The keto diet is one of the hottest health trends of the century and many people are reaping the rewards of the diet. Numerous people have used the ketogenic diet to lose weight, reduce inflammation, and manage their diabetes among many other things. But is this lifestyle suitable for everyone? If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may be wondering if the low-carb high-fat diet is suitable for your lifestyle. And more importantly, if vegetarian alternatives like tofu are keto-approved.
We take a closer look at the carbs in different types of tofu and whether or not this dietary staple is a healthy option for vegetarian and vegan keto dieters.
Can Vegetarians And Vegans Follow A Keto Diet?
The goal of the keto diet is to shift your body into a metabolic state known as ketosis, hence the name ‘keto’. In order to reach this state, the body must be deprived of its main energy source – glucose. In doing this, your liver will start to produce ketones, which are made from the breakdown of fats. These ketone bodies become the body’s new source of fuel. The majority of carbohydrates that we consume are converted into sugar glucose, which is why the keto diet is very restrictive when it comes to the number of carbs you can consume a day. The typical macronutrient ratio on a standard keto diet is 5% carbs, 20% protein, and 75% fats.
Non-vegetarians source most of their fat from dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. Since these are off-limits for vegetarians and vegans, proteins and fats need to be sourced from alternative foods. Unfortunately, this is where the diet gets really restrictive. Some vegetarian staple foods like fruits, beans, legumes, root vegetables, grains, and starches are not permitted on the keto diet. However, there are many other foods that are permitted.
These foods include:
- Coconut and olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy greens
- Almond butter
While the keto diet does eliminate a few food groups that vegetarians rely on, there are many other high fat and protein options allowed on the diet. Everyone has different caloric needs based on their current health status, activity level, and BMI, but a keto diet can easily work with a vegetarian lifestyle. It will take some trial and error, but you will find what works for you. There are hundreds of keto hacks to help make the journey easier as well, like planning your meals, eating a wide variety of foods so you don’t get bored, and taking a quality keto supplement to keep your health in check.
Is Tofu Keto Friendly?
Now that we know the keto diet is suitable for vegetarians and vegans, where does that leave tofu?
Tofu is a type of bean curd made from soybeans and is the primary alternative for meat. The soybeans are soaked, ground, boiled and filtered to make milk. The soy milk is then coagulated and the remaining curds are pressed into cubes to form the end product – tofu.
Most legumes and beans are not permitted on the diet, but soybeans are relatively low in carbohydrates when compared to their counterparts.
Half a cup (100 grams) of boiled soybeans contains:
- Calories – 173 Kcal
- Fat – 9g
- Total Carbs – 10g
- Net Carbs – 4g
- Fiber – 6g
- Protein – 17g
Based on the numbers, it’s easy to see why most plant-based dieters opt for soybeans because of the high value of protein. The net carbs in soybeans are a bit higher than keto standards, but depending on the food choices you make, it does have a place on the keto menu.
Tofu has a slightly different nutritional profile because the soybeans have gone through a manufacturing process. There are many different variations of tofu on the market and they also come in three different textures.
These are the most common types of tofu found in most supermarkets:
This Japanese-style tofu is normally not drained or pressed during the manufacturing process. It has the highest water content when compared to other tofu variations and is commonly used to make smoothies and desserts. Due to the high water content, silken tofu only contains 1.4 grams of carbs per 100-gram serving.
Soft tofu is a Chinese variation of silken tofu. Its texture is not as smooth as silken tofu but can be used in the same way. Soft tofu also has a high water content and is also relatively low in carbs. A 100 gram serving of soft tofu contains 1.3 grams of carbs.
Firm tofu is the most common variation of tofu found in most supermarkets. It is usually packaged in water and vacuumed sealed. The texture can be compared to feta. It won’t break apart when you take it out of the package but it is easy to chop. Firm tofu can be used in most dishes as a substitute for meat and can be stir-fried, pan-fried, or deep-fried. A 100 gram serving of firm tofu contains 2.4 grams of carbs.
So is tofu keto approved? Based on the number of carbs in each variation, it’s safe to say that tofu is safe to eat on the keto diet provided that it fits into your macros for the day.
Are There Any Downsides To Eating Tofu On Keto?
Tofu may be low in carbs, but it may not be the best choice for your overall health. Many soybeans are genetically-modified (GMO). As a result of the modification, the quality of nutrients in the soybeans are affected. Genetically modified soybeans also pose a risk to your health because of the high concentrations of phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens commonly found in most GMO foods. Phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens are compounds that mimic estrogen by attaching to estrogen receptors in the body and taking over their natural function. Eating tofu in excess can cause these estrogen-mimicking compounds to hinder the body’s natural production of estrogen, which can cause some serious health concerns such as an increased risk of breast cancer, fibroids, tumors, and cysts.
It’s best to look for tofu products that are grown organically and have been fermented. A high-quality soybean product will also have a better ratio of macronutrients without the extra estrogen.
Is Tofu Ideal For Vegetarian Keto Dieters?
Tofu is a great source of protein for most plant-based dieters, however, the low-fat content is not always ideal for keto dieters especially in the beginning stages of the diet when the keto flu is likely to strike. It’s always best to choose foods that are high in healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocados, almonds, chia seeds, coconut cream, and leafy greens. Putting aside the negative effects of GMO soybeans, tofu is a keto-approved food and can be enjoyed in moderation. As long as it has been grown organically and fermented during the manufacturing process, you can safely consume this tasty meat alternative.