Tofu came onto the food scene as a health fad in the ‘70s but has become a permanent member of the fit food club—and for good reason.
Made from dried soybeans, tofu is the only plant-based protein source (it delivers 11 grams per 100-calorie serving) that has all of the nine essential amino acids—those are the ones your body can’t produce on its own, says Rachel Begun, MS, RD, a dietician in Rye Brooke, NY. And when compared to other soy-based meat alternatives, like frozen veggie burgers, it’s minimally processed, meaning you’re not getting too many extra additives or a sneaky dose of sodium. Plus it’s relatively cheap compared to buying meat—making it a healthy option for those on a budget.
If you’re new the tofu game, though, selecting the right kind at the supermarket can be confusing, so here’s what you need to know: Silken, which is smooth and packed with moisture, is best used in smoothies or spreads, while firm and extra firm cook well—without falling apart. (Just be warned that firm and extra firm tofu usually need to be drained and pressed with a paper towel before preparing; this will remove any extra water that could lead to a crumbling-during-cooking situation.)