I’m a firm believer that most dogs, just like most humans, probably aren’t getting enough variety in their diet. Think about how may dogs eat the exact same processed food every single day of their entire life.
The problem with this is that they’re missing out on a huge variety of micronutrients and phytonutrients – nutrients that only come from plants, such as polyphenols.
I’ve already talked about the benefits of peas, beans, lentils, and chickpeas, which are all pulses – the seeds from a legume plant. Tofu, which is made from soy beans, is just another member of the legume family.
Tofu is a rich source of protein, calcium, and fiber; and it is totally safe for dogs to eat. Just don’t give them tofu that has been prepared at a restaurant, as it is probably too spicy, sweet, and/or oily for them. Continue reading to learn more…
Health Benefits of Tofu for Dogs
From a macronutrient perspective, tofu is mostly protein. It typically contains 7g to 11g of protein per serving – about 1/5 of the package. Giving your dog a serving of tofu is similar to giving them a small piece of meat.
However, I do not recommend giving them an entire package, which could contain as much as 35g of protein all the way up to 70g, depending on the firmness. That’s more protein than most dogs need in a day if you’re also feeding them regular dog food.
An easy way to know your dog’s protein requirements is to use the formula: 1g of protein per pound of ideal bodyweight. My dogs are lean, athletic breeds weighing in at roughly 55 and 70 lb, so I only give them a small amount of extra protein in addition to their daily servings of dry dog food, putting them right in the 50 to 75g range.
Dogs need more calcium than humans by bodyweight. The average adult human needs about 1,200mg of calcium per day, which is actually less than a 55 lb dog. Tofu is an excellent way to add more calcium to your dog’s diet, as it contains about 130mg per serving, on average.
Tofu is also a good source of other minerals, such as copper, iron, manganese, selenium, and phosphorous.
Most dogs on a regular dog food diet are not getting enough fiber. Giving your dog a serving of tofu along with their regular food can add up to 1g of extra fiber to their diet, depending on the firmness.
Tofu contains many phytonutrients, including flavonoids, phenolic acid, and isoflavones – a powerful antioxidant. Flavonoids and phenolic acid are also antioxidants, though likely less potent than isoflavones.
Varieties of Tofu
Tofu comes in four main varieties: silken, firm, extra firm, and super firm. The only real difference between them is their moisture content.
Silken, which has a jello-like texture but softer, contains the most water. Super firm, which has a texture similar to meat, has the least amount of water. The softer the tofu, the easier it will be for your dog to digest. On the other hand, firmer tofu is more nutrient dense per serving.
How to Feed Your Dog Tofu
As I mentioned at the top of the article, it’s probably not a good idea to feed your dog tofu from a restaurant, as it is likely to be prepared in a way that is not good for dogs. For example, tofu from a Chinese restaurant is almost always deep fried and coated in a salty, spicy, sugary, oily sauce.
You should never fry, salt, or over-season the tofu you feed your dogs. A little bit of beneficial spices, such as a dash of turmeric and/or ginger is okay; but spice mixes, chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder – common tofu seasonings – should be left out.
Here are my recommended ways to serve it…
Since tofu is not meat, it is perfectly safe to eat raw. In fact, “raw” tofu is not technically raw since it was cooked during the process of making it – tofu is the strained liquid from boiled soy beans with a coagulant added to firm it up.
If your dog does not like plain tofu, you can drizzle some tahini on it or season it with a little bit of nutritional yeast. My dogs love tahini and nutritional yeast, and will eat just about anything I put them on.
Your dogs will probably love the charred, smokey flavor of grilled tofu. It’s similar to feeding your dog a plain piece of grilled chicken. Just be sure to brush some oil on the grill so the tofu doesn’t stick.
Baked or Broiled
If you want to give your dog a chewy treat, you can cook the tofu in your oven. Simply cut it into thin, rectangular strips; place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; and cook them at a medium-low temperature until most of the moisture has evaporated. You’ll end up with something that is sort of like a jerky.