The amount of calcium in tofu depends on how it is prepared. Generally speaking, calcium set tofu has more calcium than non calcium set.
But what does that mean? How can you tell if tofu is high in calcium? And why do I need calcium anyways?
Keep reading to level up your knowledge in this dietitian written article!
Disclaimer: This article is just providing education. It is not personal medical or dietary advice. Always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement or making major dietary changes. See our Disclaimers for more details.
This post was originally published on 3/10/22. The updated date is listed above.
What is Tofu, and How is it Made?
Tofu is believed to have a Chinese origin. The literal translation is “bean curd”(1).
It is made by coagulating soy milk (a plant based “milk” made from soybeans), and then forming the curds into blocks. It’s similar to the process of making cheese, except dairy milk is used for cheese.
Depending on the amount of water extracted, tofu can have different textures that include:
- Soft/Silken Tofu: A type that has been described as having a a silky texture. This type has the most moisture making it a nice addition to smoothies, soft desserts or soups.
- Firm or Extra Firm Tofu: Just like the term, this tofu has less moisture than soft or silken tofu, and should spring back when pressed. These varieties may be more suitable for tofu scrambles, stir-fries or tofu nuggets.
Calcium In Tofu
Here’s a chart of the calcium content in various preparations of tofu (2, 3, 4):
|Type||Tofu Calcium per 100g (gram)|
|Regular, raw tofu prepared with calcium sulfate||350 milligrams|
|Soft tofu, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride||111 milligrams|
|Tofu, salted and fermented (fuyu)||46 milligrams|
The coagulation agents influence how much calcium in tofu appears on the nutrition facts.
4 coagulants are commonly used in the USA:
- Calcium sulfate
- Magnesium chloride (sometimes referred to as “nigari”)
- Calcium chloride (also sometimes referenced as “nigari”)
- Glucono delta-lactone
You will see these listed in the ingredients list on the package. Those made with calcium sulfate alone may have higher amounts of calcium than the other types or when multiple coagulation agents are used(1). Brands can vary, so read the labels.
Is Tofu High in Calcium?
Tofu can be a good source of calcium. in the US, a “good source” includes 10-19% the daily value or RDI (recommended daily intake) per a commonly consumed serving(5). The daily value for calcium is 1300 milligrams of calcium for adults and children over 4 years old (6).
Several brands carry tofu that contain a hefty 10-15% the daily value for calcium per serving! However, I’ve seen some contain as little as 2%, so read those labels if you want to get a good dose of calcium with your tofu!
Tofu Calcium Absorption
The calcium in tofu may be absorbed just as well as milk according to some research.
Per the Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, calcium absorption form calcium-set tofu is similar to cows milk at about 30% absorbed (7).
And a cross over designed study involving a small sample of premenopausal women suggests that calcium absorption from calcium sulfate set tofu is similar to cows milk. (8).
That’s pretty sweet for those who want to shift towards a plant based or vegan diet!
Why Is Calcium Important?
As an essential mineral, calcium is very important. We must obtain enough from our diet and/or supplements, as the body does not make calcium on its own.
This mineral is important for a variety of bodily functions and processes including:
- Bone and teeth structure
- Muscle function
- Blood clotting
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults (19-50 years old) is 1000 milligrams of calcium per day(6). However, the UK guidelines suggest we may need less, around 700 milligrams per day for non breastfeeding adults(9).
Calcium deficiency could lead to poor bone health, which may increase the risk of falls, and even rickets in children(6).
So it’s really important to get enough throughout the lifecycle!
Other Calcium Rich Foods
Calcium is present in many foods. Animal based products that are rich in calcium include:
- Dairy (about 300 milligrams of calcium per cup).
- Certain types of fish, such as sardines with bones(6).
Vegan (no animal products) sources that contain decent amounts of calcium include:
- Calcium set tofu
- Plant based milks fortified with calcium (one cup may provide as much or more calcium than dairy-check the nutrition facts).
- Fortified orange juice (must include fortified calcium on the nutrition facts)
- Vegan cereals fortified with 10% or more the daily value for calcium.
- Low oxalate green vegetables (ex: broccoli, kale, bok choy etc)(7).
Additionally, other plant sources have notable amounts of calcium, such as almonds, white beans, oranges, and tahini (made from sesame seeds). However, the calcium in almonds (as an example) has a somewhat lower bioavailability than the vegan sources we previously mentioned.
This is just something to be aware of, and doesn’t mean that they don’t add up in a nutrient rich varied diet!
Besides Calcium, Does Tofu Have Any Other Health Benefits?
Calcium-set tofu has other many other nutrients beside calcium! Additionally, it contains beneficial compounds like isoflavones (an antioxidant).
Here’s a breakdown of some notable benefits of tofu:
- Plant based protein: Favoring plant protein adds fiber, something that animal proteins do not have. Tofu is also low in saturated fat which has benefits for heart health when replacing it with high saturated fat meat(10).
- Lysine: Soy, including tofu, is one of the richest whole food vegan sources of lysine (an essential amino acid some vegans potentially have a harder time getting enough of).
- Choline: Tofu contains a decent amount of choline(2), an important nutrient for metabolism.
- Non-heme iron: This is the type of iron found in plant foods. This type is not as well absorbed as heme (animal derived) iron. However, some research indicates that excess heme iron may have negative impacts on our health(11).
- Isoflavones: Isoflavones (a type of phytoestrogen and antioxidant) in soy may protect against certain types of cancer. One study from the Journal of Nutrition suggests that moderate lifetime soy intake throughout the the lifecycle could reduce the risk of breast cancer for women as compared to no soy intake(12). So, soy is actually anti estrogenic!
Where to Buy Calcium-Set Tofu
Tofu is becoming more popular and can be found in just about any grocery store in the US, including:
- Trader Joes
- Whole Foods
- Health Food Stores
FYI: Obviously we can’t guarantee that these stores have tofu in your area or that they are even use calcium salts, as companies may change their ingredients!
Here is a list of common tofu brands available in the US:
- House Foods
- 365 Whole Foods Market Brand
- Good and Gather (Target)
- WildWood Organic
- O Organics (Safeway)
What Can You Do With It?
There are so many different ways to use tofu. The flavor can be described as bland, with the ability to take on the flavors it is seasoned with.
That’s what I love so much about it!
Personally, tofu “egg” salad sandwiches are one of my favorite lunches! They are so quick and easy. I typically just add a some vegan mayo, pinch of turmeric, garlic, dill, and iodized salt to mashed tofu and enjoy with bread. It is so tasty and requires little skill!
Just for inspiration, here ways you can use tofu:
- Replace meat with tofu in stir-fry’s
- Use tofu instead of eggs to make a tofu scramble
- Add soft tofu to soups
- Use silken tofu for creamy sauces
- Grill some tofu instead of meat
- Increase the protein content of smoothies with tofu
- Add some marinated tofu to salads
- As an addition to smooth desserts (ie: mousse, pie, pudding, etc)
- Make a use tofu instead of the eggs in a “egg” salad sandwich
I hope you found this article helpful!
While you’re at it, why not poke around on our blog? We answer more nutrition topics such as
Do Grounding Foods Exist?
Eco Friendly Foods
Is Honey is Actually Healthy?
Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for our e-mail subscribers list if you want to be notified of new articles!