So many ways to enjoy soy
You hear the call to get more protein and fiber in your diet -- protein to fight disease, repair body tissues, provide you with energy and help you feel full (a good thing when you're looking to cut calories), and fiber to lower and maintain cholesterol and sugar levels and clear out your digestive system.
"Soy is the richest source of protein of any bean," says David Grotto, an Elmhurst registered dietitian and author of "101 Foods That Could Save Your Life!"
A serving of soy, one-fourth cup of edamame, for instance, contains 14 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber and fits into the USDA guidelines to eat more nutrient-dense foods.
Grotto says whole soybeans and soy-based products provide a host of nutrients as well, including calcium, copper, magnesium and an assortment of B-vitamins. "Soybeans are also rich in plant nutrients known as isoflavones which may help prevent certain types of cancer, fight heart disease and improve bone density," he adds.
With the recent explosion of soy-based products on grocers' shelves, you can add all those healthful components to your meals in many delicious ways. And you can do it without a trip to the health food store or specialty market.
"Soy foods are indeed becoming more mainstream," says Linda Funk, director of the SoyFoods Council based in Des Moines, Iowa. "The convenience is there, the flavor is there."
Soy-based products include cereals and breakfast bars, yogurt, flavored milk and cheese, "chicken" sausages and burgers, oil and pasta, nuts and crackers, ice cream and chocolate-covered beans. Some people seek them out as more healthful alternatives to similar products on the shelves; others are looking for specific health benefits. For example, soy flour replaces grain-based flour in gluten-free baking, soy cheese appeals to those on vegan diets and soy milk gives lactose-intolerant types something to pour on their cereal.
Perhaps none of these products have proved as popular as the soybean in its most natural state.
Edamame, or fresh soybean pods, have become the new face of soy, pushing bland blocks of tofu into the shadows.
"Edamame has become the darling of the soy foods industry because it's not so different from what consumers already know," Funk says. "They don't have a strong flavor and kids like them."
Edamame, available shelled or in the pods, can be tossed into salads or stir-fries, blended into hummus or eaten straight from the pods as hot or cold snacks.
Soy, like all beans, can lead to digestive upsets if they're added suddenly to the diet.
"As with all beans, start off slowly -- like a tablespoon of beans per day and work your way up to one half cup a day as recommended in the dietary guidelines for Americans," Grotto said.
10 ways to enjoy soyThe USDA dietary guidelines recommend we consume 25 grams of protein each day. You can get that with just two servings of whole soy, says Linda Funk, director of The Soyfoods Council.
Her favorite tip: Replace some of the all-purpose flour in baked goods with soy flour.
"We all know we're going to eat cookies. Let's make them more healthy for us." She says for every 1 cup all-purpose flour in a recipe, one-fourth to one-third cup of that can be replaced with soy flour.
Here are more ways Funk and others say you can work soy into your diet.
• Add canned soybeans to chili, soup or salads.
• Use whipped tofu as a base for creamy soups, mousse, smoothies and puddings.
• Use soy yogurt in place of milk for moist and fluffy muffins, pancakes and quick breads.
• Spread soynut butter, banana and cinnamon on an English muffin.
• Create better-for-you quesadillas with grated soy cheddar, tomato, jalapenos and cilantro.
• Swap soy crumbles for some (or all) of the ground meat in pasta sauces and chilies.
• Make homemade trail mix with roasted soy nuts, dried fruits and bite-sized whole grain cereal.
• Use silken tofu in place of mayonnaise in dips and spreads.
• Serve veggie burgers or soy corn dogs for dinner with all your favorite condiments.