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Tofu vs Chicken meat - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Tofu
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Chicken meat

Summary

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 of the minerals.

Introduction

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.

Classification

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 levels of myoglobin, poultry meat is considered to be white meat.

Appearance

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.

Use

Tofu can be eaten both raw and cooked. Tofu has a bland flavor and the ability to absorb other flavors. With the correct preparation, it can be sweet, savory, soft, or crunchy. Tofu can be baked, grilled, and stir-fried. It can be used in soups as well.

The U.S. 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. For wings, legs, and whole meat, the best cooking method is roasting; for breasts, and thighs it is grilling, barbequing, and frying.

Types

Types of tofu are silken, regular, firm, extra-firm, and super-firm. The water content varies in these types, being 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 amount 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).

Nutrition

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.

Calories

Chicken meat is considered to be a high-calorie food. Chicken meat contains almost 1.7 times more calories compared to firm tofu.

A 100g serving of chicken meat contains 239 calories, whereas firm tofu contains only 144.

A 100g serving of regular tofu contains 76 calories, and fried tofu contains 270 calories (3, 4).

Depending on the body part of chicken meat, calorie content varies. The highest level of calories has 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, contains only 190 calories (9).

Protein

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 classes of protease or trypsin inhibitors, 90% of which are destroyed during the moist heat treatment (10).

Fats

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, whereas in chicken meat, the highest levels are monounsaturated, saturated, and only then polyunsaturated fatty acids.

The 100g serving of chicken meat contains 88 mg of cholesterol, whereas tofu is absent in cholesterol.

Carbohydrates

Chicken meat contains no carbohydrates.

Firm tofu is not particularly rich in carbs either.

A 100g serving of firm tofu provides 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.

Vitamins

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 compared with 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).

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Tofu
4
:
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +150.8%
Contains more Folate +480%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +64.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +2127.6%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +674.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +334.8%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +∞%
Equal in Vitamin A - 161
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 1% 10% 0% 0% 40% 24% 8% 8% 22% 0% 0% 22%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 10% 6% 0% 16% 39% 160% 62% 93% 38% 6% 4%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +150.8%
Contains more Folate +480%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +64.7%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +2127.6%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +674.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +334.8%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +∞%
Equal in Vitamin A - 161

Minerals

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 2 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.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Iron +111.1%
Contains more Calcium +4453.3%
Contains more Magnesium +152.2%
Contains more Copper +472.7%
Contains less Sodium -82.9%
Contains more Zinc +23.6%
Equal in Potassium - 223
Equal in Phosphorus - 182
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 100% 205% 21% 42% 126% 43% 82% 2%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 48% 5% 20% 17% 22% 53% 78% 11%
Contains more Iron +111.1%
Contains more Calcium +4453.3%
Contains more Magnesium +152.2%
Contains more Copper +472.7%
Contains less Sodium -82.9%
Contains more Zinc +23.6%
Equal in Potassium - 223
Equal in Phosphorus - 182

Glycemic Index

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.

Tofu, being low in carbohydrates, has a very low glycemic index of 15. More information about the glycemic index of tofu and its protective effect 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.

Acidity

Tofu has a pH of 7.20, which is considered to be 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 as well when compared to 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.

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

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.

Diabetes

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 factor changes are minimal (31).

Several studies on mice mention 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 loss of fat mass in both groups (32).

Musculoskeletal health

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. Being rich in dietary protein, chicken meat, and soy protein leads 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).

Cancer

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 gastric 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 negatively associated with cancer risks or has a neutral effect.

Subjects consuming large amounts of red or processed meat have an increased risk of gastric, esophageal, colorectal, lung, bladder cancers, but not the ones consuming white or poultry meat (45, 46).

Downsides and Risks

Cardiovascular Health

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).

Diabetes

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.

Cancer

Poultry intake is positively associated with the risk for malignant melanoma, prostate cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Nevertheless, further investigation is required (51).

Salmonellosis

Poultry meat and eggs are sources of Salmonella infection; therefore, it is important to reduce contamination of poultry and improve food safety (52, 53).

Sources.

