Tofu vs Chicken meat - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Chicken meat contains 1.6 times more proteins, calories, and fats, with a higher content of “bad” fats and most of the B complex vitamins. In contrast, tofu is 45.5 times richer in calcium, over two times richer in iron, and most minerals.
Table of contents
- Weight Loss & Diets
- Health Impact
- Health Benefits
- Downsides and Risks
Tofu or bean curd is made by heating soy milk containing a coagulant, which affects its firmness. The coagulant is either calcium sulfate or magnesium chloride. The process is similar to traditional cheesemaking.
Tofu is often used as a meat analog, also known as vegan meat.
This article will compare and provide information about the nutritional values and health impacts of tofu and the most common poultry meat - chicken meat.
Tofu is a protein food and shares the group of protein foods with lean and poultry meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, and dairy products.
Chicken meat, along with quail, duck, goose, turkey meats, is called poultry meat. Poultry meat is the meat of domesticated birds. Due to its lower myoglobin levels, poultry meat is considered white meat.
Tofu looks like blocks of white sponge when raw and golden brown when cooked.
The breast and wing meat of the chicken meat is white, whereas the leg meat is darker in color.
Tofu can be eaten both raw and cooked. Tofu has a bland flavor and the ability to absorb other flavors. It can be sweet, savory, soft, or crunchy with the correct preparation. Tofu can be baked, grilled, and stir-fried. It can be used in soups as well.
The US Department of Agriculture recommends that all poultry products, including chicken meat, are cooked at the internal temperature of at least 165ºF or 74ºC (1).
There are different techniques to cook chicken meat. It can be roasted or baked, barbecued, grilled, stir-fried, or pan-fried. The best cooking method for wings, legs, and whole meat is roasting; for breasts and thighs, it is grilling, barbequing, and frying.
Types of tofu are silken, regular, firm, extra-firm, and super-firm. The water content varies in these types; it is the highest in silken and lowest in super-firm type. Silken tofu can be compared to young white cheese, while firm tofu is like feta. Regular tofu is a little more compact compared to silken but still soft.
Extra-firm tofu doesn’t absorb marinades well, but it is easier to fry.
Super-firm tofu can be mistaken for meat, as it contains the least percentage of water. It is also a great meat alternative.
Chicken meat can be fresh or processed.
Depending on the cut of the meat, the three main parts of the chicken meat are breast, leg, and wing.
Based on the age and sex of the bird, chickens are divided into classes: Cornish game hen (young, immature chicken of either age), broiler or fryer (young chicken of either sex), roaster (young chicken of either sex), capon (surgically neutered male chicken), hen, baking or stewing (adult female chicken), cock or rooster (adult male chicken) (2).
Nutritional values of tofu and chicken meat can vary, depending on the type, cooking method, and also the sex and age of the bird for chicken meat.
Nutritional values in this article are presented for roasted chicken, broiler or fryer, with meat and skin and raw firm tofu prepared with calcium sulfate.
Macronutrients and Calories
Chicken meat is denser in nutrients, containing almost 60% water and 40% nutrients, while firm tofu contains 70% water and 30% nutrients. However, regular tofu consists of almost 85% water, and fried tofu consists of 50.5% water.
The average serving size of tofu is 85g or 3 oz. The average serving size of chicken meat is one cup, chopped or diced, weighing 140g.
Chicken meat is considered to be a high-calorie food. Chicken meat provides almost 1.7 times more calories compared to firm tofu.
A 100g serving of chicken meat provides 239 calories, whereas firm tofu provides only 144.
A 100g serving of regular tofu provides 76 calories, and fried tofu provides 270 calories (3, 4).
Depending on the body part of chicken meat, calorie content varies. The highest level of calories provides the back (300 calories), then wings (254 calories), breast (197 calories), and the least amount of calories are found in chicken legs (184 calories) (5, 6, 7, 8).
Chicken meat, without skin, provides only 190 calories (9).
Both tofu and chicken meat are great sources of protein. However, chicken meat contains more protein.
Both foods contain all essential amino acids. Chicken meat is the winner here, as it contains higher levels of all the amino acids.
