29 January 2009

A “Soyful” Meal: Exploring the Many Soy Options in The Marketplace

Due to it high protein and low fat/sodium content, Soy is seen as a very nutritional worthy food. Soy has no cholesterol and very little saturated fat-4oz only yields about 6 grams of fat. It is also high in B-vitamins, iron and magnesium.

Soy is a very versatile and valued food. In those who are lactose intolerant, soymilk serves as a great substitute for dairy. When hot soymilk is coagulated and becomes firm, it takes on a meat-like feel that provides a wonderful alternative for meat in the Vegan diet.

However, soy, in its many forms, can be a great addition to everyone’s diet and kitchen pantry. Unfortunately, this great food is often shun upon because of its seemingly bland appearance, but appearances are sometimes deceiving. The fact is, soy products like tofu act like sponges, taking up whatever flavors and tastes surround them, so they become as good as the seasonings and flavors you add to them.

In cooking soy products the trick therefore is to be willing to season them well, and make it simple. Choose quick dishes with minimal processing. Soy is a food which doesn’t take too well to much processing or long cooking times. Plus the isoflavonones which contribute to building strong bones in soy are especially susceptible to over processing,

If you choose to add soy to your diet, there are many choices you can pick from:

Soymilk: This is liquefied soybeans, and is available in many varieties-full or lowfat, plain or sweetened, as well as in various flavors. Soy milk is fortified with Calcium, Vit,.D and sometimes Vit. B12 and omega 3 Fatty Acids and added fiber in some brands.

Tofu: This is made from curdled soymilk which is pressed into solid blocks. There are two consistencies-firm and silkened or soft. Firm tofu is best stir fried and grilled. Soft tofu is much more versatile and can be used in smoothies, soups, salads, sauces, and even pudding!

Edamame: This is the actual soy bean harvested before it hardens. To prepare, the beans should be boiled for a few minutes. They can then be eaten as is, with a little salt.

Mature Soybeans: These are available pre-cooked and in canned form and can easily be added to a dish or used as a side dish.

This is fermented soybean formed into cakes. It is a traditional Indonesian food, and has a nutty flavor. It can be steamed, grilled or cut into chunks or strips for stir fries.

Textured Vegetable Protein: Textured vegetable protein comes in dried chunks made from soy flour and can be prepared at home by soaking in water for about 20 minutes before using in a variety of dishes including stews, soups, chilies etc. If you don’t want to prepare it at home, there are many already prepared ‘meatless’ products in which this form of soy protein has already been incorporated. These include meatless burgers, sausages etc.

Soy Flour: Soy flour is made when soybeans are roasted and then grounded into a fine powder. Just like regular wheat flour, soy flour serves as a thickener for soups and gravy, but unlike wheat flour, it has no gluten and doesn’t have the same rising power. Items baked with soy flour turn brown more quickly requiring a reduction in cooking time and temperature. When replacing wheat flour with soy flour in yeast breads, only 10% of the former should be replaced.


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