Soy for Beginners

With less saturated fat than meat and healthy doses of fibre, vitamins and minerals, soy is no longer a food for vegetarians only. It has become so mainstream that the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends it as part of a heart-healthy diet. Still, not everyone’s sold on soy. 

While some experts recommend two to four servings a week, in 2006 the American Heart Association released its review of a decade-long study on the health benefits of soy.

It concluded that soy-based foods and supplements don’t lower cholesterol. But nutrition experts agree that eating soy-based foods is a good idea because they contain less saturated fat than meat and provide healthy doses of fibre, vitamins and minerals. If you’re new to soy, here are six ways to get you started:

Edamame

That’s the Japanese name for fresh soy beans. They resemble peas in shape, size and colour and come in pods just like green peas. Usually, you buy them frozen. Steam them and eat the beans unadorned or with a pinch of salt. Not only are they absolutely delicious, but in this form, soy most closely resembles ordinary vegetables.

Miso soup

This delicate soup made from soy beans is often the first course of a Japanese dinner. Most grocery stores carry miso soup packages that are as cheap and easy to make up as any dry noodle product. Just pour the contents of the package into a cup of hot water, stir, and you have a wonderful, quick soup.

Calcium-fortified soy beverages

High in protein, calcium and isoflavones (plant chemicals that act like the hormone estrogen in the body), fortified soy can be a substitute for cow’s milk in coffee, tea or on cereal.

Soy nuts

Dry-roasted soy nuts are among the richest sources of soy isoflavones. Have a handful as an afternoon snack or toss some into a salad. You can find them in health-food stores and grocery stores.

Soy burgers

Grocery stores have delicious soy-based burgers, sausages, pâtés and other deli-type foods. Check the ingredient information, before you buy, though, because some soy-based foods may be high in fat, loaded with trans fats and/or contain very few isoflavones.

Textured vegetable protein (TVP)

It may not sound appetizing but TVP can be a very useful source of protein—particularly for vegetarians—and is packed with isoflavones. TVP is defatted, dehydrated soy flour compressed into tiny clumps and chunks. If you soak it (stir 1 cup of TVP into an almost-full cup of hot water or broth and drain after 5 to 10 minutes) you can use it in dishes such as chili con carne or spaghetti bolognese. It has the chewy texture of ground meat. Uncooked TVP will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for months.

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