Soy Products

In China, the soy bean has been cultivated and used in different ways for thousands of years. Soy was considered as one of the 5 holy crops, besides rice, wheat, barley and millet. Recently, Oriental cuisine has become very popular in America. We have a surge of interest in food products derived from the soy bean, due to the health benefits they provide. Soy contains a variety of health-promoting phytochemicals that may decrease the risk of a number of chronic diseases.

Soy foods provide high-quality protein, including all essential amino acids (the only such vegetable source) but are free of cholesterol and are low in saturated fat. Soy beans are also a rich source of calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Most of the health benefits of soy can be experienced by consuming 50 grams (2 oz.) of soy food per day. Only 0.5 percent of children are allergic to soy milk, whereas 2.5 percent are allergic to cow's milk.

Soy and Protein
Product (Serving size) Protein (gm)
Calcium-fortified soy milk (8 oz) 6.6
Tofu (1/2 cup) 10
Soy nuts (1/4 cup) 15
Tempeh (1/2 cup) 15.7
Miso (1/2 cup) 15.6

Other products include soy patties, soy cheese, soy yogurt and breakfast cereal.

Soy bean oil contains natural antioxidants, which remain in the oil even after separation from the soy bean. These antioxidants help to prevent the rancidity. Preliminary evidence suggests that diets high in soy may help to make cancer cells in the breast, cervix, ovaries, head and neck more sensitive to the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Soy has been shown to reduce the growth of prostate cancer cells in a variety of laboratory conditions. Several human and laboratory studies have suggested that consumption of soy early in life may help protect against breast cancer later in life. Soluble fiber present in soy bean and nuts protects the body from many digestive related cancers, such as colon and rectal cancer. Research suggests that soy can reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and increase bone density in women.

An additional benefit of tofu is that it is extremely easy to digest. This is because the soy bean's fiber is removed during the manufacturing process. Soy's protein and soluble fiber help to regulate glucose levels and kidney function, which helps control diabetic conditions and kidney disease.

A few recent studies released in 2006 found that soy had at best only a minimal effect on cholesterol. The American Heart Association no longer recommends soy for heart disease. But replacing foods high in animal fats with soy products may prove beneficial to heart health. So what should we do? Enjoy our soy foods like before. It may not lower cholesterol to an extent we originally thought, but it certainly does not harm our health!


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What the letters mean...
  • V = vegetarian recipe
  • GF = gluten-free recipe
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