Discover the Top 10 Soyfoods for Health | VitaMedica
10 Soyfoods for Health

10 Soyfoods for Health

A key recommendation in the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines is for Americans to consume less than 10 percent of their calories from saturated fat. To reach this target, the government recommends that we consume more plant proteins including beans and peas, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds.

 

With the recent government push to consume soyfoods plus April marked as National Soyfoods Month, now is a great time to learn more about this versatile legume.

 

All Things Soy

You’ve probably sampled tofu at Whole Foods, nibbled on edamame at a sushi restaurant or requested soy milk in your Starbuck’s latte. But, most likely, you don’t eat soyfoods on a regular basis at home. Perhaps you don’t know how to select soyfoods or cook with them.

 

Given their high nutrient content and associated health benefits, it makes sense to add soy containing foods to your diet. Unlike 20 years ago, nowadays a wide range of soy products are available. You can start by sprinkling edamame on salads, substituting peanut butter with soynut butter for a SB&J or replacing hamburger meat with a soy meat alternative in a meatloaf dish.

 

To help you get started, below you’ll find a list of the 10 most common soyfoods along with their availability, how they are made, nutritional profile, where to find them and how to easily incorporate them into your favorite recipes. Our top 10 list includes:

 

  • Whole Soybeans
  • Soy Dairy Alternatives
  • Soynut Butter
  • Tofu
  • Soy Meat Alternatives
  • Textured Soy Protein
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Soy Flour
  • Tempeh
  • Miso

 

Whole Soybeans

Availability:

  • Raw, dry, roasted nuts and canned beans

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • A cup of boiled soybeans without salt (edamame) provides 22 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates of which 8 grams are from fiber. While this serving size has 254 calories of which 96 are from fat (38%), the fat is unsaturated (primarily Omega-6s) and contains no cholesterol and virtually no saturated fat.
  • Whole soybeans are packed with nutrition providing an excellent source of vitamin C, folate, thiamin and the minerals manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.

 

Where to Find:

  • In pod or shelled, packaged in bags in frozen or produce section of grocery store
  • Roasted nuts are often packaged as part of trail mix and located near the snack section
  • Canned soybeans are typically located in the same section as other canned beans

 

How to Prepare:

  • Add shelled edamame to steamed vegetables or serve cooked & chilled in salads
  • Serve steamed edamame with a dash of salt as an appetizer
  • Make homemade chili using canned black or yellow soybeans or add green soybeans along with kidney beans to regular chili ingredients

 

Soy Dairy Alternatives

Availability:

  • Soymilk, soy cheese alternatives, cultured soy, soy yogurt, soy sour cream, soy cream cheese, frozen soymilk desserts
  • Available as regular, reduced-fat or non-fat soymilk products

 

How Made:

  • Soymilk is made by cooking and filtering water-soaked, ground soy beans yielding a protein rich base that contains soy protein, oil, fibers, sugars, water and bioactive compounds. The base is mixed with a sweetener, flavor and stabilizer to yield a non-dairy alternative. Alternatively, water is added to soy flour or soy protein solids to create a dairy alternative that is lower in fat.
  • Soy yogurt is a creamy yogurt-like food made from soymilk. Frozen soy desserts are made from soymilk, soy yogurt tofu or soy proteins.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • An advantage of substituting dairy products with soy dairy alternatives is that soy products do not contain cholesterol and very little saturated fat. Even 1% milk, which sounds very low-fat, is 20.5% fat by calories of which two-thirds is from saturated fat. This compares with soymilk which is just 14% fat by calories of which all is from unsaturated fat. Like 1% milk, soymilk provides an excellent source of vitamin A and calcium. However, soymilk does not provide vitamin D, riboflavin or vitamin B12.
  • For those who are lactose intolerant, soymilk and soymilk products are a great alternative because they are free of lactose and milk protein.

 

Where to Find:

  • Soymilk, soy yogurt and soy cheese alternatives can be found in refrigerated case near traditional dairy products and in aseptic packaging in natural products aisle; soy dairy alternatives can be found throughout the store; soy frozen desserts can be found in frozen section along with ice cream

 

How to Prepare:

  • Pour your choice of soymilk over cereal
  • Make a creamy smoothie using frozen fruit and soy milk or soy yogurt
  • Replace traditional cheese recipes using soy cheese alternatives
  • For dips, substitute soy sour cream for regular sour cream
  • Substitute soy milk in any recipe that requires milk but use plain, less sweetened brands for savory dishes
  • Cook with regular, whole soymilk (versus light or non-fat brands) to provide firmer consistency to cooked puddings, custards, etc.
  • Opt for a soy frozen dessert instead of ice-cream

 

Soy Nut Butter

Availability:

  • Fresh roasted whole soybeans in creamy and crunchy textures

 

How Made:

  • Roasted whole soybeans are used to make soynut butter

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • Soynut butter is very similar in taste and texture to peanut butter and has about the same amount of protein per serving (7-8g per 2 tablespoons). But, compared with peanut butter, soynut butter contains less fat (11g vs. 16g) and has less saturated fat (1.5g vs. 2.6g) and consequently fewer calories (170 vs 188).
  • For those with nut allergies, soynut butter provides a good alternative.

