Healthy Cooking the Soy Way!

Mark your calendars! April is officially "Soyfoods Month." According to the Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA) April is the eleventh annual "Soyfoods Month" celebration. Activities for the official Soyfoods Month 2007 will focus on educating consumers about "how easy soy foods are to find, prepare and incorporate into a healthy lifestyle and haute cuisine".

"Today, the average American is becoming more aware of the effects of diet on overall health, especially in light of recent studies about the obesity epidemic," says Nancy Chapman, RD, MPH, Executive Director of SANA. "Soy foods are perfect to manage weight and boost health for children, teenagers, and adults. Soy foods are low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and packed with essential nutrients. Of all the beans found in nature, soy is the only one that has high quality protein equal to animal protein, a vital part of the nutrition equation and possibly weight control."

Soy Has Health Benefits for All

"These are exciting times for soy foods because breaking scientific developments bring us closer to better understanding the nutrition of soy foods," said Ted Nordquist, SANA President. Research demonstrates that soy foods benefit people from ages one to one hundred. For lactose-intolerant and dairy sensitive children and adults, soymilk and cheeses, yogurt, and frozen desserts made from soymilk have become popular dairy substitutes.

Soy nut butter is a great substitute for children and adults who have peanut allergies. For baby boomers and their parents, soy foods may increase the vitality of skin, hair, and nails as well as protect against heart disease and bone loss.

Many women have found soy eases post-menopausal symptoms. Initial findings suggest soy foods may help prevent some types of cancer, especially when introduced during childhood or adolescence.

One of the most compelling reasons to include soy in your diet remains the FDA-approved health claim for soy protein, which states that "25 grams of soy protein a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Several recently released studies confirm the well-known heart health benefits of soy foods in any form. Dr. Walter Willett from Harvard University and co-investigators found that both soy nuts and processed soy-protein products, as part of a low saturated, low cholesterol diet, lowered LDL-cholesterol levels 10-14%.

Now That I Want It, Where Do I Get It?

News of soy's health benefits has increased the demand for soy foods. In the past 15 years, soy sales have climbed from $300 million in 1992 to $4 billion in 2006, according to the latest market statistics from Soyatech. The number of products containing soy has also grown significantly from the hundreds just ten years ago to well close to 3,000 today.

From 2000 to 2006, food manufacturers in the U.S. introduced over 2,500 new foods with soy as an ingredient, including 479 new products introduced in 2006 alone, according to the Mintel's Global New Products Database. Mintel indications from the partial year 2006 data are that overall soy product launches will rebound strongly in the coming year.

As a result of increasing demand and production, consumers can now find soy products in ninety-nine percent of mainstream supermarkets and buying clubs as well as the natural food stores and Asian food markets. Soy foods are often next to the products they resemble (such as soymilk in the dairy case) as well as in the natural and health sections of supermarkets. The refrigerator case also includes soy-based cheeses, yogurts, tofu, nondairy cream cheese, and soy deli meats.

In some stores, these foods are also near the produce section. The freezer section contains dairy-free frozen soy desserts, meat alternatives, edamame, as well as tempeh and miso. Next to peanut butter is soy nut butter and along with other cereals are those with added soy.

Among snacks are roasted soy nuts, soy chips, soy crisps, soy bars, and soy trail mix. The baking section stocks soy flour, soy or vegetable oil, soy brownie and biscuit mixes. Soymilk in the TetraPak box is available in many sections, including the Natural Food Section, the International Foods Section, and the Baking Section.

Soy food choices are endless. Cooking with Soy Foods offers tips for including soy foods in any dish or mealtime. Other soy products can be used in everyday recipes, such as soymilk in place of milk or soy flour as a thickener. Visit http://www.soyfoods.org/ to locate products that will fit your cravings and read Soy in the Supermarket to find them easily in the supermarket.

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