Soy you like it

Dr Barbara Wilson

Soy and soy foods have been getting lots of publicity recently for their health promoting properties. Many of us don’t really know a lot about soy and the foods made from it and most of us are a little reluctant to try it. Soy foods are often used by vegetarians and those excluding dairy products – but everybody can benefit from eating soy! But what exactly is soy and just why is it so good for us?

Well, here are just a few facts about soy and soy products that might make you think give a second thought to soy:

· The humble soy bean is the only plant-derived food to contain all the essential amino acids, that is, the amino acids that the body can’t make itself but needs to produce proteins

· Soy is a low-fat food, has no cholesterol and is high in fibre

· It contains isoflavones which help the body regulate oestrogen. It can help lessen the symptoms of pre-menstrual tension and menopause

· The combination of amino acids and proteins provide anti-oxidants, lower ‘bad’ LDL-cholesterol, promote absorption of calcium and inhibit bone breakdown, so helping prevent osteoporosis

· Soy can help regulate insulin excretion

· Preliminary studies suggest that soy can decrease the amount of fat stored in the body and increase the efficiency of fat-burning.

So how can we include soy in our diets? Well, soy is available as a number of products:

Milk and yoghurt – soy milk has fewer calories and only a little more fat than semi-skimmed milk, while soy yoghurt has around 10 more calories and 3g of fat per 100g compared to regular low fat yoghurt. Soy milk and yoghurt can be used as direct replacements for regular milk and yoghurt and used to make shakes, smoothies and in cooking.

Tofu - or soybean curd, is similar to cheese in texture and, alone, is quite bland. However, tofu can take on the flavors of other ingredients very well, so is often marinated or used in hot and spicy dishes.

There are four main types of tofu: extra-firm, firm, soft and silken and which one you use will depend on the recipe: a smoothie, for example, will turn out better is you use soft or silken tofu while firm or extra-firm tofu will work better in soups and stir-frys. You should be able to find tofu in your supermarket or health food store, although all varieties may not be available. An Asain supermarket should have a wider selection, including smoked tofu.

Soy protein – or textured vegetable protein (TVP) is a commonly used meat replacement. It can be found in many vegetarian foods or in packets as dried flakes. It can be used in a wide variety of recipes, but is very successful in any recipe which calls for minced meat, such as curry, chilli or Bolognese sauce. TVP is around 70% protein, with little or no fat and a high fibre content.

Soy Sauce – although not a great source of soy, this is probably the most familiar soy product to many of us. It is made from fermented soy beans and is generally used as a food flavouring and condiment.

Tempeh - is made from fermented soybeans which are mixed with grain and shaped. Alone, it has a smoky or nutty flavour and, like tofu, can take on the flavour of foods it is mixed with. Tempeh is a great substitute for meat and, as it keeps it shape, it can be used as a direct replacement in any meat recipe.

Miso - is a smooth paste made from soybeans and salt which is fermented with a culture for up to three years. It has a strong flavour and is used as an ingredient in soups, marinades, stews and sauces.

Many other products are available and can be used to replace everyday foods: soy beans are similar to black-eye beans and can be used like any other beans, soy flour can replace some regular flour in cooking, soy butter is an alternative to peanut butter, and isolated soy fibre can be taken as a dietary supplement.

Start a diet plan at tescodiets.com

Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.