Soy can lower cholesterol, reduce menopausal side effects such as hot flashes, help prevent breast and prostate cancer, aid weight loss, and help ward off osteoporosis. Some of these benefits have been attributed to soy’s unique characteristic of high concentrations of isoflavones, a type of plant-made estrogen (phytoestrogen).
On the other hand most soy products are highly processed and many people have an undetected intolerance to soy. Soy is listed among the top five foods that Americans are most allergic to.
Soymilks and tofu can be great transitional foods for protein and dairy but I wouldn’t recommend using them on a regular basis for long periods of time. If you are substituting meat for soy based “meat-like” products, begin exploring with some of the products listed below. If you’ve been enjoying soymilk for quite a while, explore rice milk or almond milk as a new alternative. Keep it rotating.
Since soy is the hardest to digest of all beans, it is helpful that it has been processed into more digestible products. Even so, these are highly processed foods. Soy products that have been minimally processed and naturally fermented for easier digestion include tempeh, natto, miso, or edamame.
Miso: Known for it ability to reduce toxins—including those from second-hand smoke—and act as an anti-carcinogen and digestive aid (hence, in Japanese culture, a small cup of miso soup before most meals). The darker the color, the more potent the medicinal value. Try brown rice, barley, or chickpea miso.
Natto: A potent digestive aid. Considered to aid in the regrowth of body tissue, it also helps to regulate blood sugar, contains no salt, and is an excellent source of protein. It has a sticky, viscous coating with a cheesy texture. In Asian countries, natto is traditionally served as a topping for rice, in miso soups or with vegetables.
Tempeh: An easily assimilated protein and energy-building food, it contains the important omega-3 fatty acids. This process also creates a natural antibiotic, which supports the immune system. With it’s smoky nutty flavor, tempeh can be marinated and grilled, baked, fried, added to soups, casseroles, stir-fry or chili.
Tofu: Supports the colon and the lung system, and is a cooling food for those who feel too hot or have high blood pressure. It is a great source of high-quality protein when consumed with whole grains, and also contains calcium, iron and potassium. Tofu easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients with which it is cooked. Firm tofu is dense and solid and can be cubed and served in soups, stir-fried or grilled. It is higher in protein, fat and calcium than other forms of tofu. Soft tofu is good for recipes that call for blended tofu. Silken tofu is a creamy product and can be used as a replacement for sour cream in many dip recipes.
Edamame: Young soybeans that can be eaten hot or cold, as a snack or appetizer, or added to any dish, salad or stir-fry. It is a quick and easy protein option since it takes only about 5 minutes to prepare—just boil, drain and drizzle with a touch of toasted sesame oil, or eat plain with a sprinkle of sea salt. Edamame is easy to digest and is exceptionally high in fiber, to help increase regularity.
Soy Protein Shakes and Power bars:
Shakes and bars made of soy-protein-isolates should be avoided. Many milks and tofu-based ice creams are from SPI (soy protein isolate). SPI is a cheap way for companies to add protein to energy bars to make them seem healthy. It is the left over byproduct of creating soy oil so instead of throwing it away, it gets added to processed foods to add protein. This process is done through a high temperature chemical process.
For protein shakes; use protein powder made of Hemp, Pea, or Brown Rice. All these are high protein powders that are minimally processed. For a boost, add a tablespoon of an all natural almond, peanut, sesame or sunflower butter into your shake.