Soybeans in the Diet
Foods from soybeans are not new. They have been used for thousands
of years in other countries. The soybean was introduced into the
United States in 1765. It was not until the 1900s that soybeans
became the important crop they are today. It was first used as a
food for animals. Only in the last few years have people in this
country eaten soybeans and foods made from soybeans. You may think
you do not eat soybeans, but it would be almost impossible not to
eat some products made from soy.
Ingredients made from soybeans are in many foods that we eat every
day. Soy products are used in everything from baby food to whipped
toppings. One of the most common soy ingredients is soy oil. This
is a very popular vegetable oil and is used in many baked products.
Soybeans and soy products can be a healthy addition to our diet.
- Soybeans are included in the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans,
nuts, and egg group of the Food Guide Pyramid.
- A 1/2-cup of cooked dry beans is the equivalent of one ounce
- Soy products are a good source of protein and fiber, have no
cholesterol, and may be low in fat.
- Eating soy products may reduce the risks of some cancers, coronary
heart disease, and osteoporosis.
A number of soy foods and ingredients are now in the grocery store.
Here are some products you may have seen:
Soy flour - Soybeans are ground into a fine powder.
It is usually used with wheat flour.
Soy grits - Soybeans have been roasted and cracked
into coarse pieces.
Soymilk - This is made from crushed cooked soybeans.
There is also soy cheese made from soymilk. People who are allergic
to cow's milk can sometimes use soymilk. Soymilk can be used in
many recipes in place of cow's milk.
Textured soy protein (TSP) - This is made from soy flour
that is cooked, formed, and dried. TSP is sold as granules, flakes,
or chunks and is often made to resemble meat, seafood, or poultry.
It can have a bland taste or be flavored to taste like the product
it is made to resemble. It can be used by itself or blended with
Tofu - This a soft, cheese-like food made by
curdling fresh hot soymilk. The main types of tofu are extra firm,
firm, soft, and silken. The differences are determined by firmness,
texture, and nutritional value. Tofu is high in protein, low in
saturated fat, has no cholesterol, and is lactose-free.
Whole soybeans - This can be bought dry or fresh
and cooked in stews, soups, or casseroles. Roasted whole soybeans
are available for a snack.
Soybeans and soy foods can be a healthy part of the diet. Food
scientists are looking for new ways to include soy into soups, drinks,
and baked goods. Read ingredient labels on some of your favorite
foods to see if you are already eating soy products.
Written by: Barbara Farner
Nutrition and Wellness Educator
University of Illinois Extension
Matteson Extension Center
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