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There are so many ways to get this good-for-you protein into your daily diet. Here's how to do it — and why you absolutely should.
By Sally Kuzemchak, RD
If you bypass tofu at salad bars, skip the meatless dishes at Chinese restaurants, and avoid edamame when you're out for sushi, well, it's time to give soy-based foods a second look. "Whole soy foods are a great substitute for meat," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Their healthy protein content makes them a good option even if you're not one of the growing number of people going "flexitarian" or opting to eat less meat.
Here's your guide to making this legume a regular and great-tasting part of your diet.
All soy products are made from soybeans, mostly grown here in the United States. You can buy whole soybeans dried or canned, or in the produce section or freezer aisle as edamame, the common name for soybeans picked before they're fully mature. (Edamame can be purchased either in pods or shelled.)
Beyond whole beans, soy takes on a number of different guises. Roasted soybeans are sold as soy nuts or ground into soy nut butter. Soybeans can be soaked in water, cooked, and filtered to make soy milk and soy yogurt. Adding a coagulant to soy milk curdles it, producing tofu, which ranges in texture from "silken" (very soft) to "extra firm," depending on how much liquid is removed.
Soybeans can also be fermented into a paste called miso (the base for miso soup) or a cake or patty called tempeh, which is often used in place of meat in sandwiches or grilled and eaten on its own. Finally, soy can be found in many packaged foods — such as frozen meatless burgers, cereals, and energy bars — often in the form of "soy protein isolate," meaning it's mostly the protein from soybeans you're getting.