Over the last decade or so, soy has gone from superfood to scapegoat as health pros debate its potential health benefits, including heart disease prevention. Given all this back and forth, you may wonder if this food is still worth eating. The short answer: Yes, as long as you stick to largely unprocessed whole foods, such as tofu, edamame, tempeh, soy nuts and soy milk, and skip the more highly processed ones—think soy hot dogs, burgers and protein bars. The problem with highly processed soy foods is that they contain additives such as sodium, fillers and preservatives used to extend shelf life. Others contain only isolated soy protein, so you lose the benefits of whole soy. Here’s why soy should still be part of your diet…
• It’s a healthy alternative to red meat. All beans provide protein, but soybeans are exceptional. One-half cup of cooked soybeans provides 15 g of high-quality protein—double the amount found in other legumes. Like animal protein, soy contains all the essential amino acids in just the right proportion. It’s also packed with fiber, phytochemicals, good fats such as omega-3s and lots of vitamins and minerals—ingredients that are often lacking in some animal proteins. You can toss soybeans in a salad to add crunch, use them instead of chickpeas for hummus or add them to quinoa as a tasty side dish.
• It contributes to heart health. While no single food can reduce your risk, eating a mostly plant-based diet that includes healthy fat and is rich in fiber and phytochemicals (this could include soy, copious amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil)…working out at least 30 minutes a day…and not smoking can improve your cardiovascular health.
• It is widely consumed in countries with lower rates of chronic disease. No matter what the studies say, many scientists believe that high soy consumption explains why many Asian countries, where soy has long been a major staple, have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes compared with the US.
So do your heart a favor and keep eating soy—starting with this recipe…
Curried Roasted Cauliflower and Tofu over Brown Rice
This quick and easy recipe is a perfect way to incorporate soy into a delicious heart-healthy dish…
1 container extra-firm tofu (14 ounces), drained and cut into one-inch cubes
1 fresh head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 large Vidalia onion, halved and sliced
2 Tablespoons currants
2 cups cooked brown rice (or quinoa)
What to do: Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl, combine the tofu with the cauliflower and one tablespoon of olive oil. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the curry, ginger, cumin and salt and stir until blended. Add the onion and stir until light brown. Add the currants and onion mixture to the large bowl and toss with the tofu and cauliflower until they are well coated. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Serve over brown rice or quinoa. Yield: 4 servings.