Finding Protein in Soy
Soy foods tend to be known for their role in heart disease prevention, but did you know that you can also start thinking soy when you think protein? While marketing the power of protein is prevalent in our culture, it may be easy to forget that protein really is a necessary nutrient. Protein is an important building block of our bones, muscles, cartilage, our skin and even our blood. Protein is used to build and repair tissues and is also used to make enzymes and hormones throughout our bodies. Protein has a pretty important job! Yet, how much do we need? According to the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI’s), the average sedentary woman needs about 46 grams protein per day and the average sedentary man needs about 56 grams protein per day. Tack on some activity, and these recommendations will rise.
So where to look in the grocery store for protein? Try looking for soy foods! Here’s why:
- Soy foods are low in saturated fat
- Soy foods are a complete plant protein meaning it has all the essential amino acids
- It’s easy to add soy foods to your favorite family recipes
Here are some soy food options with good sources of protein:
Textured Soy Protein (TSP)
TSP is a very versatile ingredient as it can be found flavored or unflavored and it resembles the texture of ground beef or chicken. It can come dry in a bag or it can be a part of meat alternative dishes found in the freezer section. To use TSP in the kitchen, try stretching your ground beef or ground turkey containing recipes by replacing 25-50% of the meat with TSP. