Tofu…Beware the fat content!


One aspect of 4Leaf eating is keeping your percent from fat below 20% of your daily calories. The average American averages nearly 40%.

If you’ve read about our 4Leaf Program, you already know of my conviction that the primary emphasis must be on maximizing the healthiest of foods versus concentrating on what you’re avoiding. It is my observation that most vegetarians do the latter and many of them never achieve the results they are seeking.

Tofu is a good example. Since it is not meat or dairy, most vegetarians think that it must be a healthy product that they “can” eat. So when they first start out with their meatless diet (for any number of reasons), many of them turn to tofu, which is used extensively in many dishes — as a substitute for all kinds of meat, cheeses and eggs.

Last week, I noticed an online recipe for a “tofu scramble” from a noted health MD and felt that I should use that recipe as an example to help educate my readers.  While I am an admirer of this particular MD, I think this is a good example of  how the medical experts sometime lose sight of the big picture.

Looks like eggs, tastes like eggs, has almost as much fat % as the eggs — but it’s not eggs; it’s also not a health promoting 4-Leaf meal.

Like most vegetarians, sometimes they focus too much on what they’re avoiding and not so much on what they are actually eating. For this recipe to be highlighted as a “healthy meal,” he may unintentionally be leading some people down the wrong path. While the meal was 100% plant-based with a long list of fresh vegetables like spinach, tomato, scallions, garlic, and bell pepper; the primary source of calories was by far the fat in the tofu.

I knew immediately that this meal would never come close to being in the 4-Leaf range — with over 80% of calories from whole plants — but I wanted to make sure.  So I went to nutritiondata.com and analyzed this meal. Here is what I found:

  • Only 10.8% of the 205 calories per serving were from whole plants – in nature’s package. Scoring at the “No-Leaf” level on our 4-Leaf Program.
  • Even worse, the meal derived 45.9% of its calories from fat (98% of which was from the tofu.)
  • The tofu itself was 50.3% fat.

I am not saying that tofu is a bad or harmful product; I am just saying that it is not a whole plant and that it is heavy in fat. If you want to keep your overall fat intake under 20% of your calories, meals like these should not be a part of your normal routine. In order to make this a 4Leaf meal, you would need to cut the quantity of tofu by 75% and add in lots of veggies like broccoli, carrots, eggplant, mushroom, potato, etc.

Confession time. Occasionally, I have ordered the Crispy Tofu Salad at a local restaurant, but only very rarely. Without analyzing it, I knew that it derived most of it’s calories from the tofu (fried) and that it was nowhere near a 4Leaf meal. Now that I know that it is most definitely in the “No Leaf” range, I may never have it again. So, I too have benefited from this exercise.

To the uninformed person wanting to lose weight, dishes like these are simply not going to get the job done. FYI, other soy products like soy milk are also very high in fat.

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About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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8 Responses to Tofu…Beware the fat content!

  1. Quynh says:

    Hmmm, are tofus truly fat? For 18 years of my life, I’ve grown up eating over ten different dishes/ varieties of tofu (fried, stir-fried, boiled, etc.), and the heaviest I’ve ever weighed was 109 pounds. My family literally eats tofu twice a week, and none of us are over-weighted. Do you think this has something to do with the brand of the tofu? I’m still wondering whether eating tofu is useful, though. I’ve always thought they were just empty calories.

  2. David A says:

    Where do you find tofu that is over 50% fat…virtually impossible unless you count the oil you might fry it in. I use it all the time making my own milk, tofu and various things from those.
    Way off base on this it would appear,.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi David, I went to nutritionfacts.com and analyzed a number of different brands of tofu sold in grocery stores. The fat content ranged from 40 to 60%. Thanks for your interest.

  3. BJ says:

    Sorry, meant to say all soy that is NOT properly fermented, should be avoided.

  4. BJ says:

    Tofu is a lot more lethal than it’s high fat content suggests.
    All properly fermented soy should be avoided. Tofu is a known endocrine disruptor, that has estrogen like effects on the body. In a world where this kind of hormone disruption is being thrown at us in so many forms, including the BPA found in most food containers and even on cash register receipts, causing effects such as sterility, gender confusion, and eventually cancer and death, there is little value in eating tofu. If one is looking at the Asian diet to give them sanction to eat tofu, it might serve to know that it is only around 1% of the true Asian Diet.
    Also keep in mind that 91% of the soy crops in America are Genetically Engineered ticking time bombs…. and with that high percentage of crops being grown, the likelihood of contamination of Organic soy crops is high.
    Search, Learn, Implement and Be well ~

  5. Marleen Govaert - Nauts says:

    I don’t like tofu so I never eat it.
    I do drink Alpro soy milk light though. 100 ml is 23 calories and contains 1.2 grams of fat. That is less than 1%.

    • jmorrishicks says:

      Marleen,

      I am not sure of how it works in the Netherlands, but in this country, all labels must have a Nutrition Facts panel that shows, among other things, “total calories per serving” and “calories from fat.” You will probably find that even the “light” soy milk derives well over 20% of its calories from fat. Hope this helps.

      J. Morris Hicks

  6. I noticed this, too. I received the recipe from two programs (both by the same physician) and quickly deleted it as nothing that interested me. I was concerned, much as you pointed out, that the uninitiated would indeed think this was a good alternative and a welcome addition to their new healthy lifestyle. Thanks for pointing out the drawbacks and doing the ‘numbers’ for everyone.

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