Health Advice



On Nutrition: Readers' remarks

Barbara Intermill, Tribune News Service on

Published in Nutrition

Glad to hear from two Arizona readers this week:

"Good morning, Barbara. As a vegan who eats fish (pescatarian), I read with interest your column on beans. I know that beans are good for me, but I don't like them. So I substitute tofu for beans in my stir fries and salads. Do you think it's OK to replace beans with tofu, which after all, comes from soybeans? I know the Japanese are the longest-living nationality in the world, and they eat a lot of soy products. Would be very interested in your opinion here, and I thank you. — Dave in Tucson"

You’re right, Dave, tofu is made from soybeans. And you’re also correct that Japan boasts one of the world’s longest life expectancies (behind Hong Kong).

Tofu and dried beans such as pinto, red and black beans are somewhat different in nutritional value, however. That has to do with the process of making tofu, which is similar to how cheese is made. In fact, some call tofu the “cheese of Asia.”

Soybeans are soaked in water, crushed and then cooked. Then the milky part of the mixture is separated from the pulp (fiber) part of the beans, thickened into curds and pressed into molds.

That means tofu is very low in dietary fiber, while beans are rock stars in this category. Yet both tofu and beans are very good sources of protein. These are reasons why tofu is considered a protein food while beans make the cut as a protein as well as a vegetable.


Here are more comparisons: Ounce for ounce, tofu provides fewer calories than cooked beans. Beans are higher in carbohydrates and dietary fiber, while tofu is higher in fat (a good fat). And if you choose a tofu processed with calcium sulfate or calcium chloride, it will provide more calcium than beans.

Both products are good sources of blood-building iron. Yet beans take the prize for folate, a B-vitamin that protects the heart, as well as potassium, a mineral that helps control blood pressure. Folate and potassium are plentiful in plant-based foods, however. So this may not be an issue with your current diet.

So, yes, even though the nutrients in these foods are not exactly the same, you have picked a very reasonable substitute with your current eating style.

Marie in Tucson writes: "Happen to see your column re: using leftovers. Here's what I make with them ... REFRIGERATOR SOUP. Take meat/vegetable/pasta leftovers — dice into small chunks. Put in food processor and grind. Add either water or broth to cover and grind again. Adjust seasonings. Sometimes I have several portions, so each time I might add another spice or cream."

Instant soup! I love it. Especially if you serve it warm.

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