Are you a fan of tofu? Tofu or bean curd comes in many forms and is used in lots of dishes today. It usually has a mild flavor that easily takes on the other flavors cooked with it. Many people like it as a vegetarian alternative to meat since it’s relatively high in protein. Find out if dogs can eat tofu.
Tofu is made from soy milk. The curds that are produced are pressed into solid white blocks that can have varying firmness. The process is similar to making cheese. The blocks produced can be silken, soft, firm, extra firm, or super firm. People use whichever kind of tofu they prefer or that is called for in certain recipes.
Tofu can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Because of its spongy texture, tofu absorbs other cooking flavors well.
You can usually find different kinds of tofu available in supermarkets. We looked at firm tofu made with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride (nigari) for nutritional information. All tofu requires certain coagulants to help the soy milk curdle. These particular coagulants are very common in the United States though they are also traditional in China and Japan.
Tofu in general is low in cholesterol and sodium. This kind of tofu is a very good source of calcium and manganese. It’s also a good source of protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and selenium.
This firm tofu has 9 percent carbohydrates, 50 percent fats, and 41 percent protein. A serving of ½ cup (126 grams) contains 88.2 calories.
This kind of tofu has 2.1 grams of carbohydrates, 1.1 grams of dietary fiber, and 0.8 grams of sugars. It also had 5.3 grams of fats including 1.1 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, and 2.3 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
Firm tofu from these ingredients has 10.3 grams of protein.
If you are concerned about genetically modified foods, most of the soybeans in the world are grown in the United States. A large proportion of them are GMOs. You may have to go to extra lengths to find tofu that is GMO-free and/or organic.
Since it is made from soybeans, tofu also contains antinutrients. If you’re not familiar with antinutrients, they are plant compounds that reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. Antinutrients are not usually a major problem but if you eat a limited diet, especially one that relies on grains and legumes, you may be missing some important nutrients because of antinutrients.
Tofu contains two important antinutrients:
- Trypsin inhibitors. These compounds block trypsin, an enzyme that is necessary to properly digest protein.
- Phytates. Phytates can reduce the absorption of minerals such as calcium, iron, and zinc.
There are some ways to overcome some of the problems with antinutrients in tofu though they usually involve working with soybeans prior to making the tofu.
Tofu does contain some isoflavones. These isoflavvones function as phytoestrogens. They can attach to and activate estrogen receptors in the body. They produce effects that are similar to the hormone estrogen, though weaker. This may or may not be beneficial for some people.
Some studies have suggested that eating legumes, including soy, may lower the risk of heart disease.
There are possible negative consequences for some people from eating tofu and soy. The estrogen-like effects of phytoestrogens in soy may be associated with breast tumors.
People with thyroid problems may also need to avoid soy and tofu because they could interfere with thyroid activity.
Infants should not be exposed to soy or tofu because they can have an affect on developing reproductive organs.
Animal studies also suggest that soy can interfere with fertility.
Can Dogs Have Tofu?
Tofu is not toxic to dogs. However, it’s not a good idea to give it to your dog for a variety of reasons.
- Soy is a common allergen among dogs.
- Soy can affect the thyroid.
- Soy can interfere with fertility – a particular problem if you ever intend to breed your dog.
- Soy can affect developing reproductive organs in young dogs. Even if you don’t intend to breed your dog, s/he needs to develop naturally. Otherwise, your dog could have hormonal problems later in life.
- The antinutrients in soy and tofu can interfere with the absorption of some of the minerals and protein your dog needs in his diet.
So, while you can give your dog tofu, there are some health reasons why it’s not a good idea. You’re probably not contemplating switching your dog from a meat diet to a tofu diet but if you are, tofu does not provide the same complement of nutrients that meat provides. Your dog would be malnourished if you substituted tofu for meat.
There are a few situations where eating a diet featuring soy would be beneficial for dogs. For example, dogs with certain urinary tract diseases (kidney disease, bladder stones) might need to avoid meat and eat a food that had soy. If this is your dog’s case, talk to your veterinarian.
Some dog foods today do contain soy products. They are often used because of their protein content. Soy is much less expensive as an ingredient than meat. It’s usually a good idea to look for foods that keep these ingredients to a minimum.
How Much Tofu Can You Give Your Dog?
If you want to give your dog a little tofu occasionally, you should keep the amount very small. One or two small cubes would be enough. Make sure that you don’t give your dog any tofu that contains spices, salt, or other ingredients that might be harmful.
You should not give your dog tofu very often. If you want to give your dog a couple of small bites once or twice per month, that shouldn’t be harmful.
Keep in mind that some dogs do have soy allergies. If you notice any sign of a food allergy or sensitivity after giving your dog tofu, stop giving it to him.
Symptoms of a reaction include:
If you are concerned or if the problem doesn’t get better in a few hours, call your veterinarian. If your dog has a severe reaction, don’t waste time. Go to your veterinarian’s office immediately.
Tofu is not toxic to dogs but the soy used to make tofu is a common food allergen for many dogs. There are some health issues that make it a bad idea to give your dog tofu. If you want to share a little tofu with your dog occasionally, watch for any signs of a food allergy or sensitivity. Call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.