Soy foods have gained popularity and are readily available in numerous products in the grocery stores. Soy is low in saturated fat, high in heart healthy unsaturated fats, and provides a generous amount of protein compared to other plant foods. This nutrient composition is what makes soy a nutritious option when looking to replace meat. Since 1999, the USDA has formally recognized that soy foods can help reduce the risk of heart disease when added to a low fat, low cholesterol diet.
In addition to being heart healthy, soy foods can help with weight management because of their high protein content which helps make you feel full after a meal. Those who enjoy soy foods also reap the benefits of increasing their fiber, calcium and iron intake.
Some questions have arisen surrounding part of the soy chemical structure known as an “isoflavone” which has a very similar shape to the human estrogen hormone. Research has been conducted on soy isoflavone effects on menopausal health, thyroid conditions, osteoporosis and breast cancer, yet conclusive summaries have not been made. As with all foods, balance is key. A recommended 2-3 servings a day of soy foods is best.
When looking to add more soy foods to your diet, the less processed the better. Examples of whole soy foods include edamame, tempeh, soy nuts, and soy nut butters. Of note, 93% of the United States soy crop uses genetically modified soy. Products that do not use genetically modified soy products will list GMO-free (genetically modified free) on their label. Also, certified organic soy foods are GMO-free.
So try a tempeh burger, add some steamed edamame to your plate, or mix soy nuts with dried fruit and pretzels for a satisfying snack.