Soy has gained popularity over the years, mostly as being a healthy alternative for animal protein. Vegetarians and vegans will consume soy in their diets in place of animal protein and other animal products. However, you do not have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy soy!
Despite soy’s popularity, many people do not know much about soy. Luckily, April is National Soyfoods Month! We have the opportunity to learn more about soy and the benefits and negatives it may have on our bodies this month.
Soy is not just for vegetarians! Anyone can incorporate soy into his or her meal plans. You can still enjoy animal products and just substitute soy products in some meals.
Soy originates from the soybean, a legume common in East Asia. Soy products include:
- Tofu, the most common soy in our diets
- Whole soybeans, such as: edamame, dry, black or roasted soybeans
- Soy meat alternatives, such as: burgers, taco filling, bacon-like, etc.
- Soy nut butter
- Soy flour
Studies have shown soy has many beneficial components.
- Soy is a complete protein. It is one of the few plant-based proteins that provide all the necessary essential amino acids needed for human growth and body maintenance.
- FDA approved health claims for soy to say it can lower your cholesterol.
- It is a heart healthy food. Soy is cholesterol-free and has been found to increase HDL (good) cholesterol, while lowering triglycerides. (This is mostly seen when soy is substituted for animal protein.) It is also low in saturated fat.
- Soy has been shown to help lower blood pressure.
- Soy is high in many nutrients:
- High in polyunsaturated fat
- Contains fiber, which promotes good digestion
- Contains calcium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids
- Since soy is high in protein, it may help contribute to healthy weight maintenance. The high amount of protein contributes to feelings of early satiety.
Despite the many health benefits soy has, it is known to have some negative components.
- Soy contains phytates. Phytates reduce the absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Therefore, consuming a lot of soy can affect your mineral levels.
- Since soy comes from a plant, it does not contain vitamin B12. If you are substituting all animal protein sources for soy, you need to take into account your B12 levels and make sure you will not become deficient.
- Soy may affect your thyroid function, but only if you are not consuming enough iodine from your diet or at risk for thyroid disease.
Are you unsure of how to cook with soy or what to pair it with? Try some of these ideas:
- Make meatballs with soy crumbles instead of ground beef
- Steamed edamame makes an easy snack and can be added to salads
- If you are lactose intolerant, you could drink calcium-fortified soymilk
- Tofu will “take” to the flavor you cook it with… you can incorporate tofu into any dish and it will taste like the spices you add
- Soy flour can be used when baking, such as in pancakes
Your turn to take action: Will you start to incorporate soy into some of your meals? Tell me how in the comments section below.