I Ate Tofu Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened

Updated: Apr. 01, 2024

It was once relatively reserved to the "crunchy" crowd—but these days, aren't we all crunchy? A doctor who identifies as a "meat lover" takes on tofu for a week—and discovers a rarely discussed heart benefit.

Tofu was long known as a favorite protein source for many vegetarians and vegans, but data reported by the Washington Post in the third quarter of 2020 suggested that tofu sales had risen 40% among Americans from the prior year. It’s possible that interest in tofu surged as more consumers used the COVID-19 lockdown to experiment with plant-based eating, combined with the need for protein with a longer shelf life and culinary versatility. Other recent reports suggest that 70% of Americans are adopting plant-based eating habits for their health and the environment.

Tofu is said to originate from Asia possibly 2,000 years ago as soybean curd named for its nature that one manufacturer says translates to “great beans.”

As a meat lover myself, I’ve grown curious about the health benefits of tofu, but I had yet to embrace it as a regular part of my diet. However, as recent research has suggested that red meat and processed meats are linked to higher risks of heart disease, cancer, and other disorders, I recently started to dig around for more information about tofu, and some recipes.

Among the research I encountered was a 2023 review indicating that diets rich in soy products like tofu could significantly lower the risk of conditions such as breast cancer. A 2020 study revealed that consuming tofu once a week could reduce the risk of heart disease by 18%.

However, research in decades past suggested that regular soy consumption may be associated with an increased risk of certain cancers and that it may influence the body’s production of reproductive hormones (a little more on that below). As with any change in your diet, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider who may be able to provide insight on what medical and academic literature says and how this affects your circumstances.

Ahead, my empirical research yielded some clear observations when I ate tofu every day for a week.

Soy Milk and Soybean Products Arranged On An Aqua TrayDiane Labombarbe/Getty Images

What is tofu?

Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk to produce curds, which are then pressed into solid blocks to form tofu itself. The textures of tofu products range from firm, extra firm, medium, or “silken.” The United Soybean Board says tofu’s firmness is determined by the use of different coagulants, such as magnesium chloride (nigari) or calcium sulfate. These agents solidify the soy milk and give tofu its density and characteristic mild flavor.

When it comes to nutrition, tofu stands out. Tofu is one of the complete proteins, boasting all nine essential amino acids our bodies need to function optimally, supporting everything from muscle repair to hormone production. Just a three-quarter cup of tofu can supply about 10 grams of high-quality protein.

Natalie Romito, RD, LD, a Cleveland Clinic dietitian, points out a major health benefit of this food on the institution’s Health Essentials blog: Unlike meat sources of protein, such as beef, tofu contains no cholesterol. This positions tofu as an outstanding source of polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for cholesterol management—says Romito: “Tofu is a great option for anyone following a heart-healthy diet—which should be all of us.”

It’s also important to note that tofu is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, like calcium, copper, pantothenic acid (B5), iron, and manganese.

The Best 15 Sources of Plant-Based Protein

Is it safe to eat tofu every day?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), consuming soy, which includes tofu, is generally considered safe except for those with allergies to soy. The past controversial connection between soy and breast cancer is likely due to soy’s isoflavones, which have a mild ability to mimic estrogen.

Current research, however, supports that it is safe for women with, or at risk for, breast cancer to eat soy foods. Note the use of soy isoflavone supplements by these individuals is less certain.

Additionally, consuming soy in amounts beyond typical dietary intake during pregnancy could potentially affect fetal health.

11 Baby Steps to Ease Into a Plant-Based Diet

Are there side effects to eating too much tofu?

For some individuals, consuming soy products, including tofu, may lead to digestive issues, such as constipation or diarrhea. While I didn’t encounter any digestive problems during my week-long experiment, it’s wise to be mindful of such possibilities when incorporating soy-based products into your diet.

There’s also a potential impact on thyroid function, particularly for those not getting enough iodine in their diets.

13 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat a Vegan Diet

Eating tofu every day

Depending on which texture of tofu you choose, you may want to try a tofu press to squeeze out the excess moisture. Here’s a look at the preparations I tried throughout my week of eating tofu:

  • Breakfast: I started a couple of days with a tofu scramble—a protein-rich start to the day replacing traditional scrambled eggs. (You can also blend tofu into your eggs for added protein, fiber, and bulk…which I found to be super filling, and a great source of energy.)
  • Lunch: For a quick, healthy lunch, I made a tofu stir-fry with lots of veggies. Buying miso soup broth and heating it up with cubes of tofu and scallion slices is another deliciously easy lunch idea, and some Chinese restaurants add thin slices of tofu to their egg drop soup!
  • Dinner: I fell in love with a sesame seed-crusted tofu recipe for its crunch and flavor.
  • Snacks: I used my Ninja Foodi for air-fried Buffalo tofu. It’s a healthy way to get crispy tofu without deep frying.
  • Dessert: I tried this recipe for Tropical Fruit Pudding, a healthier dessert that still satisfies a sweet craving.

Fried tofu in bowl, Vegetarian foodAmarita/Getty Images

8 Nutrients You May Be Missing If You’re Vegetarian or Vegan

When I ate tofu every day, I felt fuller longer with increased energy levels

One of the first noticeable impacts of eating tofu every day was the lasting sense of fullness that powered me through the mornings, especially after my workouts. Typically, I’d find myself rummaging through the pantry for a mid-morning snack (often a protein bar), but introducing a tofu scramble into my breakfast routine changed the game.

I attribute this to the protein-packed nature of tofu. It left me satisfied, negating the need for any extra nibbling before lunchtime, and also allowed me to stay focused and energized without the usual stomach grumbles or distracting thoughts of what my snack might be.

When I ate tofu every day, I experienced reduced cravings for unhealthy food

You know those moments when only something salty or sweet will do? They became rare occurrences during my week with tofu. These days, many registered dietitians say that the best way to manage mid-afternoon sugar cravings is to start the day with healthy protein, ideally combined with fiber and healthy fat.

With tofu, it’s not just the protein but the healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals that seemed to balance my body’s needs and dampen those loud calls for quick sugar fixes or crunchy, salty treats.

Craving Sugar? A Dietitian Says You May Need More of This Surprising Nutrient

When I ate tofu every day, I learned why it’s called a “culinary chameleon”

Isn’t this a great phrase? I was able to witness firsthand how tofu has such a low-key flavor on its own, and the perfect texture to absorb flavor from whatever you’re mixing it with. (This can make it a perfect smoothie ingredient, and if you ever get to try a fried Szechuan tofu from a great Asian restaurant, you’ll learn its chameleon effect for yourself. Delicious.)

Beyond being a mere substitution for my animal proteins, I discovered tofu’s adaptability across all meals—something traditional meats simply can’t match.

Tempeh vs. Tofu: Which Is Better for Your Health?

Will I keep eating tofu every day?

While tofu will definitely remain a staple in my eating habits, I won’t consume it daily. I crave variety in my meals; as with any diet, diversity is crucial. And don’t forget that adding just a serving of tofu once a week could lower your risk of heart disease by 18%!

If you’re still undecided about tofu after reading this, I urge you to consider trying it out—just make sure to consult with your healthcare provider first to see if it’s right for you.

For more wellness updates, subscribe to The Healthy by Reader’s Digest newsletter and follow The Healthy on Facebook and Instagram. Keep reading: