Introducing soy products into your diet may seem like a daunting task at first glance, but without breaking your budget or drastically changing your lifestyle you can easily add soy to your family’s meals and snacks. There is no doubt that soy has tremendous health benefits. It is a wonder-plant, rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Soy beans are one of the only nutrient sources of isoflavones, a phytochemical that lowers cholesterol, relieves symptoms of menopause, and fights cancer to name just a few benefits. I have enjoyed adding soy foods to my weekly menus and have compiled a list of five easy ways to get you started.
1. Snacks. If you like to snack (and who doesn’t?!), this is one of the easiest areas in which to make some changes and get soy into your diet. There are a variety of soy snack products on the market, including soy nuts, chips, snack bars, and shakes. One of my favorites are soy nuts because I love salty snacks. They come in lip-smacking flavors like honey roasted, asian, or BBQ. Trader Joe’s brand even makes tasty chocolate and yogurt-covered soy nuts.
2. Soy protein powder. I admit, this doesn’t sound in the least bit appetizing. Let me explain. I bought a large can of soy protein powder, fully intending on using it as directed (mix one scoop with soy milk and blend). Awful! I had to get creative. I started using it in smoothies and I was hooked. I love blending frozen bananas, peaches, or strawberries with yogurt, soy milk, or orange juice. Just throw in a scoop of soy protein powder and you have a healthy, delicious breakfast or post-workout drink. I also add a scoop of the stuff when I am baking scones, pancakes, or muffins. This little trick provides the illusion that chocolate chip cookies are actually a health food.
3. Frozen green soy beans. Here is a little soy miracle that I recently discovered. Frozen green soy beans (or edamame) are perfect to use as a substitute for peas, lima beans, or just as an addition to your favorite casserole or soup. Make sure to buy the shelled variety for ease of use.
4. Canned soy beans. I buy these cans in bulk and toss them in with any soup that calls for white or red beans. They are fantastic in chili or bean soups. My vegetarian aunt uses canned soy beans for her homemade baked beans.
5. Tofu. It may be a four-letter word in the midwest where I live, but even my local grocery store now carries a variety of tofu and meat-substitute products. Tofu is a forgiving food as it can be used in almost any recipe and just blend in perfectly. You may not even taste it because it tends to take on the flavors of the spices you cook it in. You can use tofu in addition to the meat you normally use in your recipes, or you can try substituting the meat with tofu (which is even healthier). Tried and true recipes such as lasagna, chili, tacos, stir-fry, even chicken salad are wonderful with tofu instead of meat. Many recipe web sites, such as allrecipes.com, have an abundance of tofu recipes. Hate to cook? Try ordering your favorite Chinese or Thai dish with tofu instead of chicken!
Here is a simple dish I make often: tofu parmigiana. Drag strips of tofu in Italian bread crumbs, fry in canola or olive oil until browned, and bake in your favorite marinara sauce with slices of mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top until cheese is melted. Serve over pasta. It is so easy and delicious!
Don’t be afraid to take small, simple steps to adding soy to your diet. Even if you decide to use just one of these idea, the health benefits are worth it!