Soy and Your Health
From tofurky to tempeh, edamame to miso – soy is one ingredient that packs a protein-rich punch. Find the joy in your soy by trying our favorite soy-based recipes and learn more about this heart-healthy ingredient.
Forms of Soy
Soybeans (or edamame) are good plain or can be transformed with minimal processing into soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, miso paste (a savory fermented soy product) and tempeh (a tasty and hearty patty made from compressed soy beans). These forms are full of healthy plant protein and a variety of other nutrients (more nutritional info below).
However, soy loses many of its healthy qualities when it undergoes extreme processing. Food companies often use soy products as cheap fillers for processed foods and they can be found in everything from frozen dinners and cereals, to ice cream and hamburgers. Check food labels for ingredients such as, “soy protein isolate,” “soy protein concentrate,” “hydrolyzed plant protein” and “textured soy protein” to identify the highly processed forms. Although the fillers do provide some protein, a majority of the nutrients that soy is famous for have been stripped away.
Some Soy Controversies
Some of the major concerns surrounding soy have to do with phytoestrogens, which are naturally existing compounds found in soy that are similar in structure to the animal hormone, estrogen. Some women have started eating more soy to help combat menopause symptoms and avoid taking hormone-replacement medications. On the flip side, there is concern that too much soy could promote tumor growth (while other studies say it may, in fact, do the opposite). It’s worth noting that many cultures enjoy soy as a major staple in their diet with little or no evidence of dangerous side effects.
Since conflicting research about the risk of eating soy exists, it’s best to enjoy your favorite form of soy in moderation, and also preferably in organic form. Non-organic soy products may come from genetically modified plants, and nobody really knows what effect long-term consumption may have on health.
Soy products offer a healthy dose of protein, especially for people that don’t eat meat or fish. A cup of edamame has less than 200 calories but is packed with 17 grams of protein, a third of your daily fiber needs and a host of vitamins and minerals. Soy products are also sources of both omega-3 and omega-6 fats. The potential health benefits from soy include lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease, and prevention of osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.
It’s still unclear if the compounds found in soy are directly responsible for health benefits; however, it is clear that you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by replacing some foods that are higher in cholesterol and saturated fat with soy products, which contain neither.
Healthy Soy Recipes
No need to fear tofu! Because of its mild taste, you can flavor it with your favorite ingredients. Marinate extra-firm tofu and roast it until golden, or sauté or grill it. Creamy and light, silken tofu makes fabulous low-calorie dips for chips or fresh vegetables. Soy milk makes a great smoothie; you can also use it to make baked goods and creamy desserts such as chocolate mousse. Add slices of hearty tempeh to stir-fry or use tempeh in place of grilled meat in sandwiches or wraps.
Soy recipes to try: