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Article: How sustainable is tofu?

Tofu Gericht

How sustainable is tofu?

“Tofu is no better than meat because rainforests have to be cut down to make it.” Does this sentence sound familiar to you? The argument is often used when it comes to the “omnivore vs. plant-based diet” debate. For many people who avoid meat, soy products - and therefore also tofu - are, among other things, an important source of plant-based protein. But what's the truth in this argument? Can you enjoy soy products carelessly or should you also pay attention to your own consumption? Today we want to take a closer look at this question.

That's why tofu is so popular

Tofu is now an integral part of the diet, not just for vegetarians or vegans. Many lactose intolerant people or those who value a balanced diet are also fans of the food. Because the food made from soy milk scores with its healthy nutritional values .

Probably the most popular feature is the relatively high protein content of tofu. The food also contains all essential amino acids. That's good, because essential amino acids are those that our body cannot produce itself, but which are important for building proteins and for many metabolic processes. Tofu is also easy to digest . This makes its protein quality comparable to that of animal protein.

In addition, tofu provides a lot of fiber and important B vitamins (including B3 and B5). The soy product also contains important minerals such as magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc and folic acid . In contrast to meat, tofu is free of cholesterol , has little fat and no sugar and is therefore low in calories .

The growing popularity means that you can find more and more tofu varieties and soy products in our supermarkets. But did you know that you can also make tofu yourself pretty easily at home ? You can find more information about making tofu here.

The effects of tofu and soy products on our environment

It cannot be denied that a lot of the rainforest in South America is cut down to make soy. This is a problem because the rainforest is one of the most important CO2 stores in the world. What is important here, however, is the question of what the soy grown is used for. The majority does not end up in meat alternatives or tofu, as many people think, but in the meat industry - more precisely in protein-rich feed . Depending on the source, 80-98 percent of the soy grown worldwide is processed into animal feed. The few remaining percentages go into the production of food and products such as margarine, cosmetics or mayonnaise.

The soy grown in South America often ends up under the noses of European farm animals. In the end, the rainforest is being cut down for the consumption of meat, and not for tofu or meat substitute products, as is often claimed.

In fact, European tofu is usually produced with soy grown in Europe - so most of the beans don't come from South America. Due to increasing demand, soy cultivation on our continent - especially in Italy and the Danube region - has increased significantly in recent decades.

By cultivating soy on European soil, another argument that is often used against soy products is refuted: that soy is genetically modified. It is true that imported genetically modified varieties are used for animal feed. Since 2015, EU member states or regions have been able to ban the cultivation of genetically modified plants. Germany also makes use of it. Soy products that come from Germany are therefore produced with non-genetically modified soybeans . This is also the reason why soy is so cheap as animal feed, but quite expensive as food.

Soy cultivation in the rainforest

Soy or meat – which is better?

People who eat a purely plant-based diet but do not pay much attention to the origin of their food still contribute a tiny part to the deforestation of the Brazilian rainforest. But a much smaller one than regular meat eaters.

Soy products continue to perform better than meat in terms of their ecological balance . Poultry and pork, for example, cause around 3.5 times the amount of greenhouse gases compared to tofu - regardless of their origin. Other types of meat, such as beef, cause 13 times as much. That's a pretty big difference.

According to current research reports, the most environmentally friendly option still seems to be avoiding meat. In particular, unprocessed plant-based foods such as vegetables, nuts or legumes simply have a lower impact on the environment than animal products.

If you want to enjoy soy products like tofu, the safest solution is currently soy from organic, European cultivation. Even though soy cultivation has already grown significantly in Europe, it is still a niche. Currently around 140 times more soy is imported than is grown.

As long as the domestic cultivation of soy does not create monocultures, there is nothing to be said against it. Regionality is promoted and not only is the deforestation of the rainforest saved, but also emissions from long transcontinental transport routes.

What to look for when buying tofu

In summary, this means the following for conscious consumption of tofu:

If possible, make sure to buy organic tofu that is produced with European soybeans . You will often find a label on the front of the product that draws your attention to the origin of the soybeans. This way you can ensure that there are no unwanted additives in the product. In addition, you protect nature with your choice.

Of course, these tips also apply to other soy products such as soy milk or similar.

If you would like to reduce your meat consumption or shift your diet away from animal products and towards plant-based foods, the following blog articles may be of interest to you:

If you would like to find out more about topics such as the environment and sustainability, nutrition, mindfulness or family and pregnancy, take a look at the exciting blog articles here.

Tofu dish sustainably prepared

Photo by Alesia Kozik


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