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5 Easy Ways to Add Soy to Your Diet

Gain Health Benefits and Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk

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Updated October 23, 2008

Soy foods are widely available, and great for your health. Soy is high in protein, helps lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and may help with menopause symptoms. The soy isoflavone genistein can act like weak estrogens, and may help prevent breast cancer, particularly when consumed during pre-puberty, when breast tissues are being developed. With all those benefits, you might want to get some of those soy-base health benefits for yourself and your family. Here are five easy ways to start incorporating soy in your diet.

Be Smart About Soy

soybeans
Photo © USDA
Before you add soy to your diet, know that too much of a good thing can be a problem, particularly if you: This is because soy has an isoflavone (genistein) that may counteract estrogen suppressors, which would make your post-treatment medication less effective. After you've finished a full course of estrogen suppressors (usually 5 years), you can start including soy in your diet, in modest amounts. You could also try legumes, whole grains, and nuts. Avoid soy altogether if you're allergic to it, or have a thyroid disorder.

Easy Everyday Soymilk Uses

Soymilk compares well with cow's milk in terms of calories, carbs, protein and calcium –- but has about half the sugar content. In your morning coffee, try using soymilk instead of creamer or dairy products. This is great for people who have lactose intolerance, a milk allergy, or prefer a vegan diet. Soymilk make a great drink chilled, especially the flavored varieties. Use it for shakes and smoothies, pour it over cereals, slip it into baked goodies, or substitute it in cream sauces and soups. Concerned about storing soymilk for easy use? Try the powdered soymilk, which should be stored in your fridge or freezer, and mixed with water when you need it.

Tofu – More Than a Brick of Bean Curd

If you've seen blocks of tofu in Asian markets and grocery stores, you may have wondered why anyone would use it as food. Asians use tofu as a raw product, or packaged as fried, fermented, pressed, dried sticks, or sheets. If you're not ready to learn Chinese or Japanese cuisine, you can mash and scramble tofu with turmeric or curry powder and diced onions mixed with peppers for a breakfast dish that contains none of the cholesterol of scrambled eggs, but is loaded with protein. Skip cooking and add pre-marinated tofu (such as tamari, garlic and ginger, Thai spiced) in small chunks to a green salad. Like to eat dessert? Try silken tofu in mousses, puddings, and cream pies.

Miso – Healthy Soy Bean Paste

Miso is soy bean paste, made by fermenting soy beans with salt and grains. You can find miso in a variety of flavors and colors. Use miso as a base for soups –- and get the benefits of isoflavones, yeast, and unsaturated fats. The dietary fiber in miso is good for digestive health, and the vitamin E helps produce healthy skin and hair. Use miso for a condiment, in marinades, and to add flavor to stir-fried dishes.

Pass the Beans, Please

If you want your soy undisguised, try green soybeans (edamame). Green soybeans can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried, and eaten hot or cold. These soybeans are loaded with proteins, vitamins A, C, B1, and B2, calcium, and dietary fiber. You can purchase green soybeans frozen or fresh, and use them with other vegetables, or in salads, soups, or on top of rice. Prefer your beans brown? Pick up a box of natto (fermented soybeans) -– a popular Japanese breakfast food. Natto contains an enzyme called nattokinase, which may prevent blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. If the flavor of natto is too strong for you, add it to soups or omelettes to get its vitamins and fiber.

Soy – The Other White (And Brown) Meat

Perhaps the fastest way to cut back on meat and add soy to your diet is to try some of the latest meat substitutes found in the freezer section of your grocery store. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) includes soy, and is available in varieties that are much more appealing than what we had 20 or even 30 years ago. If you haven't tried the new versions of meatless meatballs, soy burger crumbles, soy-based sausages and lunchmeats, or even tamales filled with soy "meat," then you're in for a treat. Quick and convenient, many ready-to-heat entrees with soy make fine substitutes for chicken, turkey, hamburger, hot dogs, and bacon.

More Reasons to Eat Soy

Many soy-based food products are kosher, and are compatible with vegetarian and vegan diets. These soy food dishes can be prepared as low-fat, cholesterol-free, high-fiber alternatives. Soy is the dietary chameleon that takes on many shapes, textures and flavors. You can improve your health and still enjoy many familiar dishes when you use soy foods.
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