Get More Soy In Your Diet
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Get More Soy In Your Diet

Soybeans are the Cinderella of the food world. They ve been a workhorse, used for everything from cooking oil to livestock feed. But today soybeans have emerged as the closest thing there is to a wonder food.

Scientists are delving into the many possible roles soy foods could play in bettering our health, such as reducing the risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers, and lowering chances of developing osteoporosis.

What's Inside

Isoflavones, estrogenlike plant compounds thought to be soy's main cancer-fighting component, are abundant in the little legume. Studies indicate that people who eat at least two servings of soy products per day -- for example, a 3-ounce portion of tofu and 8 ounces of soy milk -- show a reduction in cancers of the breast, colon, and prostrate. One type of soy isoflavone, called genistein, has been shown in lab studies to halt development of the blood vessels that tumors need to thrive.

The Heart Helper

Soy's cholesterol-lowering qualities are well documented. People with elevated cholesterol levels who eat about an ounce of soy protein a day may see up to a 10 percent drop in their total cholesterol levels. What's more, it's the level of undesirable, heart-disease-associated cholesterols -- LDLs and triglycerides -- that decline. And as an added bonus, there is a slight elevation in desirable (HDL) cholesterol.

Soy and Women

Women have reason to be encouraged about soy's health potential: Strong evidence exists that soy can help fight osteoporosis. Soy may offer some of the same heart-and bone-protecting advantages as estrogen-replacement therapy, but without the increased breast or uterine cancer risk that is thought to be associated with the therapy. (Estrogen can trigger cells in the uterus and breast to turn cancerous.) Although soy foods have been extolled for relieving such menopause symptoms as hot flashes, night sweats, and dryness, the science is still iffy. In some experiments, women experienced no change with a high-soy diet; in other tests, women had modest relief.

Soy Bang for Your Buck

Considering all the evidence, eating about 2 ounces of soy foods or drinking two glasses of enriched soy beverages daily will provide most of the health benefits that the bean has to offer. It's easy to find foods high in soy that you'll enjoy incorporating into your menu. There are more choices than ever, from soy-enriched breads to energy bars. Look for new soy-containing cereals too.

The United States Soybean Board lists the following popular soy foods and their protein content.

Food/Protein Content

1/4 cup roasted soy nuts 17 g 1/2 cup tempeh 16 g 1/2 cup cooked soybeans 14 g 1 soy-protein bar 14 g 1 soy "burger" 10 to 12 g 1/2 cup firm tofu 10 g 1/2 cup soft tofu 9 g 1 cup plain soy milk 7 g 1/4 cup shelled green soybeans (edamame) 5 g

Soy Snack

Soy-Snack Fix-Ups
White Cups of Treats
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Soy-Snack Fix-Ups

Dry-roasted soybeans are now readily available. You can turn them into a great crunchy snack in less than 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread 8 ounces dry roasted soybeans (2 cups) in an even layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the beans with your choice of the following spice mixtures:

  • 1-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed; 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt; and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1. Bake for 5 minutes or until just heated through, shaking pan once. Remove from oven. Cool.

2. Store for up to a week in an airtight container. Eat plain, toss in soups or salads, add to hot baked potatoes, or mix with popcorn or other party mixes. Makes 2 cups.

Nutrition facts per 2 tablespoon serving: 75 calories, 2 g fat (1 g sat. fat), 0 mg chol., 27 mg sodium, 4 g carbo., 2 g fiber, 7 g pro. Daily Values: 1% vit. A, 0% vit. C, 3% calcium, and 5% iron.

Soy Recipes

Oriental Chicken Salad with Soy-Ginger Dressing

Canned mandarin orange segments make a quick substitute for the fresh orange.

Tuna Salad with Soy-Ginger Dressing

The dressing can be made ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Rub the fish with herbs shortly before grilling; to retain juiciness and flavor, do not overcook.

Sesame-Soy Dressing

Serve with Oriental dressing on a lettuce or pasta salad.

Grilled Honey-Soy Chicken

Fresh fruit is all you need to complete the meal.