Soy is one of the original 24 SuperFoods because it offers tremendous health benefits when incorporated into your regular diet. It’s also an inexpensive, high-quality, vitamin and mineral-rich plant protein with lots of soluble fiber, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, and a wealth of disease-fighting phytonutrients.
There are many different types of soy products on the market, so we thought it would be helpful to break them down for you. The top 6 include:
1. Soy Milk
Soy milk is a major source of soy protein. It’s made from soybeans that have been finely ground, cooked, and strained. It comes with various additives and in a variety of flavors. It’s widely available in aseptic packages, which keep for a long time and don’t need to be refrigerated until opened. As Lorna Sass says in her excellent The New Soy Cookbook, “… not all soymilks are created equal. Tastes ranged from light, fresh and pleasantly sweet to musky, chalky, oily and intensely ‘beany.’ Color ranged from creamy white to dark caramel, with lots of shades in between.”
You really have to experiment with locally available brands to find a soymilk that pleases you. Also, check the label for added sugar or preservatives. You want your soy milk to have as few additives as possible.
Edamame are green soybeans still in their pods. Ideal because they’re a whole food, they are available in the frozen food section of natural food markets and many supermarkets. Boil the pods in lightly sailed water for a few minutes, then pop them right from the pods into your mouth. Edamame taste like slightly sweet lima beans. You can also find shelled soybeans frozen in bags and these are great to add to soups, pasta sauces, salads, and stews. One cup of shelled edamame has about 23 grams of protein.
3. Soy Protein Powder
There are two kinds of soy protein powder and it can be quite confusing when shopping for this popular additive to shakes and baked foods. Like with soy milk, check the label for unnecessary additives, then go with the brand that works best for you — whether you’re using it in a shake, or baking it into a dish.
Soy protein concentrate comes from detailed soy flakes. It contains about 70 percent protein, while retaining most of the bean’s dietary fiber.
4. Soy Flour
Soy flour has been processed from whole ground soybeans. Use it to increase the protein content of breads, cakes, and cookies. Soy flour contains no gluten, so it cannot be used to replace the wheat flour in baking, but you can use it to supplement your other flour.
In yeast-raised breads: use 2 tablespoons of soy flour per cup of wheat flour; with quick breads, you can replace up to one-quarter of the wheat flour with soy flour. You may notice that breads made with soy flour brown more quickly than those made with just wheat. One-quarter cup of soy flour has 8 to 12 grams of protein.
Tempeh is a soy food made from soybeans that have been cracked and inoculated with a beneficial bacterium. It is fermented and then formed into flat blocks. Sometimes grains like brown rice, barley, or millet are added. Tempeh has a meaty taste and is often used as a meat substitute in cooking. It can be marinated and grilled as well as added to stews and pasta sauces. High in protein, fiber, and isoflavones, it is usually found in the refrigerated dairy section of your natural food store or supermarket. Tempeh can be frozen and, once defrosted, must be refrigerated. It will keep for about ten days. Three ounces of tempeh, or about 1/2 cup, has approximately 16 ounces of protein.
Miso, like tempeh, is a fermented soy food. There is a wide range of misos available, particularly if you search in Asian markets. Generally a strong-tasting, salty condiment, miso is perhaps most familiar as miso soup. It does provide soy isoflavones but, like soy sauce, its sodium content is high and thus doesn’t make a good general source of soy protein.