- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2001

It wasn't so long ago that the idea of incorporating soy into one's diet meant downing a few squishy stir-fired tofu squares.

It doesn't have to be that way anymore. With the 1999 FDA approval of labels stating soy's effect on lowering cholesterol has come a wave of innovative soy products, says Nancy Chapman, executive director of the Washington-based Soyfoods Association of North America.

"If you look at products alone, there were more than 1,000 soy products on the market last year," Ms. Chapman says. "That is triple what you would have found five years ago."

Indeed, sales of soy products grew about 25 percent during 1999 and another 28 percent in 2000, turning soy into a $1.6 billion industry in America.

The greatest growth has been on the East and West coasts, which have higher concentrations of Asian people and those who are committed to a plant-based diet, Ms. Chapman says.

One of the most common sources of soy protein is tofu, the cooked, pureed soybeans that are processed into a custardlike cake. Tofu can be seasoned to take on the taste of Mexican or Asian dishes, or it can be blended into smooth dishes such as dips, puddings and smoothies, says Kim Galeaz, a registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the United Soybean Board. With a little creativity, it is easy to add soy in other ways, Ms. Galeaz says.

"A lot of people think tofu is their only option," she says. "It doesn't have to be."

Consumers are catching on to products such as soy milk and alternative meat products such as soy burgers, Ms. Chapman says.

"Alternative meat sales are now the most popular soy product on the market, with close to $375 million in annual sales," she says. "Soy milk is next, with about $300 million. About $275 million of tofu was sold in 2000."

Ms. Galeaz calls products such as soy milk and burgers very "consumer friendly."

"Soy milk comes in a variety of flavors such as chocolate and vanilla," she says. "It has a similar nutrient profile to milk, with protein and fortified with calcium and vitamin D. There are many different brands and flavors of soy burgers, such as salsa, black bean and roasted onion."

The soybean in its whole form is an option as a side dish or main dish, Ms. Galeaz says. Soybeans can be purchased canned, fresh or frozen.

"You can put yellow soybeans in soups and stews," she says. "Black soybeans can be used in place of black beans. Green soybeans, known as edamame beans, are gaining popularity. You can salt them and eat them in the pod or out."

Other products for which Ms. Galeaz has high praise are soy nuts and soy butter, both of which can be eaten in a manner similar to that for peanuts and peanut butter. A handful of soy nuts can provide about 10 grams of soy protein, she says.

The variety of soy products now on the market makes it easier to add 25 grams of soy protein, the amount recommended by the FDA to lower cholesterol, to the diet daily, Ms. Galeaz says.

Some other examples of soy protein content include:

• Four ounces of firm tofu contains 13 grams.

• One soy "sausage" link contains 6 grams.

• One soy "burger" (popular brands include Boca Burger and Gardenburger) contains 10 to 12 grams.

• An 8-ounce glass of soy milk contains 10 grams.

• A soy protein snack bar contains 14 grams.

• Half a cup of tempeh (whole soybeans cooked into a nutty-flavored patty) contains 19.5 grams.

"If your interest is not preventing heart disease, then there are ways to add soy moderately," Ms. Galeaz says. "It can be part of a wholesome diet. I caution people who want to add soy against taking soy supplements. When they do that, they are not getting the protein, vitamins and minerals found in food."

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