By Debbie James
Soy is heart healthy, low in saturated fat and provides high-quality protein. The type of fat from soy doesn’t contribute to blood cholesterol and eating enough soy protein actually helps lower high cholesterol levels. It is the most complete plant protein source, meaning it has all the essential amino acids your body needs. To reap these benefits you don’t need a supplement. Just incorporate more soy foods into your family’s diet!
Soymilk is naturally lactose-free and has been a favorite cow’s milk replacement for decades. It has always been a good protein source and now you can find soymilk in different flavors with varying levels of fat. Fortified soymilk has the calcium, protein and Vitamin D needed for growth. Silken tofu is a great addition to smoothies, baked cheese dishes, cream soups/chowders and omelets. Firm tofu, marinated overnight for best flavor, can be prepared as a meat substitute and even grilled.
Tofu and soymilk aren’t the only options. You can also find soy-based yogurt and cheese in the dairy case. Soybean butter is neighbor to its nut counterparts on the grocery shelf and is allowed at nut-free schools and camps. Edamame are green soybeans in the pod that can be an easy snack, with or without salt. For ease in dishes, edamame is available already shelled (called mukimake). When beans are roasted dry as soy ‘nuts’ they can be eaten on their own, combined in a trail mix, or sprinkled on salads for some crunch.
Soybeans are so versatile – top your favorite salads or pasta with a handful. Need some ideas without a strict recipe? Try the combinations below, adjusting the volumes to your taste.
TIPS: Use the freshest ingredients that are available to you. Kids can help shell the soybeans or cut the tofu. Boil soybeans and lightly fry tofu for hot dishes first. Chop or dice, then cook the rest of the ingredients to your liking and toss together with the soybeans/tofu and sauce. A sprinkle of sesame seeds top any dish off!
Debbie James, MS, RD is a registered dietitian specializing in fitness, corporate wellness, and education. She is the nutrition consultant for LA Fitness nationwide and is a provider for American Specialty Health, Anthem Blue Cross and CIGNA HealthCare. Debbie shares her passion and expertise in the field of nutrition with her wok enabled husband and their two (nut-free) elementary children in Dana Point.