Nutrition 101

April is National Soy Foods Month.

The soybean is a legume and part of the pea family. The soybean is the only plant-based protein that contains all the essential amino acids found in animal proteins. Soybeans are free of cholesterol and are low in saturated fats. Soybeans contain fiber, iron, calcium and many other vitamins and minerals. In addition, soybeans are rich in isoflavones, a plant estrogen. There is ongoing research that supports the beneficial nutritional qualities of soy protein and isoflavones, from heart to bone health. To be fair, there is also controversy regarding soy with respect to thyroid disease and breast cancer.

Based on recent clinical and epidemiological studies, recommendations for adult intake of soy protein is 15-25 grams per day or 2-4 servings of soy foods per day.

FYI – A serving of soy foods is 1/2 cup tofu; 1 cup soy milk; 1/4 cup edamame; 1/3 cup soy nuts; a soy-rich burger or protein bar. 

Many soy products are excellent options to include in a healthful diet. Soy products may be high in protein and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is always important to read labels, look at ingredients and review sodium, saturated fat and sugar content. 

Popular Soy Products at McCaffrey’s:


  • Soybeans that are harvested when the beans are still green and immature.
  • Edamame can be bought shelled or in the pod and may be found in the produce section or frozen food aisle. 
  • See Ask the Expert and Spotlight on Taste for more information on edamame.


  • Tofu, known as soybean curd, has a mild flavor. When mixed with marinades and spices, tofu acts like a sponge, easily absorbing flavors.
  • Tofu is high in protein and B vitamins and low in sodium. 
  • There are two main types of tofu:
  • Firm tofu holds up well in stir fry dishes and soups, on the grill or anywhere tofu needs to maintain its shape.
  • Silken tofu has a softer texture and works well in puréed or blended dishes.

 Soy Milk:

  • Made from soybeans that are soaked, ground, and strained. 
  • Soy milk is found in non-refrigerated containers or in the dairy case. It can also be sold as a powder to be reconstituted with water. 
  • Soy milk can be used as a beverage or in place of milk in recipes. Add to cold cereal, oatmeal, coffee, and smoothies.
  • Soy milk is an excellent substitute for people who are lactose intolerant. 
  • Check labels carefully as nutrition content can vary from one variety to the next. Some flavored milks may be high in sugar.

 Whole Soybeans: 

  • Similar to other dried beans, soybeans can be cooked and used in sauces, stews, and soups. 


  • Tempeh is a soybean product fermented and pressed into a cake or bar with a smoky or nutty flavor.
  • It can be sliced, marinated, and grilled or added to soups, casseroles, or chili.
  • Tempeh is usually found in the produce department with tofu and other soy products.

 Meat Alternatives:

  • Meat alternatives, containing soy protein or tofu, are used to imitate meat, such as burgers, sausages, bacon, and hot dogs.
  • These items may be found in the refrigerated area by the meats or in the freezer aisle.

Textured Soy Protein/Textured Vegetable Protein

  • Refers to products made from textured soy flour and textured soy protein. 
  • It may be sold as a dried, granule product. When rehydrated with water, “TSP” has a texture similar to ground beef. 
  • It can be found already rehydrated in the freezer aisle (see dietitian picks).
  • Works well in spaghetti or pizza sauces, Mexican dishes, and casseroles.

 Soy Nuts:

  • Whole soybeans that have been soaked in water and then baked until browned. 
  • Roasted soy nuts come in a variety of flavors and are likened to peanuts in texture and flavor.

Soy Sauce:

  • Soy sauce contains minimal soy protein and is high in salt.


  • Miso is a rich, salty soy paste used in Japanese cooking to make soups, sauces, and marinades.
  • Miso contains minimal soy protein and is high in sodium.

There are many more soy products on the supermarket shelves, from crackers and cheese to frozen desserts and yogurts. Many soy products are great options to increase plant-based proteins in your diet. Be sure to read labels and stick with options that are less processed.

Click here to see some of my picks!

According to our Experts, soybeans are a good snack for your family. Click here to read why!