Depending on the cut, the level of chicken protein can vary. The protein levels of chicken meat from highest to lowest are in this order: breast, back, legs, wings.
Tofu, being made from soybean, contains high levels of glycinin and β-Conglycinin. Soybeans also contain two protease or trypsin inhibitor classes, 90% of which are destroyed during the moist heat treatment (10).
Chicken meat contains 1.5 times more fats compared to firm tofu. A 100g serving of chicken meat contains 13.6g fats, while firm tofu contains 8.72g and regular tofu contains only 4.78g (3). Fried tofu contains 20.2g of fats (4).
A 100g chicken meat without skin contains only 7.41g of fats (9).
The predominant fatty acids in tofu are polyunsaturated, then monounsaturated fatty acids. In contrast, the predominant fats in chicken meat are monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and only then polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The 100g serving of chicken meat contains 88 mg of cholesterol, whereas tofu is absent in cholesterol.
Chicken meat contains no carbohydrates.
Firm tofu is not particularly rich in carbs either.
A 100g serving of firm tofu contains 2.3g of dietary fiber and 0.48g of net carbs, whereas the same amount of regular tofu contains only 0.3g of dietary fiber.
Firm tofu is 2.5 times richer in vitamin B1 and 5.8 times richer in vitamin B9 or folate.
Chicken meat is 23 times richer in vitamin B3 or niacin, almost eight times richer in vitamin B5, and 4.3 times richer in vitamin B6 than firm tofu. Chicken meat is also richer in vitamin B2.
Firm tofu is absent in vitamin K, whereas chicken meat is absent in vitamin C. Both tofu and chicken meat are absent in vitamin D.
When comparing firm tofu with regular tofu, firm tofu is richer in all mentioned vitamins (3).
The winner in this category is firm tofu.
Firm tofu, prepared with calcium sulfate, contains 45.5 times more calcium, 59 times more manganese, 5.7 times more copper, 2.5 times more magnesium, and two times more iron. Firm tofu contains almost six times less sodium. Firm tofu contains 5.5 times more calcium than milk.
Chicken meat is richer in zinc and selenium.
Firm tofu and chicken meat are equal in phosphorus and potassium.
When comparing firm and regular tofu, firm tofu is richer in all the minerals, except for iron. Regular tofu is two times richer in iron (3).
Tofu prepared with magnesium chloride (nigari) is not richer in magnesium when compared to the one prepared with calcium chloride.
Chicken meat contains no carbohydrates; therefore, the glycemic index of chicken meat is 0. More information about the glycemic index of chicken meat depending on the cooking method and relation to glycemic response is provided here.
As tofu is low in carbs, it has a very low glycemic index of 15. More information about the glycemic index of tofu and its protective effects against diabetes is provided here.
The insulin index demonstrates how much the consumed food increases blood insulin levels. The insulin index of pure glucose is 100.
The insulin index of tofu is 21. The insulin index of roast chicken is 23, and roast chicken without skin is 17. This page provides information about insulin indices of over 100 foods.
Tofu has a pH of 7.20, which is considered neutral (11).
The pH value of chicken meat ranges from 5.8 to 6.3, from moderately acidic to slightly acidic (12).
The pH value of chicken breast and thigh range from 5.7 to 5.96 and 5.65 to 5.84, respectively, making them moderately acidic (13).
The PRAL value or Potential Renal Acid Value of tofu is -0.3, making it base-producing, whereas the PRAL value of chicken meat is 14.6, making it acid-producing.
Weight Loss & Diets
The best choice for low-calorie and low-fat diets is regular tofu. Firm tofu is still a better choice for these diets than chicken meat.
Having no carbs and therefore glycemic index equal to 0, chicken meat is a better choice for low-carb and low-glycemic-index diets. However, tofu is low in carbs and is a low glycemic index food, and fits well into these diets.
Both tofu and chicken meat are keto-friendly foods. These foods can be consumed during the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), Atkins, and Mediterranean diets.
Chicken meat can be consumed during the Paleo diet as well.
As a great and well-known meat alternative, tofu is consumed during vegan and vegetarian diets.
Soy proteins in tofu lead to a decrease in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, and triglyceride levels, known as “bad” fats, and an increase in high-density lipoprotein or “good” fats levels. Soy products may show beneficial effects on endothelial (inner layer of blood vessels) dysfunction as well. In conclusion, tofu decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and may show hypotensive effects, slowing the progression of atherosclerosis in the subclinical phase. Nonetheless, further studies are needed on this topic (14, 15, 16).
As part of the DASH diet, chicken meat has a modulatory effect on blood pressure (17, 18).
One study demonstrates that chicken consumption may be associated with a lower risk of developing varicose veins (19).
However, chicken meat is not associated with cardioprotective effects or reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Dietary intake of tofu and other soy products are inversely associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes and impaired fasting blood glucose (20, 21).
Several studies claim that dietary intake of soy protein and isoflavones reduce the risk of diabetes only in women but not in men (22, 23).
Soy isoflavones have obesity-preventing and blood glucose-lowering effects (24).
Red meat is associated with increased blood glucose and insulin responses compared to chicken meat (25).
Replacement of red meat with chicken meat reduces urinary albumin excretion and serum cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetic patients with microalbuminuria (26).
Digestive Health & Weight loss
Studies have demonstrated that soy products lead to beneficial changes in gut microbiota by increasing indigenous bacteria levels and reducing pathogenic bacteria populations. These changes are beneficial not only for the digestive tract but for the host’s health overall (27).
The altered gut microbiota and anti-inflammatory components of soy milk may beneficially affect systemic inflammation and clinical symptoms in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis (28).
Several studies suggest that protein from soy products can be effectively included in an energy-restricted, high protein diet for improving body weight, body composition, metabolic syndrome features, and heart health (29, 30). Nonetheless, another study claims that the changes in appetite, energy expenditure, and cardio-metabolic risk factors are minimal (31).
Several studies on mice have mentioned that soy isoflavones have anti-obesity effects as well (24).
One 10-week lasting study with 24 volunteers consuming either selenium-enriched or unenriched chicken meat demonstrated a reduction in body weight, accompanying fat mass loss in both groups (32).
Osteoporosis affects over 10% of the population and is a major risk factor for postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis leads to a loss of bone mass, and some dairy products are recommended to help maintain healthy bones: tofu, calcium-fortified orange juice, and plant-based beverages (33).
Exercise profoundly affects muscle growth when a positive muscle protein balance remains, which means muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown. Chicken meat and soy protein are rich in dietary proteins and lead to muscle synthesis and growth. However, soy proteins result in a lower muscle protein synthetic response (34, 35).
Dietary protein intake is important for preventing or slowing down sarcopenia (skeletal muscle mass and function loss) as well (36).
Consumption of soy products is associated with a lower risk of hormone-dependent breast and prostate cancer risks (37, 38, 39, 40).
Tofu intake is associated with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women (41).
Tofu intake is associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer. Soy products may have favorable effects on patient survival of stomach and colorectal cancers; however, the evidence is inconsistent, and further research is needed (42, 43, 44).
Chicken meat is either neutral or negatively associated with cancer risks.
Subjects consuming large amounts of red or processed meat have an increased risk of stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung, bladder cancers, but not the ones consuming white or poultry meat (45, 46).
Downsides and Risks
Among US adults, the higher intake of processed, unprocessed red meat and poultry, but not fish, is associated with a small increase in cardiovascular disease risk (47).
Evidence is not provided for choosing white meat over red meat to reduce cardiovascular disease risks; however, eating fish reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes (48, 49).
Open-flame and high-temperature cooking (grilling, barbequing) for both chicken and red meat are associated with an increased risk of diabetes (50). Healthier cooking methods are boiling, stir-frying, and steaming.
Poultry intake is positively associated with the risk for malignant melanoma, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Nevertheless, further investigation is required (51).
Poultry meat and eggs are sources of Salmonella infection; therefore, it is important to reduce contamination of poultry and improve food safety (52, 53).
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|