If you’ve ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant, you probably sprinkled a little soy sauce on your food, right? Ever eaten tofu in a stir-fry or splashed some Silk® on your morning bowl of cereal? Although all these products are vastly different from one another in color, texture and flavor, they all have one thing in common: they’re all made from soy beans.
Soy sauce, tofu and soy milk are just a few of the types of soy-based products you’ll find. There’s also miso—a paste made with fermented soybeans— and tempeh, or partially cooked and fermented soybeans that’s been pressed into a cake. Whole soybeans can also be roasted into soy nuts. Clearly, soybeans are very versatile little legumes. Just as impressive are the nutrient content and health benefits of the humble soybean.
For starters, soybeans are a good source of fiber as well as a number of vitamins and minerals including B6, iron, calcium and zinc. Soy is also an inexpensive source of protein and one of the only plant-based protein sources that’s also a complete protein—meaning it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs to function but can’t supply on its own. Because of its high protein content, soy is often used as a meat substitute; but unlike many animal-based proteins, soy contains no cholesterol and is low in saturated fat. In fact, eating soy may be good for your heart—soybeans are a good source of heart healthy omega-3 fats and the isoflavones (a type of plant hormone) found in soy may help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Those same isoflavones may also help prevent the development of osteoporosis and some types of cancer.
Edamame, young soybeans that have been boiled in their pods, are available both fresh and frozen at many local supermarkets. Often served alongside sushi in Japanese restaurants, edamame can be eaten as is for a tasty heart-healthy snack or used in salad like this one:
Roasted Corn and Edamame Salad
4 ears fresh corn, unhusked, or 1 1/4 cups cooked corn kernels
2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoon light mayonnaise
2 tablespoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons finely chopped or grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Yield: Makes 8 servings
Soak fresh corn in cold water about 30 minutes. Heat grill on high. Grill corn in husk, 10 to 15 minutes, turning once. Let cool. Remove husks. Cut corn from cob into a bowl; combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.