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Soy: The powerhouse food every diet needs
A Far East staple
Searching for soy

Before you go soy crazy …
Before you go soy crazy …

Doctors caution there’s no medical benefit to exceeding the recommended 25 grams of soy protein a day. Some research even suggests the oxalate in soy could trigger the formation of kidney stones in high-risk patients. Other studies allege that a diet overloaded with soy may increase the risk of breast cancer.

In addition, avoid supplements containing soy’s isoflavone compounds. Studies show these supplements have none of the heart-healthy effects of soy-rich foods. Be sure you buy products high in soy protein and low in fats and cholesterol.

One final note: There is no soy protein in soy sauce or soybean oil at all. And some soy protein concentrates lose their isoflavones during processing.

For the longest time, the only exposure Americans had to anything with the word “soy” in it was soy sauce—splashed onto our Chinese dinners.

Today, though, we’re hearing a lot more about soy. Researchers say this versatile legume is chock full of vitamins, minerals and heart-healthy isoflavones—natural estrogen compounds that lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol. Isoflavones help cleanse the blood of free radicals that harm cells and set the stage for cancer. Soy may even relieve hot flashes and prevent loss of bone density.

A Far East staple

Western scientists became intrigued by soy-based foods after studying Asian cultures. There, where soy has been consumed for centuries, adults have remarkably low rates of heart disease, heart attacks, osteoporosis and breast and prostate cancers.

Sure enough, studies confirmed the link between soy protein and protection from heart disease. The Food and Drug Administration recommends adding 25 grams of soy protein a day to a low-fat diet for its heart-protecting benefits. (There are 16 grams of soy per half-cup of cooked soybeans, 13 grams per cup of soy milk, 13 grams per 4 ounces of tofu and 17 grams per 4 ounces of tempeh.)

Searching for soy

You’ll find many of these soy-based foods in your supermarket or health food store:

  • Soybeans. Soak them, then roast for snacks or boil and serve as a side dish.
  • Edamame. A special type of soybean with a sweet, nutty taste, it is harvested in pods and served as a snack, as a side dish and in stir-fries or soups.
  • Soy flour. Replace up to one-third of your wheat flour with soy when baking.
  • Soy milk. Use just like cow’s milk.
  • TVP or TSP. Textured vegetable (TV) or textured soy (TS) protein can replace up to half the ground meat in meatballs and chili.
  • Tofu. Cheese-like and bland, tofu absorbs other flavors and is an ideal addition to cookies, salads, soups, pasta, sauces and milkshakes.
  • Tempeh. Break flat cakes of tempeh into chunks for soups and casseroles or as a sandwich topper.

If you’re new to soy, take your time when selecting soy products. Check the calories, sugar, salt and fat contents carefully. Surprisingly, though soy is a health wonder-food, it’s not necessarily “dietetic” and can come mixed with unhealthful additives, too.