  1. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/05/25/cooking-meat-check-new-recommended-temperatures
  2. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/PoultryGradingManual.pdf
  3. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172476/nutrients
  4. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172451/nutrients
  5. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171071/nutrients
  6. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173630/nutrients
  7. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171075/nutrients
  8. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/173617/nutrients
  9. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171054/nutrients
  10. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/glycinin
  11. https://www.clemson.edu/extension/food/food2market/documents/ph_of_common_foods.pdf
  12. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/102/1/012051/pdf
  13.  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/331398625
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793271/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164536/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31356541/
  17. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23563560/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26063693/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29145758/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31915830/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30896426/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32418714/
  23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31079144/
  24. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33390391/
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133075/
  26. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16685043/
  27. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27798832/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7310397/
  29. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30151230/
  30. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27757595/
  31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772027/
  32. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20809267/
  33. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/odi.12515
  34. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11255140/
  35. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26224750/
  36. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19057193/
  37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26006245/
  38. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23919747/
  39. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31910211/
  40. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29300347/
  41. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22158125/
  42. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28816973/
  43. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23812102/
  44. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32412140/
  45. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30979076/
  46. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26633248/
  47. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32011623/
  48. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6599736/
  49. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33313747/
  50. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29530926/
  51. https://jech.bmj.com/content/73/Suppl_1/A15.1
  52. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21429610/
  53. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27710034/
Article author photo Arpi Gasparyan
Education: General Medicine at YSU
Last updated: November 25, 2021

Infographic

Tofu vs Chicken meat infographic
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Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
11
Tofu
36
Chicken meat
Mineral Summary Score
77
Tofu
31
Chicken meat

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
104%
Tofu
164%
Chicken meat
Carbohydrates
3%
Tofu
0%
Chicken meat
Fats
40%
Tofu
63%
Chicken meat

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Tofu Chicken meat
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Tofu Chicken meat
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Tofu
Tofu is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 88mg)
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Tofu
Tofu is lower in Sugar (difference - 0g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Tofu
Tofu contains less Sodium (difference - 68mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Tofu
Tofu is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 2.529g)
Which food is cheaper?
Tofu
Tofu is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Tofu
Tofu is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Chicken meat
Chicken meat is lower in glycemic index (difference - 15)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Tofu Chicken meat Opinion
Calories 144 239 Chicken meat
Protein 17.27 27.3 Chicken meat
Fats 8.72 13.6 Chicken meat
Vitamin C 0.2 0 Tofu
Net carbs 0.48 0 Tofu
Carbs 2.78 0 Tofu
Cholesterol 0 88 Tofu
Vitamin D 0 2 Chicken meat
Iron 2.66 1.26 Tofu
Calcium 683 15 Tofu
Potassium 237 223 Tofu
Magnesium 58 23 Tofu
Sugar 0 Tofu
Fiber 2.3 0 Tofu
Copper 0.378 0.066 Tofu
Zinc 1.57 1.94 Chicken meat
Starch
Phosphorus 190 182 Tofu
Sodium 14 82 Tofu
Vitamin A 166 161 Tofu
Vitamin E 0.27 Chicken meat
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0.158 0.063 Tofu
Vitamin B2 0.102 0.168 Chicken meat
Vitamin B3 0.381 8.487 Chicken meat
Vitamin B5 0.133 1.03 Chicken meat
Vitamin B6 0.092 0.4 Chicken meat
Vitamin B12 0 0.3 Chicken meat
Vitamin K 2.4 Chicken meat
Folate 29 5 Tofu
Trans Fat 0 Chicken meat
Saturated Fat 1.261 3.79 Tofu
Monounsaturated Fat 1.925 5.34 Chicken meat
Polyunsaturated fat 4.921 2.97 Tofu
Tryptophan 0.235 0.305 Chicken meat
Threonine 0.785 1.128 Chicken meat
Isoleucine 0.849 1.362 Chicken meat
Leucine 1.392 1.986 Chicken meat
Lysine 0.883 2.223 Chicken meat
Methionine 0.211 0.726 Chicken meat
Phenylalanine 0.835 1.061 Chicken meat
Valine 0.87 1.325 Chicken meat
Histidine 0.431 0.802 Chicken meat
Fructose

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Tofu - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172475/nutrients
  2. Chicken meat - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171450/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.