Nutrient-rich soy beverages are made by pressing the extract, or milk, out of presoaked soybeans. Compared with cow’s milk, soy beverages contain:
- Less total fat
- Less saturated fat
- No cholesterol
- Three times as much fiber
- Ten times as much iron
- Ten times as much copper
- 75 percent less sodium
- Twice the niacin
- No lactose, which may be an advantage to lactose-intolerant persons
- Phytonutrients to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancerThere are some nutrients that are less abundant in soy milk than in cow’s milk. Compared with cow’s milk, soy drinks contain:
- 20 percent less protein
- one-fifth as much vitamin A
- one-half as much zinc
- No vitamin B12
- one-third as much folate
- only three percent of the amount of calcium (10 milligrams versus 300 milligrams in an 8-ounce glass)
Soy drinks usually contain a sweetener, such as rice syrup, and may also contain vegetable oils to improve taste. Because of the added oils and sweeteners, current label laws prohibit soy milk from being labeled “milk.” Instead it’s described either as a “drink” or “beverage.” This situation is unlikely to change, since the sweeteners are usually necessary to make soy milk palatable. In the Sears’ family kitchen, we use soy beverage as the liquid in making fruit and yogurt smoothies.
Tofu is the curd of the soybean protein, similar to the cheese that comes from milk. The processing not only makes the soybean more useful, it makes it more nutritious. The calcium-containing ingredient that coagulates the soy protein into curds results in a cheese- like product that is high in calcium. The terrific thing about tofu is it can be consumed in many ways, such as the following:
- Blended into a smoothie
- Stir-fried or baked in chunks as a substitute for meat or poultry added to soup or stew
- Pureed to make dips and spreads
- served raw as tiny cubes in salads
Firm, or Chinese-style, tofu is more nutrient-dense than soft (or silken) Japanese- style tofu. It’s much higher in protein, calcium, iron, niacin, slightly higher in fats and carbohydrates and much lower in sodium. Firm tofu has the texture of most cheeses-soft like custard or yogurt. Firm tofu gets its texture and its calcium content from the calcium-containing coagulant used to form its more compact cakes. It has a more meaty consistency than the spread- like, more delicate, soft tofu.
- Meaty consistency
- Higher in protein, calcium, iron, and niacin
- Slightly higher in fats and carbohydrates.
- Much lower in sodium
- More nutrient-dense
- Spread-like texture
- More delicate
Even though firm tofu is much more nutrient-dense than soft tofu, which one you use is a matter of taste. When making the switch to tofu as a substitute for meat and dairy, do it gradually, since to a meat-loving American palate, tofu has a relatively bland taste. After opening the container, you will notice the tofu is packed in water. To preserve its taste and texture, tofu should be kept in the refrigerator submerged in water, and the water should be changed daily. Freezing then thawing tofu gives it a firmer, more meaty texture.Tempeh. This is a mixture of fermented soybeans (by a process similar to fermenting milk into yogurt) and grains, which results in a meatloaf-like product that can be sliced, fried, chopped, and made into burgers. Tempeh is higher in protein than the original soybean and is a lowfat, cholesterol-free alternative to meat. This ancient Indonesian food is also a rich source of fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, B-12, and folate. As an added perk, fermentation increases the bioavailability of isoflavones, the cholesterol-lowering and anti-cancer substances in soy products.
This Japanese favorite is made from fermented soybeans and grains and is often prepared as a soup. Miso is similar to tempeh in protein content, yet it is higher than tempeh in calories and fiber. It is a very good source of zinc. Half a cup of miso contains 4.5 milligrams of zinc, nearly one-half to one-third the recommended dietary allowance. Miso’s only nutritional drawback is its high sodium level. One cup of miso can contain as much as 5,000 milligrams of sodium, twice the RDA. Because of its high sodium content, miso is used more as a seasoning than a main dish.