April 2021 KRNC Recognizes National Soy Foods Month
By Jessi Phillips
April is National Soy Foods Month! Soy has been in the hot seat, so we are cutting through the conflicting and confusing claims and giving you reason to celebrate this legume.
What are the benefits of eating soy?
Soy is a unique plant protein source because it contains all nine essential amino acids that your body needs to build proteins. Soybeans also contain dietary fiber, unsaturated fat, vitamins, and minerals. Soy is known for its isoflavones that act as antioxidants, which defend against cell damage. Over time, cell damage can result in disease. Thus, soy foods can play a role in protecting against diseases, including cancers. To learn more about antioxidants, check out The Dish on Antioxidants.
Soy and estrogen
Soy foods receive a lot of hype because they contain isoflavones, which are also known as phytoestrogens. Isoflavones are called phytoestrogens because their chemical structure looks like estradiol, a form of estrogen hormone produced in the body. Isoflavones are also found in many plants, including kidney beans, chickpeas, pistachios, and navy beans.
These phytoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors in the body and trigger a response. There are many factors that influence how phytoestrogens behave in the body, including other parts of the diet, hormone levels, and the type of soy product eaten.
Is soy safe to eat?
Many have heard that soy foods cause “negative estrogen effects” in the body, such as feminizing effects for men (growing breasts, infertility, testosterone reduction) and risk of breast cancer for women. Many have been advised to avoid soy for these reasons. Some of these concerns stem from studies done on rats, but research using human subjects has not replicated these results. Scientists have been testing the safety of soy foods on different populations for years, and there is not adequate evidence that these claims are true. Researchers have found that phytoestrogens act much differently in the body than human estrogen hormones. Researchers have determined that consuming soy in moderate amounts (1-2 servings a day) is not only safe, but actually health-promoting.
Tasty ways to add soy into your meals:
- Edamame beans are whole, immature soybeans. You can buy edamame in the freezer section, either shelled or unshelled. To prepare edamame, either boil, steam, sauté, or microwave the bean pods. The outer pod of edamame is tough and is not meant to be eaten. Shelled varieties can easily be added to rice dishes, soup, and vegetable medley. A ½ cup serving of edamame provides 4 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. It is a good source of magnesium and folate.
- Soy milk is a great alternative to dairy milk. It comes in plain unsweetened, sweetened, chocolate, and vanilla flavors. Soy milk is higher in protein than most other dairy alternatives (6 grams of protein per cup). Many soymilk varieties are fortified with vitamins A, D, B12 and calcium.
- Tofu is made from soymilk and it is very versatile in cooking. You can find it in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery store. It comes in different forms: silken, regular, firm, or extra-firm. Choose extra-firm tofu for pan frying, grilling, or baking. Before cooking, wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and squeeze lightly to let out the excess water. Then, chop into cubes or crumble and cook with your favorite dish. Tofu is a great base for adding flavor—the possibilities are endless! (Even desserts…check out our silken peanut butter chocolate pie)
- Tempeh is a fermented soy product. It is a great meat substitute that can be seasoned or marinated to be used in tacos, grain bowls, pot stickers, BBQ, salads, or sloppy Joes. Tempeh is packed with fiber and probiotics, and is an excellent source of vitamin B6.
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) are soy-based products that mimic the taste and texture of meat. TVP comes in many forms, such as veggie burgers, vegan sausages, deli meat, nuggets, vegan “bacon,” or meatless “chicken.” Some more-processed forms can be higher in sodium, so reference the nutrition facts label when choosing a product. These can be found in the refrigerated/frozen sections of the grocery store.
- Soybean oil is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an essential omega-3 fatty acid that can protect against inflammation. Additionally, soybean oil has a high smoke point, which makes it great for sautéing, roasting and baking. Soybean oil is an excellent source of vitamin K.
Soy foods are part of a balanced diet and come in many forms. Soy foods offer quality protein, heart-healthy fats, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Consuming 1-2 servings of soy daily can help improve cholesterol levels and boost antioxidant activity.
Get to know the Author:
Jessi Phillips graduated from Metropolitan State University with a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is currently a dietetic intern aspiring to be a clinical registered dietitian. She hopes to begin her career at a hospital in the Loveland/Fort Collins area. Jessi’s interests lie in pediatric nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, hunger and environmental nutrition, and nutrition support. Her dream is to work as an RD internationally, combating food insecurity and treating malnutrition in children, families, and refugees.
For additional resources to healthy eating, check out these programs from our registered dietitian nutritionists. Find delicious and healthy recipes on our Recipes page! More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!