Soymilk, tofu, edamame, soy cheese and roasted soy nuts are just some of the varieties of healthy foods made from soybeans available to consumers. April has been designated as National Soyfoods Month, and members of the Soyfoods Association of North America are working to increase awareness of soy foods as part of a healthy diet.
Soymilk, tofu, edamame, soy cheese and roasted soy nuts are just some of the varieties of healthy foods made from soybeans available to consumers. April has been designated as National Soyfoods Month, and members of the Soyfoods Association of North America are working to increase awareness of soy foods as part of a healthy diet.
INDIANAPOLIS — The variety of soy foods once was limited to items such as frozen tofu patties, but soy foods aren’t what they used to be.

With more flavors and types of soy products on the market than ever, soy foods offer a healthy, viable meal option for families.

“There are more and more choices every day and better-tasting choices,” said Kim Galeaz, registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist. “We used to only have water-packed tofu, but then all of these companies started making flavored tofu.

“And now we have all kinds of cheese, milk and ice cream. Since 1999, things have changed. Food technology allows great-tasting soybean options for all incomes.”

April has been designated as National Soyfoods Month, and members of the Soyfoods Association of North America are working to increase awareness of soy foods as part of a healthy diet. They are reaching out through retail stores in select locations to offer samples and recipes for shoppers.

“Soybeans are the earth’s best plant protein,” said Nancy Chapman, executive director of the Soyfoods Association of North America. “It has all the amino acids necessary to promote growth, unlike other plant proteins, so it’s unique.”

Chapman said soy foods are recognized as an important alternative to those who don’t consume dairy or meat and to some that are trying to lower cholesterol and saturated fat. Soy foods also contain magnesium, potassium and calcium.

“The bean is converted to soy milk, and the milk converted to meat, cheese or other cultured products,” the director said. “It has had a tremendous amount of innovation over the last 10 years.”

Chapman said there are many soy products, including soymilk, soy protein powder, soy nutrition, breakfast and energy bars, ice cream, tofu varieties and more.

“The soybean itself can be roasted into nuts,” she said. “Edamame is popular now. It’s grown in Minnesota and in colder climates and is harvested early in August. It’s a sweet bean and is frozen in or out of the pod.”

Chapman mentioned that edamame is kid-friendly because of its sweet flavor and that her daughter enjoyed squeezing the beans out of each pod.

Galeaz also recommended edamame and other soy foods such as “crumbles.”

“One of the most family-friendly foods is soy crumbles that look like ground beef,” the dietitian said “It comes in a freezer bag or in a tube, but I love the freezer bags because it looks like already-ground hamburger. You can use it anywhere you’d use regular hamburger, and it has a fraction of the fat and saturated fat that a regular ground hamburger would have.”

Galeaz also said that a staple in her freezer are soy sausage patties and links.

“Soy foods provide health benefits for every stage of life,” she said. “Children can start eating soy foods from a very young age and reap benefits throughout growing years and through adulthood.”

Galeaz explained that soybeans have nutrients called isoflavones that provide heart-protecting, bone-protecting and cancer-fighting benefits. She said the isoflavones have been studied extensively in the soybean, and they can help reduce cholesterol if consumed with a low-fat, healthy diet.

The implications of this for those struggling with weight are valuable, according to Galeaz.

“Lean protein, like that in soy foods, has been studied, and there are so many benefits for weight maintenance,” she noted. “Especially as you age, it helps preserve muscle mass. I love these components because so many people are struggling with weight.”

She said that soy foods can provide a feeling of fullness and satisfaction, which prevents overeating.

There is some negative connotation behind the taste of soy foods, but Chapman said that is changing. She said the milk now has a sweeter flavor and less of a grassy flavor, and technology has helped bring flavors that increase acceptability of soy foods.

“Americans have been introduced to new cuisines, such as Indian, Mexican and Japanese, so we have really turned on our pallets to accept a wider variety of flavors,” she said. “That has been a major piece of bringing consumers to want to explore new flavors.”

For recipes and more information, visit www.soyfoods.org.