‘Tasting is believing’: Soy is healthful, versatile

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118894186017241.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of http://thepassionatecook.typepad.com‘, ‘The ingredients of lasagna can easily be substituted with soy products. Soy is a source of high-quality protein, B vitamins, fiber, and essential fatty acids, and it also contains phytochemicals that may help prevent chronic diseases, including heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes.‘);

URBANA, Ill.—At a recent “Cooking with Soy” demonstration on the University of Illinois campus, dietitian Cheryl Sullivan made vegetarian lasagna—using crumbled tofu instead of ricotta cheese—and made quite a few converts as well.

“When it comes to soy, tasting is believing,” said Sullivan of the Illinois Center for Soy Foods at the U of I. “When people see how easy it is to add soy’s health benefits to really yummy-looking dishes, and when they taste the results and can visualize their family enjoying the recipe, they can’t wait to get home and start cooking.”

Soy products can be used as more healthful substitutes for the ingredients in many recipes, the dietitian said. “In the lasagna, I also substituted soy cheese for half the mozzarella and cut the amount of saturated fat in the dish by almost half,” she said.

Soy is a source of high-quality protein, B vitamins, fiber, and essential fatty acids, and it also contains phytochemicals that may help prevent chronic diseases, including heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis, and diabetes, said Sullivan.

“New research indicates that soy may also assist in weight control,” she said.

As evidence about soy’s health benefits mounts, Sullivan’s cooking demonstrations have become increasingly popular—there’s now a waiting list. A recent class included a farmer who had raised soybeans all his life and wanted to taste what he’d been growing.

With such delectable dishes as winter squash soup, sunshine lemon loaf, game-day chili, Italian pasta salad with edamame (fresh green soybeans), and no-fuss cupcakes, all featured at Sullivan’s demo day, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to write soy off as a nutritious but unappealing menu item.

Sullivan’s workshops are an effective challenge to those prejudices. “Even though most people know soy is good for them, some people still think they just wouldn’t like foods made with soy, or that members of their family wouldn’t eat them,” she said.

“For example, at one demonstration, a mother told me that her young son wouldn’t drink soy milk,” she added. “Then the little boy walked in and sampled a glass without knowing what it was. When he was told it was soy milk, he said, ‘Mmm, soy milk for a special treat.’ The mother was just a little embarrassed, I think.”

According to Sullivan, the food industry has taken tremendous strides in making soy milk and other soy products appealing. She suggested people experiment with different flavors of soy milk, giving themselves time to adjust to the difference.

“Soy milk doesn’t taste exactly like cow’s milk, but you may find in time that you prefer it,” she said. It can be substituted for cow’s milk in almost any recipe, except for instant pudding.

Other soy products, such as tofu, textured vegetable protein (TVP), soy flour, miso, and tempeh can also be used as substitutes to boost nutrition in recipes.

Many people use TVP as a meat enhancer, using it to replace some or all of the meat in the dish they’re preparing, she said. “They’ve boosted the nutrition of the recipe, and their families can’t tell the difference,” she said.

Sullivan said healthy adults should try to eat two servings of soy each day to obtain its nutritional benefits.

“If you’re just becoming interested in soy, all these new products and ways of using them can be a bit intimidating. Call the Illinois Center for Soy Foods (217-244-1706) to register for a cooking demonstration, to order cookbooks, or to obtain a soy starter kit. Or visit our web site at www.soyfoodsillinois.uiuc.edu,” she said.

The Illinois Center for Soy Foods is dedicated to educating consumers about the advantages of a soy-enriched diet, instructing them in how to prepare soy foods, and communicating new health benefits of soy.from the Sept. 5 – Sept. 11, 2007, issue

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