 

Where to Find:

  • Soynut butter is sold in 15 oz. jars in the peanut butter section

 

How to Prepare:

  • Make a SB&J using soynut butter instead of peanut butter
  • Spread soynut butter on celery sticks for a healthy, filling snack
  • Substitute any recipe that uses peanut butter (peanut sauce, peanut butter cookies) with soynut butter

 

Tofu (Soybean Curd)

Availability:

  • Firm, soft or silken that comes baked, smoked, marinated and crumbled

 

How Made:

  • A soft cheese-like food that comes from using soymilk and a coagulant
  • Firm tofu results from breaking and pressing most of the whey from the curds; silken tofu does not have any whey removed

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • When used to replace animal protein, tofu is lower in calories and contains less total fat, virtually no saturated fat and no cholesterol. A half cup of fortified tofu provides 10g of protein plus 434 mg of calcium or 45% of daily values and 6.6 mg of iron or 37% of daily values.

 

Where to Find:

  • Ready-to-eat tofu is found in the refrigerated section
  • Many frozen entrees contain tofu and are sold in the frozen section

 

How to Prepare:

  • When purchasing, be sure to check the “Use by Date” as freshness is key to great tasting tofu; if stored in package with water, change water every 2 days
  • Tofu is great baked, broiled, barbecued, grilled, boiled or steamed and easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients
  • Firm tofu is dense and solid and is best used in soups, stir fried or grilled
  • Soft tofu is best in recipes that call for blended tofu
  • Silken tofu is a creamy product that is best used as a replacement for sour cream in dip recipes

 

Soy Meat Alternatives (Meat Analogs)

Availability:

  • Beef crumbles & ground, deli slices, taco fillings, patties & nuggets, bacon-like strips. Sold as frozen, canned or dried foods.

 

How Made:

  • Meat substitutes made from soy protein, tofu and other flavors and spices to resemble various kinds of meat, poultry or fish in taste, texture, color and form.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • With so many soy meat alternatives available, the nutritional value can vary widely. Read the nutrition facts for more information. But, generally, soy meat alternatives will be lower in total fat than meat products, contain virtually no saturated fat and no cholesterol.

 

  • A good comparison is a patty made with 90% lean meat or soy protein. The traditional hamburger patty has 178 calories of which almost half are from fat. Of the 10 grams of fat, 4g is from saturated fat and each patty contributes 70 mg of cholesterol or a quarter of the recommended daily intake. In comparison, a soyburger has just 98 calories of which only 14 or 14.3% is from fat. The 2g of fat is unsaturated and the soy patty does not contain any cholesterol. While both meat and soy patties provide about the same amount of iron (11% daily values), the soy version contains less protein (13g vs 21g). The only negative with soy patties is that they are more processed, containing a large amount of sodium (457mg per patty).

 

Where to Find:

  • Soy meat alternatives are very diverse and can be found in several areas of a food store including the refrigerated case, freezer case and prepared food sections

 

How to Prepare:

  • Usually soy meat alternatives can be used in the same manner as the meats they replace
  • Unlike meat products, soy meat alternatives rarely need thawing or pre-browning

 

Textured Soy Protein (TSP)

Availability:

  • Unflavored, meat or chicken flavored and appears in chunks, slices, flakes, crumbles or bits.

 

How Made:

  • Textured soy protein (also referred to as Textured Vegetable Protein) is usually made from soy flour but can also be made from soy concentrate or soy protein isolate.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • If you are replacing a meat or poultry dish with TSP, the meal will be lower in total fat, contain virtually no saturated fat and no cholesterol.

 

Where to Find:

  • Sold as bagged or in bulk in natural food supermarkets, health food stores, natural foods section of traditional grocery store.

 

How to Prepare:

  • When rehydrated, resembles cooked ground beef or poultry in texture and can be used in part or whole in recipes that use meat or poultry. One cup of dry TSP reconstituted in one cup of liquid yields about 2 cups.

