HEALTHFUL DIETS Weighing the benefits of SOY

By Natalie Lariccia

More health-conscious diets are incorporating soy-based food products.

With the new year and new decade upon us, many people may be looking for healthful eating alternatives that focus on lower-fat and lower-cholesterol meal ideas.

If this is one resolution on your plate, local dietitians, food-service employees and health-food store owners offer some thoughts on incorporating soy-based products — plant-based, high-protein food derived from soybeans — in your diet.

Connie Cahill, consumer spokeswoman at the Ohio Soybean Council in Worthington, said it is relatively easy to add soy-based foods to meals. Most grocery stores sell a wide variety of soy foods, and health-food stores typically offer a more extensive variety.

“It’s not just a trend anymore. People are trying to eat functional foods. I think we’re seeing more and more people doing the soybean thing — the healthy thing,” Cahill said.

Cahill said studies have shown that eating a diet of soy-rich foods may provide cardiovascular benefits and may help to reduce cholesterol levels. Some studies also have shown that soy can help increase the elasticity of skin and may reduce hot flash symptoms in menopausal women. Other research has suggested that consuming soy protein may help protect bones from becoming weak and brittle, she said.

FDA finding

The Web site cites that the soy health claim is based on the Food and Drug Administration’s determination that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day — as part of a low saturated fat and cholesterol diet — may reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing blood cholesterol levels.

Cahill said people can begin introducing soy to their diets by substituting soy and soy-based products for other foods they may commonly consume.

For example, people can substitute tofu — a protein-rich, cheeselike food product made from soybeans — for meat, and they can replace milk and yogurt with soy versions. Some cheeses and cereals are now made with soy and can be an easy way to add soy to a diet, she said.

For the purest form of soy, Cahill suggests that people try edamame, a green soy bean that is typically prepared by boiling in salted water.

Edamame refers to the bean inside the pod and is a popular appetizer at Japanese restaurants. The nutty and sweet flavor makes them a perfect healthful snack that can be eaten alone or added to a salad or stir-fry, Cahill said.

“Recipes using edamame are nutrient-rich choices for family meals. Soy foods provide high quality protein, essential A, D and B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium and fiber while adding no cholesterol or little saturated fat to your diet,” she said.

Cahill said soybeans are also a good source of two heart-healthy fats: Omega-6 fat — called linolenic acid — and Omega-3 fat — called alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-6 is a polyunsaturated fat that can help lower blood cholesterol, and Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is thought to help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Local thinking

June Davies, a registered and licensed dietician based in Mineral Ridge, also said, when eaten in moderation, soy can be a heart-healthy food that contains essential fatty acids, B vitamins, Omega-3 and fiber.

She recommends that people start adding soy to their diets slowly by trying a calcium-fortified soy milk first — to be sure that they don’t have any soy allergies. Substituting soy nuts for regular nuts and adding soy milk or tofu to a smoothie are other good ways to introduce soy into a diet.

“You can substitute [soy] for higher-fat foods in your diet and use in moderation. They have soy everything nowadays. Add it as part of your healthful diet as a healthful food,” she said.

Angie Lubonovich, an employee at Ely’s To Go in Boardman, said Ely’s uses a soy-based meat replacement for several of its menu items. Ely’s rents counter space from The Bread Chef at 850 E. Western Reserve Road, Boardman, and its menu focuses on vegan meat- and dairy-free specialities.

Working with Ely Pugh, Ely’s owner, Lubonovich says she has learned different, tasty ways to prepare the soy-based product, such as grilling and pan-searing.

“It’s a very good substitute for meat, and you still get all the health benefits. It’s very versatile. You get a very good flavor, especially when you doctor it up with different spices,” Lubonovich said.

Cindy Perkins, owner of Cindy’s Health and Vitality Center in Niles, recommends that people look for organic soy products. These products are grown without chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers and are healthier, safer and are not genetically altered.

Perkins, whose store carries organic soy products, said these products can be a good protein substitute for people who don’t eat a lot of meat.

She also recommends that soy foods be consumed in moderation to prevent a soy intolerance.

Three-Bean Salad

1 cup canned black soybeans, rinsed and drained

1 101‚Ñ2-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen cut green beans, defrosted

1‚Ñ2 cup finely chopped red onion

Freshly ground black pepper


2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon coarse mustard

1‚Ñ2teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon soy oil

Combine the soybeans, chickpeas, green beans and onion in a bowl.

To make the dressing, whisk the vinegar with the sugar, mustard, and salt until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the oil.

Pour the dressing over the beans and mix to combine. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

If possible, let the salad sit for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. (It will keep for up to 3 days, tightly covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Tofu Alfredo Sauce

This recipe replaces the traditional heavy cream and butter with tofu and saves 453 calories per serving for the sauce.

Makes 4 servings, (sauce alone).

1 12-ounce package firm silken tofu

1 garlic clove

1‚Ñ2 cup parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon oil

11‚Ñ2 teaspoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1‚Ñ2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon Kosher salt (or less, to taste)

1 teaspoon onion powder

1‚Ñ2 cup skim milk or plain soymilk

1 package frozen chopped broccoli

1 pound pasta, cooked and drained

Combine ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Warm in the microwave 3-4 minutes on high, or until hot. Cook pasta. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add frozen broccoli to cooking water. Drain and toss with Alfredo Sauce.

Soy milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

4ounces unsalted butter

1‚Ñ2cup light brown sugar

1‚Ñ2cup white sugar

31‚Ñ2tablespoons plain soy milk

1teaspoon vanilla

2cups flour

1teaspoon salt

1teaspoon baking soda

3‚Ñ4pound chopped good quality chocolate, or 3‚Ñ4 pound chocolate chips

Cream margarine and sugars.

Slowly add soymilk (it’s an egg substitute), cream well, add vanilla.

Mix dry ingredients, add to creamed mixture, fold in chocolate.

Drop by teaspoons on parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown.


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