Whole soy foods may also enhance weight loss, improve blood sugar control, and reduce insulin levels. Some literature also suggests that soy foods (not soy supplements) may protect against breast cancer.
The Best Soy Choices When Grocery Shopping
When choosing products made from soybeans, stick to:
Available in most grocery store freezer sections, often described as edamame.
Vanilla, original, or unsweetened.
Unflavored/unmarinated – found in refrigerator cases.
All the above are great choices for your cholesterol profile and overall health.
Soymilk vs Other Milks
There are a lot of different types of milks in grocery stores now, such as almond, rice, and coconut milks. These milks do not have the cholesterol-lowering power of soymilks. In fact, some, like coconut milk, may actually raise cholesterol levels because they contain saturated fat.
Some of these nondairy milks may also be full of added sugars. And certainly, more sugary drinks are the last thing our obesity-besieged society needs. Before putting these milks in your shopping cart, always turn the label around and read the Ingredient List to see if the product contains added sugar. And remember that sugar has many names, including barley malt, honey, molasses, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and words ending in “-ose” (sucrose) and “-ol” (sorbitol). Also check out the calorie count. Some of these milks contain as many calories as soft drinks.
Equally worse, some of these milks do not contain calcium, or have very little.
Is Soy Bad For You? Can I Eat Or Drink Too Much?
“It’s possible. As with much of life, moderation is a good idea,” says Dr. Gayl Canfield, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
Enjoy soybeans and soy-rich foods like soymilk and tofu. They may help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood sugar, and insulin levels.
But steer clear of richly concentrated soy products and supplements, like soy protein isolate. They’re far from moderate in their amounts of soy protein. “Products like these are so concentrated that they’re almost pharmaceutical,” warns Dr. Canfield. “I’d much rather see people eating real food. With food, you’ll get plenty of isoflavones and other nutrients – but not too much.”
Bottom Line: Is soy bad for you? Potentially, if it’s soy that comes in concentrated pill or powder form. Stick to whole food sources like soymilk, tofu, soybeans (edamame), and tempeh (an Asian food made from fermented soybeans).
Keep in mind, too, that the health-promoting chemicals in soybeans that have gotten so much attention in recent years – the isoflavones – are plentiful in all beans: pinto beans, black beans, lentils, red beans, and so on. And these beans generally derive a mere 3 to 9% of their calories from fat. Soybeans, by contrast, are 37% fat – and therefore more likely to promote weight gain.
But all beans, including soybeans, are full of nutritional riches – and are a very healthy, protein-packed alternative to meat or poultry. Instead of increasing our cholesterol levels, like animal protein, beans lower it.
A Simple, Tasty Tofu Recipe
A novice to tofu? Try this super-simple recipe from Pritikin’s award-winning Executive Chef Anthony Stewart. ”This is one of my favorites, I must admit,” he laughs.
Chef Anthony takes a block of firm tofu (firm tofu is the type that sits in a container of water in the refrigerated section of your grocery store), and picks it up and squeezes it with both hands to let some of the water out.
Then, as if he’s cutting up a loaf of bread, he slices his tofu into about four ¾-inch-thick slices, and marinates his slices in balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, and dried oregano for 4 to 5 minutes.
He heats a large nonstick skillet over a high flame, and, using tongs, places his tofu slices in the skillet. When the side facing the skillet is darkened, he flips the tofu to the other side and darkens it, too, about 4 minutes per side.
When the tofu slices are nicely browned on both sides, Chef removes them from the skillet, and slices each into bite-size squares.
“I store them in a baggie in the refrigerator, and I use them for everything,” smiles Chef. “You know how people say, ‘Oh, I’m having a salad, but I need some protein like chicken or fish for it.’ Well, animals aren’t the only source of protein. Tofu is packed with protein, and so easy! You just toss these little tofu squares into your salad, and you’re getting plenty of rich, chewy, filling protein, but with none of the cholesterol and saturated fat of animal protein.”
Chef also enjoys his mighty little tofu squares as a snack. And he adds them to soups, marinara sauces, and whole grain dishes, like quinoa.
“Tofu is definitely a product you should stock up on in your refrigerator,” encourages Chef Anthony.