 

Soy Protein Isolate

Availability:

  • Beverage powders, liquid nutritional meals, power bars, soups & sauces, weight & muscle gain fitness products

 

How Made:

  • Soy protein isolate is a dry powder food ingredient that has been separated or isolated from other components of soy to create a product that is 90-95% protein.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • In the nutritional aisle, you’ll find whey, rice and soy protein powder. Soy protein is slightly lower in protein than whey but provides 23 grams of protein per 1 ounce serving. Unlike whey, soy protein powder tends to be high in sodium, with a serving containing 281 mg. Soy protein powder is naturally an excellent source of iron, phosphorous, copper and manganese. Like whey protein powder, soy protein isolate powders can be fortified with vitamins and minerals to enhance their nutritional profile.

 

Where to Find:

  • Soy protein isolate is sold as flavored or plain shake powder and sold in the aisle with other protein powders.

 

How to Prepare:

  • Make a creamy smoothie using fresh fruit, a scoop of soy protein isolate and a dash of soymilk.

 

Soy Flour

Availability:

  • Small bags in the baking or natural foods section of supermarkets.

 

How Made:

  • Soy flour is derived from ground soy beans. Defatted soy flour is obtained from extracted soy flakes and contains less than 1% oil. Full-fat soy flour is made from unextracted beans and contains 18% to 20% oil. Low-fat soy flour is made by adding some oil to defatted soy flour and contains 4.5% to 9% oil. High-fat soy flour is produced by adding back soybean oil to defatted flour to a level of 15%. Lecithinated adds lecithin to defatted, low-fat or high-fat soy flour to increase their dispersibility and enhance emulsification.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • Depending on whether you use defatted, low-fat or full-fat soy flour, will determine the calorie content and grams of protein and fat. The good news is that the fat is polyunsaturated. Using soy flour vs. regular flour boosts the protein content of baked goods.

 

Where to Find:

  • Found in baking or natural foods section of supermarkets. Also sold in bulk bin section of stores.

 

How to Prepare:

  • Soy flour improves the taste and texture of many common foods and reduces the fat absorbed in fried foods.
  • Full-fat and low-fat soy flour work best in sweet, rich baked goods like cookies and breads. Soy flour will substitute 10 to 30 percent of the wheat or rice flour. Replacing more than 40 percent of other flours with soy flour is not recommended as soy-rich dough browns faster.
  • Since soy flour is gluten-free, it cannot replace all wheat or rye flour in yeast raised bread.

 

Tempeh

Availability:

  • Plain soy, soy with grains or rice, pre-cooked, ready-to-eat, baked

 

How Made:

  • An ancient Indonesian food, tempeh is chunky, tender white soybean cake. The solid cake of tempeh is made through fermentation which binds the soy to the grains, yielding a firm, tender, chewy texture that has a smoky or nutty flavor.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • If you are replacing a meat or poultry dish with tempeh, the meal will be lower in total fat, contain virtually no saturated fat and no cholesterol. A half cup has 160 calories, provides 15 grams of protein and 9 grams of fat (primarily unsaturated). Tempeh is an excellent source of riboflavin, niacin and B6 along with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

 

Where to Find:

  • Natural or Asian food stores and in the frozen, refrigerated or fresh produce section of larger supermarkets.

 

How to Prepare:

  • Look for tempeh with soybeans and grains tightly bound. It should have a dry outside surface with a mushroom-like aroma.
  • Tempeh must be cooked but works well with just about any cooking method. Tempeh can be poached, simmered, boiled, steamed, baked, broiled, grilled, sautéed, pan or deep fried.
  • Tempeh works well when cut into chunks and grilled or mixed in with a stir fry.

 

Miso

Availability:

  • Rice miso, barley miso or soybean miso; comes in a variety of flavors, textures, colors and aromas.

 

How Made:

  • Miso is a sweet flavorful paste that is made by mixing a special mold with grain to allow fermentation. The fermented paste is added to cooked soybeans along with water and salt that results in a smooth paste. Additional fermentation can last for a few months to several years.

 

Nutritional Profile:

  • Like most condiments including soy sauce, miso is high in sodium. One ounce contains about 1,000 mg of sodium so be sure to use sparingly.

 

Where to Find:

  • Refrigerated section of Asian markets and natural food stores

 

How to Prepare:

  • Look for unpasteurized miso as it contains more flavor and beneficial microorganisms than the pasteurized versions.
  • Enhance sauces, soups, dips, marinades, dressings and main dishes by adding some miso.
  • Add one to two tablespoons to any broth-based soup to impart flavor.
  • Add miso to marinade when grilling meat, poultry or fish
  • Boiling or prolonged cooking with destroy the beneficial live microorganisms and aroma of the miso. Add miso during the final stage of cooking.

 

More Recipe Ideas

If you’re looking for some additional recipe ideas, the Soy Foods Association has a great website with menu ideas for breakfast, appetizers, entrees and desserts.

 

Health Benefits of Soy

If you want to learn more about the health benefits of consuming soy, refer to this month’s companion article, The Health Benefits of Soy.