related Reading: 10 Drinks To Avoid During Pregnancy
Risks Associated With Consuming Tofu During Pregnancy
Irrespective of all the benefits, below are some risks associated with consuming tofu during pregnancy:
1. Can get in the way of mineral absorption:
Phytic acid in tofu can hinder the absorption of minerals. Absorption of minerals like iron, copper, manganese, calcium, and zinc may get inhibited. These minerals are essential for the healthy progression of pregnancy.
2. Can get in the way of protein absorption
Soy contains a high concentration of anti-nutrients, which can potentially interfere with the digestive enzymes. Trypsin, a protein-digesting enzyme inhibitor in tofu, can hinder protein absorption. Protein is a vital food for pregnant women, and any interference with its absorption should be avoided.
3. Risk of aluminium poisoning:
The processing or washing of soybeans during the making of Tofu is done in an aluminium tank. As a result, Tofu poses a risk of excessive aluminium build-up, which can cause neurological disorders in the fetal brain.
Precautions While Consuming Tofu During Pregnancy
In the process of producing tofu, soybeans are exposed to high temperatures. This helps exterminate heat-sensitive bacteria before pasteurization. Still, it is important to follow some precautionary measures while eating tofu during pregnancy:
- To ensure food safety, heat tofu for at least 15 seconds until it hits an internal temperature of 74 degrees C / 165 degrees F
- Once it is cooked, eat it before it cools down completely (within 2 hours)
- Tofu, like other perishables in the refrigerator, should be refrigerated at 4 degrees Celsius or less. In this condition, you can store it for up to 7 days
- If you consume tofu in a restaurant, make sure it is served hot. This is because pre-cooked tofu may get contaminated with germs
- It is found that episodes of illness are more common among people eating home-fermented tofu
Therefore, while purchasing tofu during pregnancy, stick to top brands rather than homemade varieties. Always thoroughly cook the tofu before eating. Eating raw tofu during pregnancy is not safe.
Related Reading: 11 Symptoms Of Not Eating Enough While Pregnant
How To Incorporate Tofu In Pregnancy Diet?
Depending on which type of tofu you have chosen, there are many delicious ways to incorporate tofu into your pregnancy diet. You can use it in;
- As for stuffing in stuffed parathas
- Tofu can be an excellent substitute for paneer and eggs
“Is fried tofu good for pregnancy?” is a frequently asked question on numerous online forums. Yes, fried tofu is safe to eat during pregnancy if consumed in moderation. Firm tofu is typically used to fry because it can absorb the flavours of spices used in stir-fries. Stir-fried tofu with brown rice or veggie rice is a nutrient-dense meal.
Just like any other food during pregnancy, Tofu is a highly healthy meal as long as it is taken in moderation. Excessive consumption can cause serious diseases such as protein indigestion, pancreatic dysfunction, diarrheas and constipation.
You can visit a dietitian to learn more about the effects of tofu on your body and incorporate it into your pregnant diet as directed.
Because tofu is a perishable product, it is stored in the refrigerated area of your grocer. Keeping tofu at room temperature for some time will spoil it.
Therefore, it is advisable to avoid cold tofu during pregnancy. Although the chances of becoming ill are low, preparing tofu is a simple step that makes it considerably safer to consume during pregnancy.
There are no special risks associated with consuming tofu during the first trimester of pregnancy. Eating soy products in moderation, at any stage of pregnancy should be safe for most people.
However, storing and cooking tofu properly is very important to reap its benefits.