April is National Soy Food Month

Soy is native to East Asia and is normally grown for the 3 small beans that are encased within the shell. This little bean packs a big nutritional punch. It is the only complete non-animal protein and is an excellent source of Fiber, B Vitamins, Calcium, and Omega-3-Fatty Acids.  Because of the nutritional value, soy is made into many different foods that we see today. It is even seen in many plastics, paints, soaps, and candles. On the other hand, this legume carries a lot of controversy and it is hard to know what the healthiest source of soy is. Below are some common forms of soy and tricks to help you understand what to look for:

Edamame are the raw soybean that is harvested when the bean is young. This gives us the sweet flavor but still allows the bean to remain intact so the nutrients remain intact as well.

Soynuts are the hard soybeans that have been soaked in water, oiled, and baked. This crunchy snack is also close to the natural form and contain most of the nutritional benefits.

Fermented soybeans are the whole bean and are found in tempeh, miso and natto. This fermenting process allows you to more easily absorb the nutrients and also delivers healthy probiotics that help with digestion. Good stuff!

Soynut Butter can be used as a peanut butter substitute for some. It may not contain a lot of additional nutrients, but it is considerably lower in fat and is used if there is allergy concerns.

Convenience Soy Foods are seen throughout the market in place of meat or dairy products. Be careful with these, as many contain processed soy where the nutrients are stripped away. Try to steer clear of items that contain “soy protein” as an ingredient.

Textured Soy Protein (TSP) and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is also found in many convenience foods. This is a really processed source of soy, however TVP is more beneficial since it is higher in protein, iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus when compared to TSP.

Soy dairy is also a tricky one since there are so many options out there. There is liquid soy milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu and many others. The key is to stay as close to the whole soy bean as possible and to avoid items that contain soy protein or soy isolate. Some words to look for in the ingredients are “Whole Bean” or “Fresh soy” to help you reap the true benefits. Also be careful with soy milk that has a very long shelf life. This is likely due to unnecessary additives and sugars such as brown rice syrup or evaporated cane juice.

If you are looking to celebrate National Soy Month, try whipping up some homemade soy milk.

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