As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I intentionally think about some of the diet trends and New Year’s resolutions for 2024 I would personally like to implement and pass on to my clients. One way to improve nutrition is to think about foods you can add to your diet. Incorporating soy protein in our meals and snacks can be a great way to add versatility and nutrition to your daily meals.
Soybeans are members of the legume family. These nutrient dense beans are a source of high-quality plant protein and are low in saturated fat. Soy is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids our bodies need to consume through food. In addition to being a source of high-quality protein, soybeans are oilseeds that contain omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, isoflavones and are high in fiber.
Due to soy’s impressive nutrition profile, it has several health benefits. Research has shown that the protein soy provides can promote muscle mass gains and improved strength similarly to animal protein and promotes weight loss similar to other protein sources. Soy isoflavones, commonly classified as phytoestrogens, account for many of soy’s health benefits. Isoflavones may bring benefits to the diet such as a protective effect against hormonally driven cancers like breast cancer (especially when soy is part of the diet from early childhood) to common aging issues such as osteoporosis and hot flashes.1
Soy can be used in conjunction with meat and other sources of protein to enhance a meal or snack. For example, if you are making turkey or chicken burgers, add some soy crumbles to it to hike up the fiber content. Edamame is another simple way to add fiber and flavor into any dish. A half cup of edamame contains 4g of dietary fiber, which is 14% of the recommended daily allowance.
Soy foods can also help boost calcium and iron levels. Soymilk is the only plant-based milk that has a nutrition profile similar to cow’s milk. One cup of soymilk contains four to 10g of protein and about 30mg of isoflavones.2 The calcium from calcium-fortified soymilk is absorbed as well as the calcium from cow’s milk. Tofu— which is made by heating soymilk and adding a coagulant— can also be a source of calcium and iron.
I recommend one to two daily servings, which may include a cup of soymilk, a half cup of tofu, tempeh or edamame, or roasted soy nuts. I love enhancing regular recipes by adding soy. For example next time you are making scrambled eggs try adding some scrambled tofu to it, or adding soy crumbles along with ground beef or chicken to make chili.
If prioritizing health from the inside out is your goal in 2024, try to incorporate more soy products into your diet. Start when your kids are young, so they are used to the taste and texture of soy.