Written by Destiny Mostek, RD, LMNT, Extension Assistant
April is National Soy Foods Month making it a perfect time to enjoy soy. Soy foods can include soybeans, edamame, tofu, and soy milk to name a few, but there are also many soy-based foods available such as veggie burgers, protein bars, and cereals. Both soy foods and soy-based foods can be great options to help you vary your protein choices, which may help stretch your food dollar knowing that protein can be the most expensive part of a meal. It’s important to review the facts about soy and understand how soy fits into your diet, including where to buy soy foods and how to prepare them.
What’s so great about soy?
Soy foods are low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and rich in antioxidants. They also provide high-quality proteins, meaning they contain all eight essential amino acids just like animal protein. One-half cup of cooked soybeans contains: 29% daily value (DV, daily nutrient needs based on a 2,000 diet) of protein, 21% DV of fiber, 25% DV of iron, 14% DV of calcium, and 9% DV of 10 other essential vitamins and minerals (1). Soy foods, along with a diet low in saturated fat, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease which is the number one killer in America.
Is soy safe to eat?
Isoflavones, the phyto-estrogen (plant estrogen) in soy, have left some consumers confused about the safety of soy relating to breast cancer in women. Numerous studies have shown both positive and negative effects of soy on cancer risk. The American Institute for Cancer Research states that soy consumption has a slightly protective effect against breast cancer in childhood and adolescence and no effect on breast cancer risk in adults. Our 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends eating a variety of protein foods. Swapping out animal-based proteins for soy foods can be one way to add variety to meals. Stick with whole food sources such as soybeans, edamame, tempeh, and tofu.
Where can I buy soy foods and how do I prepare them?
When thinking of ways to incorporate soy into your diet it’s important to recognize all of the places soy can be found in the grocery store. Here are a few of my favorite soy foods:
Soynuts are roasted soybeans that have been soaked in water and baked until browned. They are one of my favorite snacks when wanting something crunchy to eat. You can find soynuts in most natural foods stores or in the natural food section of your grocery store. They are available plain, salted, or in a variety of other flavors so pay attention to the sodium and added sugars on the label.
Tofu is a soybean curd that has a soft cheese-like texture which comes from the coagulated protein in soy milk. It can be found in the refrigerated section of many grocery stores. Tofu can be baked, broiled, grilled, boiled, or steamed. With its mild flavor it can easily be incorporated into vegetable stir fries, kebabs, soups, dips, and even smoothies.
Edamame is the Japanese name for the young green pods of the soybean plant. They can be purchased fresh in season and are frequently available in the frozen section of grocery stores. Edamame are available in the pod or shelled and can be eaten alone or tossed into salads, wraps, dips, and stir-fries.
Black bean, Corn, and Edamame Salad
- 3 T. lime juice
- 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T. canola oil
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- ½ tsp. honey
- 2 c. canned corn, drained
- 1 c. shelled edamame, cooked and cooled
- 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ c. red onion, diced
- ½ c. fresh cilantro, chopped
- In a small bowl, combine lime juice, oils, garlic, and honey. Whisk together and set aside.
- In a medium/large bowl combine corn, edamame, black beans, onion, and cilantro.
- Pour dressing over the mixture and gently toss.
- Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, to allow flavors to blend.
This post was reviewed by Morgan Hartline, MS, RD, LMNT Extension Program Coordinator. Photos by Morgan Hartline.