skip to main content

All About Soy

Frequently Asked Questions About Soy:

What do you mean by "soy"?

Soy products are derived from soybeans. Soybeans contain the building blocks of protein, as well as iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium and the B vitamins. Whole soybeans are the base ingredient in foods such as tofu, soy nuts, soymilk, soy flour and tempeh.

Why should I eat soy?

We ALL should have a MINIMUM of 2 servings of fruit & 3 servings of vegetables EVERY DAY. Preferably more like 8-10 servings. Most people think, "Oh that's crazy, I could never eat that." But, you have to remember that a serving isn't one per each time you sit down to eat. You might get 2 or 3 servings in a single sitting, especially if you base your meals & snacks around plant foods.

If you're hoping to fight/prevent cancer, then focus on getting the majority of your calories from whole plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes (starchy beans including soy), and WHOLE grains. Remember, all Americans should eat a minimum of 5 servings of fruits & vegetables daily, yet most only get one or two servings. If you've had cancer or are at high risk of cancer, you should aim for at least 8 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Whole grains & starchy beans are great cancer fighters too and at least 2 to 3 servings of whole grains per day and 4-5 servings of legumes per week are good goals. Incorporating soy products into your diet will help you meet these goals.

Where do I buy it?

Most soy products are available at any supermarket. They are also found in health food and/or nutrition stores.

What is Textured Soy Product (TSP) or Textured Vegetable Product (TVP)?

Textured soy or textured vegetable products have a texture similar to that of ground beef. It is made of defatted soy flour which is processed into small or large chunks.

The product is sold in two forms. One form is dry, or dehydrated, and requires rehydration with hot/boiling water. The other form is in the refrigerated section of most major grocery store chains. It is often referred to as 'veggie ground round'. If you can't find it in your super market, ask a store worker where it is kept.

How do I cook with it?

There are a variety of ways to cook with soy (for your convenience there are several recipes on-line). Some popular soy products are listed below:

    Tofu is a solid cake made of soymilk, and has a cheese-like consistency. Tofu comes in soft and hard varieties, which makes it very versatile. It does, however, have a rather bland taste by itself, but it absorbs the flavors of the foods (such as herbs, spices, sauces) it is cooked with.

    Silken and soft tofu have less fat and calories than firm or extra firm tofu, because they have a higher water content. Firm or extra firm tofu are more dense, and this is why they have a higher fat and calorie content.

    It should be noted that by removing the excess water from any type of tofu it can be made more firm for grilling or sauteeing. To do this you'll need a cloth napkin or clean kitchen towel, two plates, and a couple of heavy books. Lay either the napkin or the towel on one of the plates, place the tofu on the napkin, then put the other plate on top of the tofu. Add something heavy (such as books) so that the water is squeezed from the tofu. The longer the weight is applied, the more water will be expelled. In general, 20-30 minutes is enough to get the tofu firm enough for grilling.

    As a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea to mix tofu into recipes gradually. For instance, don't feel it's necessary to completely replace meat with tofu; instead, try substituting 1/3 to 1/2 of the ingredient with tofu. Over time, more soy can be substituted for meat, but even keeping it less than 100% replacement is fine, too.

    Use silken tofu for dressings, dips and desserts:

    • Use it in place of cream in sauces
    • Substitue for mayonnaise or sour cream in salad dressing or dip
    • Use to make pie filling, custard or cheesecake

    Soft tofu is moist, but firmer than silken tofu. It also is good for dressings and dips:

    • Substitute it for soft cheeses in recipes such as lasagna
    • Use to make breakfast shakes

    Firm and extra-firm tofu will hold texture and shape in salads, soups and stir frys:

    • Use for imitation egg salad
    • Use in place of meat or chicken in stir fry dishes, or with fajita dishes

    Tempeh is a flat cake made from fermented soybeans. It has a mild, smoky flavor with a chewy texture. It is also low in sodium. Some suggested uses:

    • Marinate in BBQ sauce (or a preferred marinade) and grill it
    • Mix into casseroles, chili or soup

    Soymilk is the milk of the soybean. Like milk, it comes in regular, low-fat and non-fat versions. Soymilk comes in a variety of flavors: natural, vanilla, chocolate, almond or carob. Feel free to experiment with all of the varieties until you find the one (s) you like. Vitamin D and calcium are often added to it. Use soymilk wherever you would use regular milk.

    The majority of soy milk brands do not need to be refrigerated until they are opened. In your grocery store, look for soy milk in the 'health food' section on the shelf.

    Soy Flour
    Soy flour is made from roasted soy beans that are then ground into flour. There are full-fat and low-fat varieties. Use to:

    • Replace one fourth of the total flour in a recipe with soy flour
    • Thicken low-fat sauces, gravy or soup

Rehydrate and use as a substitute for some of the meat in recipes such as chili, lasagna, pasta sauce, taco sauce, etc. Or, if you've purchased 'veggie ground round', it can just be added straight to a recipe without rehydrating, as a substitute for ground meat.

    Soy Powders
    Soy powder (soy protein isolates) are the most highly refined soy protein and contain the largest amount of protein of all the soyfoods.

    If you use soy powder, read the label to make certain it doesn't contain a lot of extra ingredients, such as unwanted herbs or mega-doses of vitamins. The first and major ingredient on the label should read 'soy protein isolate.'

    Please remember: in general, the best health benefit comes from eating whole soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and TVP/TSP, rather than eating just a fraction of the food in a supplement or powder.

    Use soy powder in:

    • Hot cereal
    • Pudding
    • Yogurt
    • Cottage cheese
    • Shakes
    • Casserole

Continue learning about soy, tofu and other vegetarian options

back to top