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Difference Between Tofu and Meat

Lately, there has been an emphasis on healthy eating with scrutiny on dietary meat intake. This has come as a result of many lifestyle diseases that have cropped up over the years. It has led to some people being put on a non-meat diet or strictly white meat diet due to the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases associated with saturated fats and cholesterol in red meat.  But are there healthy alternatives to meat in the market today and how safe are they?

In this article, we look at the differences between meat and tofu. Tofu is a product that has been used for years in Asia as a healthy alternative to meat. It currently tops the list among the vegetarian and vegan diets.

What is Tofu?

Tofu is a product of soy milk. It is made by curdling soy milk and pressing it into solid blocks of varying degrees of softness. It is also referred to as the bean curd. The blocks could be soft, silken, firm, or extra firm, or depending on the texture. It’s nutritionally low in calories and high in protein. It’s also high in iron. 

Tofu is a good source of plant protein and contains all the essential amino acids. It is also a good plant source of iron and calcium, manganese, and phosphorous. It also has magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamin B1

What is Meat?

Meat refers to animal flesh that is cooked and eaten as food. It is a good source of dietary protein and is a delicacy in many cultures.  It is also a source of highly needed iron, vitamin B12, B6, and other B complex vitamins, Zinc, Selenium, and Phosphorus.

Meat is broadly classified as red and white. Red meat includes beef, goat, lamb, sheep, and pork.  White meat includes poultry, fish, and rabbit. Red meat is red when raw and a darker red when cooked while white meat is pale-coloured both when raw and cooked. The fat and fatty acid content, a major point of concern health-wise, are dependent on the type of the species, the feeding system of the animal, and the type of cut used.

Similarities between Tofu and Meat

  • Both are good sources of protein and essential amino acids.

Differences between Tofu and Meat


Tofu is plant-sourced. On the other hand, meat is derived from animals.

Protein content

While both are great sources of protein, Tofu has less protein than meat.  

Iron content

Tofu is richer in iron than meat, but the iron from meat is easier for the body to process.


Tofu has fewer calories (73%) and no cholesterol. On the other hand, meat is high in calories and contains cholesterol. 

Dietary fibre

Tofu has more dietary fiber than meat, with tofu having 0.3g of dietary fiber per 100 g. Meat lacks significant amounts of fiber.

Presence of phytoestrogen

Tofu contains phytoestrogen that helps reduce symptoms of menopause, prevent breast and prostate cancer, and helps with osteoporosis. On the other hand, meat does not contain phytoestrogen.

Presence of anti-nutrients

Tofu contains anti-nutrients such as phytates and trypsin inhibitors which can inhibit digestion and absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc. On the contrary, meat does not contain anti-nutrients.

Tofu vs. Meat: Comparison Table

Summary of Tofu vs. Meat

tofu is a good alternative to meat as it is a good source of protein and other essential amino acids. However, as with many food types, it is crucial to eat it in moderation to wade off any undesirable effects


Is tofu better for you than meat?

If we are talking about whole soy, tofu is healthier than meat as it provides the protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals without cholesterol and saturated fats found in meat.

Does tofu have the same protein as meat?

Tofu contains less protein than meat. You would need to eat more tofu to reach the recommended dietary intake of protein than you would meat.

Can you eat tofu instead of meat?

Yes, you can eat tofu instead of meat. It’s a healthy substitute for meat if you have concerns with bad cholesterol. It also helps alleviate the symptoms of menopause and prevents some types of cancers such as breast and prostate.

Why is tofu worse than meat?

The protein in tofu is not readily digestible, so you would need to eat more tofu to reach the recommended dietary protein intake. In addition, tofu is a portion of processed food that requires more energy to produce. This makes it less environmentally friendly.

What are the negatives of tofu?

Tofu contains anti-nutrients that can inhibit proper digestion and absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron. These anti-nutrients include trypsin inhibitors and phytates. Trypsin inhibitors inhibit the enzyme trypsin that helps digestion of proteins. Phytates, on the other hand, prevent absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium

Some tofu is also processed from genetically modified soy which could bring health concerns like cancers. Organic soy is best.

Which country eats the most tofu?

China tops the list for consumption of unfermented soy-tofu and soymilk. Other countries include Singapore and Hong Kong.

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References :

[0]John Paino. The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine. Penguin Publishers, 1991. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=LvGuq8LnYJwC&pg=PA20&dq=difference+between+tofu+and+meat&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj6ztXp7dvyAhWRohQKHRPaBs4Q6AEwAXoECAQQAg#v=onepage&q=difference%20between%20tofu%20and%20meat&f=false

[1]Rankin C & Evans L. Giant Book of Tofu Cooking. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2000. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=l5stIE900QcC&pg=PA95&dq=difference+between+tofu+and+meat&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj6ztXp7dvyAhWRohQKHRPaBs4Q6AEwAHoECAIQAg#v=onepage&q=difference%20between%20tofu%20and%20meat&f=false

[2]Angela Chang. Delicious Tofu: Recipes and Lore from the Land of Tofu for Meat Lovers and Vegetarians. Page Publishing Inc, 2017. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=WQqjDgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=difference+between+tofu+and+meat&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=difference%20between%20tofu%20and%20meat&f=false

[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/beef-meat-food-closeup-butcher-3267625/

[4]Image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tofu_4.jpg

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