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A brief history and celebration of tofu

A brief history and celebration of tofu

A brief history of Tofu (soybeans) in Japan, their amazing health benefits and why soy based products are one of their main sources of protein.

By Lauren Burchell - Founder of HoliFit, Personal Trainer and POW EmPOWer instructor.

When we think of plant-based protein alternatives, most people would think of soy. Many of japans iconic dishes have soy in them, which makes it indispensable in Japanese cuisine and has been for thousands of years. Sushi for instance is dipped in soy sauce, side order of miso soup is made from fermented soybeans. In this article we will explore the history of soybeans in japan, their amazing health benefits and how it has become such a popular go-to plant-based protein alternative in the western world.

Soybeans became popular in Japanese cooking around 1,300 years ago, when tofu and “hishio” (the precursor to miso and soy sauce) were introduced to Japan by monks from China, and initially was predominantly eaten only by Buddhist monks as a part of their vegetarian diet. It was only after several hundred years later that it influenced the public and has now flourished into several forms of soybean products in a variety of dishes, all over the world. (SAVOR JAPAN, 2020)

The most popular forms of soybean products are:

  • Green soybeans: Edamame
  • Yellow soybeans: Usually used to make soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and tamari.
  • Black soybeans: Usually fermented for traditional dishes and broths.

Soy is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids and is a great plant-based protein alternative for vegetarians and vegans (Olsen, 2019).

100g (cooked) serving of soya beans contains*:

  • 141kcal
  • 7.3g fat
  • 0.9g sat fat
  • 14g protein
  • 5.1g carbs
  • 8.1g fibre

*figures relate to dried soy beans, boiled in unsalted water, from McCance & Widdowson’s, ‘The Composition of Foods’, seventh edition.

Health Benefits of Soybeans:

As previously noted, soybeans are a great source of complete protein and is the only legume (and in fact plant food!) that is so, making it the best quality protein for vegetarians and vegans. Tempeh in particular is a potent protein source as it has twice the amount of protein in the same serving size of tofu, and (Hooper, 2019) Like all soy foods, tempeh is an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K1 & B, folate, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and thiamine source of B vitamins, iron, and calcium (Anarson, 2019), but is also brilliant for the gut and is a source of prebiotic fibre which acts as a fertiliser for the healthy bacteria in our gut, which in turn strengthens and heals the gut lining which can reduce inflammation in the body. The fermentation process soybeans go through to become tempeh actually reduces levels of phytic acid, which is considered an ‘anti-nutrient’ and slows down the body’s ability to absorb nutrients being consumed.

One of POW’s most popular meal orders is the Sesame Crusted Teriyaki Tofu, and not just loved by the plant based clients, but by all. Loaded with the perfectly balanced mix of protein, carbs, fats, fibre and greens – this is a great tofu based dish that’s a POW client favourite. ORDER NOW

Sesame crusted organic tofu teriyaki


Teriyaki Tofu skewers with a Sesame Crust served with Shiitake Mushroom and fermented Black Bean Brown Rice with Green Vegetables and Carrots 375g 

Our fine Ingredients and Allergens 

VG GF DF NF | Allergens: Sesame, Soya

Brown Mushroom Rice (Brown basmati rice, shiitake mushrooms, star anise, vegetable oil, ginger and garlic paste, mixed peppers, spring onion, black bean paste, sesame seed oil, coriander, tamari), Tofu (Organic firm Tofu, Tamari, maple syrup, garlic powder, star anise, ginger (fresh), ginger powder, white sesame, black sesame), Carrot, Green Beans.

Nutritional Information 

Per 375g box (%RI)

Kcal: 500 (25) | Fat: 20g (29) | Sat Fat: 2.6g (13) | Carbohydrate: 60 (23) Naturally occurring Sugar: 8.4g (9) | Protein: 16g (32) | Salt: 1.3g (22)

  • Plant Based Balanced Energy 
  • Low GI
  • A source of Vitamin K and Manganese which contributes to energy production.
  • Rich in Vitamin C which plays a role in immune system function.


Arnarson, A., (2019). Soybeans 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Effects. Retrieved June 19, 2021, from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/soybeans#bottom-line

Hooper, J. (2021). What Is Tempeh. Retrieved June 20, 2021, from: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-is-tempeh

McCance, R. A., & Widdowson, E. M. (2015). McCance and Widdowson's the composition of foods.

Olsen, N. (2019). What to know about soy? Retrieved June 22, 2021, from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320472

SAVOR JAPAN. (2020). Soybeans: The Most Essential Ingredient in Japanese Food. Retrieved June 24, 2021 from: https://savorjapan.com/contents/discover-oishii-japan/soybeans-the-most-essential-ingredient-in-japanese-food/

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