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
Chapman mentioned that edamame is kid-friendly because of
its sweet flavor and that her daughter enjoyed squeezing the beans out of each
Galeaz also recommended edamame and other soy foods such as
“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
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
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.