What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word tofu? You may be thinking vegetarian, vegan, Asian food, soy, healthy, tasteless, or “what’s tofu?” Tofu, also known as bean curd, is made by coagulating soy milk which results in curds that are then pressed into soft to firm white blocks. We have all seen these inexpensive tofu blocks in the dairy alternatives section of our grocery stores. Used primarily in Japanese and vegetarian cooking, Japan and other Asian countries use tofu as a food staple. While also used in vegetarian cooking in other parts of the world, countries like America may also view tofu as a health food but not necessarily a food staple.

This soy based food has many health benefits; it is high in protein (and a healthy source of), high in calcium, iron, low in fat and saturated fat, and may even lower cholesterol. Like other soybean foods, tofu has raised some concern about its possible negative effects on the body due to some toxins and hormone compounds, such as impairing thyroid function and phytoestrogens adding hormones. Studies and research are ongoing that also include looking into the subjects of GMOs and organic. Should you completely avoid eating tofu? No. Tofu (soy) may be controversial in some ways, but this soy product does have its positive health benefits. Consume in moderation and enjoy your tofu dishes!

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To many people, tofu is a cloud of tasty goodness packed with healthful nutrients like calcium, iron, and protein. If bought and ready-to-use from a store, tofu is simple enough to prepare in many different ways for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. However, if you do want to cut back a little on your tofu consumption, here are three healthy vegan options to replace tofu for your non-soy days:

Nuts and Seeds

Replace tofu with a variety of nuts and seeds for an easy to grab and healthy snack, or add to salads, main courses, even toppings on desserts. Offering moderate to high protein and fiber are raw almonds, buckwheat, hazelnuts, oats, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, dry roasted and no salt sunflower seeds, and more. Nearly all nuts and seeds contain good fats and fatty acids, fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, all are good for your heart. If you are watching your weight, be aware that the calories in seeds and nuts can add up quickly!

Try replacing soy milk for a homemade or store bought plant-based milk made from nuts. Milk made from almonds or cashews are a hit in many vegan kitchens. They are flavorful when added in cooking, but tastes great to drink straight. Cashew milk is a good source of B vitamins, copper, and magnesium, and is cholesterol free. Almond milk contains essential nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E.

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Beans

Beans are inexpensive and versatile, are loaded with protein and fiber, and work well as a main meal or added to a meal. They are also high in antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, and copper. Since beans are hearty and contain a healthy amount of calories, you eat less at your meal and stay full and satiated for longer. Eating beans regularly may decrease the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and can help with weight management. Try beans such as kidney, black, red beans, white beans, chickpeas, and pinto to make your dinner plate, and you, healthier.

Mushrooms

All mushrooms, when exposed to ultraviolet light, are packed with essential nutrients and contain big doses of “the sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat, and carbs and contain B vitamins – niacin and riboflavin, and essential minerals, potassium, calcium, and copper, and selenium is beneficial in bladder health. Eat a variety of mushrooms cooked, raw, or added as a garnish to get a healthy amount of these vitamins and minerals. Along with its health benefits, mushrooms have a meaty texture and chewy bite making them an excellent natural and whole food meat substitute for anyone. Swap out that beef patty for a juicy grilled Portobello mushroom cap and top with your favorite vegetables and vegan sauce. Common types of edible mushrooms include, Shiitake, Oyster, Enoki, Portobello, and Cremini. What is your favorite type of mushroom?

Check out these nuts and seeds, beans, and mushroom recipes from One Green Planet :

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Image Source: Homemade, Veggie-Full Ground “Meat”