In recent years, soy foods have surged in popularity among health-conscious Americans. Scientists believe that soy foods, a food staple throughout Asia for centuries, may be responsible for the low rates of breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis in these countries. Today, a steady stream of innovative new products utilizing soy-based ingredients makes it easier than ever to enjoy the amazing benefits of this highly nutritious food.
The soybean, as well as all beans, lentils and peas, belongs to the legume family. While all legumes are rich in vitamins and minerals, the soybean’s nutrient profile is particularly noteworthy. The soybean is one of the few non-meat foods that contains all the nutrients necessary for good health, and is the only vegetable that contains all eight essential amino acids. The combination of being high in nutrients, low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free makes the soybean a uniquely healthy food.
Soy has always been considered highly nutritious, but recently scientists have discovered that soy may play a role in disease prevention. Soybeans, and most foods made from them, are rich in a group of phytochemicals called isoflavones, a family of chemicals that may help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, heart disease and also improve bone health. The evidence of soy’s disease fighting qualities is so strong that the FDA has approved the health claim that including soy protein in a healthy diet reduces serum cholesterol and may reduce the chance of heart disease.
Although cooked soybeans can be eaten whole, they are normally transformed into a wide variety of versatile foods. Traditional Asian soy products include: tofu, a soft cheese-like curd; tempeh, a chunky, tender soybean cake; and miso, a smooth flavorful, fermented paste. American food manufacturers have also created a number of innovative soy foods including burgers, sausage links, milk, and cheese, all made without meat or dairy products, though closely resembling their originals in taste and texture.
It’s easy to incorporate soy into a wide range of traditional recipes and as little as one serving a day (1/2 cup) can yield positive health benefits. Though some of its forms may be unfamiliar, soy’s versatility lends itself well to dishes ranging from chili to luscious desserts. Served on their own, soy products like tofu or tempeh would seem strange to the average American, but incorporating them into everyday recipes like spaghetti sauce, meatballs, tacos, fajitas, dips, spreads, soups, and sandwiches can yield familiar, mouth-watering, low fat results.
While there is no such thing as a miracle food guaranteed to protect against disease, adopting a healthy diet and exercising regularly can reduce the risk of many illnesses. Therefore, a low fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans is not only enjoyable but can improve the overall quality of one’s life as well. Here are a few recipes selected to demonstrate the amazing versatility of soy foods.
All-American Twice Baked Potatoes
6 large baking potatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 package (10.5-ounce) light silken tofu
1/2 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
3/4 cup sharp light cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup real bacon pieces, cooked
1/2 cup red and yellow sweet peppers, chopped
Clean potatoes and rub with oil. Bake in 350°F oven until tender (about an hour). Cut potatoes in half and scoop out potato meal. Set aside.
Combine potato meal and tofu and blend well with stand or hand mixer. Stir in 1/2 cup cheese, green onions and bacon pieces. Fill potato shells with mashed potato mixture.
Bake in 350°F oven for 20 minutes. Top with remaining peppers and cheese and serve.
Nutrition information per serving (1/2 potato): Calories, 155; Fat 3.2g; Cholesterol, 2.5mg; Sodium 65mg; Protein, 5.7g; Carbohydrate, 26.5g.
Recipes reprinted courtesy of
the Indiana Soybean Development Council
Chocolate Silk Dessert
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 l/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups extra firm silken tofu
3 tablespoons honey
Mix together crust ingredients and press onto bottom, and 1-inch up the side of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350°F. for 8 minutes. Let cool and then chill in refrigerator.
Heat chocolate chips over low heat (preferably in a double boiler), stirring often until melted. Set aside. In a food processor or blender, blend tofu until smooth. Add honey and blend until mixed. Add melted chocolate chips and blend until creamy. Pour filling into chilled pie crust. Place in refrigerator until firm. Serves 10.
Nutrition information per serving (1/2 cup slice): Calories, 351; Unsaturated Fat 9.3g; Saturated Fat, 6g; Cholesterol, 6.4mg; Sodium 175mg; Protein, 6.6g; Carbohydrate, 10.4g.
Blazing Saddles Chili
2 cups firm tofu, crumbled
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce
In a mixing bowl, combine tofu, garlic, chili powder and Worcestershire sauce; set aside.
In a large skillet, sauté onion, green pepper and carrot in oil until onion becomes transparent (about 4-5 minutes). Add tofu mixture; cook and stir 3 minutes over medium heat.
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, basil, cumin, cayenne and, if desired, tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Salt to taste. Serve on brown rice. Garnish with minced raw onion, grated cheddar cheese and avocado, as desired.
Nutrition information per serving (1 cup): Calories, 320; Fat 10.5g; Cholesterol, 0mg; Sodium 597mg; Protein, 17g; Carbohydrates, 43.8g.