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Prairie Fare: Soy Foods Offer Variety and Potential Health Benefits

We didn’t widely use soybeans in the U.S. until the 1800s, but the popularity of soy-based foods has grown. Prairie Fare: Soy Foods Offer Variety and Potential Health Benefits.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

Have you or your family members used any soy products today? Chances are you have.

You may have applied cosmetics containing soy. Maybe you read a newspaper printed with soy ink. Your desk or other furniture might be made of particle board made from soy. You may have spread your toast with a soy-based margarine. Maybe your child used soy-based crayons at school. You might be filling your car with soy biodiesel in the future.

You probably aren’t wearing a suit made from soybean fibers or driving a car with soy panels. Someone thought of those ideas, too.

During the Depression, Henry Ford, famous in the automobile industry, promoted using agricultural commodities in different ways to help bolster the economy. He developed “soybean wool” from soy protein fibers. Sometimes he wore his soy-based suit to promote his creation. He also built a car with panels made from soy-based plastic.

Somehow, they didn’t catch on.

Soy has been used for nourishment for thousands of years. The first record of soybean cultivation dates back to 2838 B.C. in China. Chinese farmers fed their livestock and families the protein-rich food.

We didn’t widely use soybeans in the U.S. until the 1800s, but the popularity of soy-based foods has grown. A 1999 survey of consumers revealed that two-thirds of them rated soy foods as healthy.

Soy is a complete protein, providing the essential amino acids the body needs. Some research has shown that soy-based foods can reduce blood cholesterol levels. Other research has shown only a small benefit of soy to heart health.

Soy-based foods can carry a health claim linking soy to improved heart health if the foods meet certain criteria. To carry the health claim, a serving of the soy food product must contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein, be low in fat (less than 3 grams per serving), low in saturated fat (less than 1 gram per serving) and low in cholesterol (less than 20 milligrams per serving).

Researchers are studying the potential negative effects of soy, too. Some researchers question the effects of consuming high amounts of soy, especially among infants being fed soy-based formula. Others are studying the effects of soy on hormone function.

Overall, soybeans contain protein and fiber, with no cholesterol and little fat. That’s a good combination. These are some common soy-based foods to consider:

  • Tofu is a soy-based curd with a mild flavor that can be used in stir-fry, soup and a variety of other recipes.
  • Soy nuts are a crunchy source of protein for snacks.
  • Soy milk can be used wherever you use other types of milk. People who are lactose intolerant often use soy milk as a replacement for dairy.
  • Soy-based cheese and meat extenders are high in protein and can be used widely in menus.
  • Soy flour can be used in baked goods. It’s found in commercial pancake mixes, cereals and other foods.
  • Miso is fermented soybean paste that can be used as a seasoning or in soup stock.
  • Textured soy protein can be used as a meat extender in foods such as meatloaf.

Here’s a contest-winning recipe featuring tofu and soy milk. It was developed by Pam Becker of Sioux Falls, S.D. The recipe appears on the North Dakota Soybean Council Web site at

Light Lemon Cheesecake

1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs

1/4 c. sugar

1/3 c. margarine, melted

1 package (0.3-ounce) sugar-free lemon gelatin

2/3 c. boiling water

16 ounces light cream cheese

6 ounces light/firm silken tofu

Grated rind of one lemon

Juice of one lemon

1 c. light whipped topping

Fresh fruit (such as sliced strawberries and kiwi)

Mix cracker crumbs, sugar and melted margarine together. Using back of large spoon, press crumb mixture firmly on bottom and up sides of an 8-inch springform pan. Chill crust for five to 10 minutes. Mix lemon gelatin and water in blender, slowly adding in cream cheese and tofu. Mix until smooth. Pour into large bowl and add lemon rind, juice and topping. Pour into crumb crust and smooth top. Chill for four hours. Serve or garnish with fresh fruit if desired.

Makes 12 servings. Each serving has 220 calories, 13 grams (g) of fat, 19 g of carbohydrate and 1 g of fiber.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
Prairie Fare: Prairie Fare: A Taste of Brazil is Worth Trying  (2019-07-18)  Give beans a try on your menu.  FULL STORY
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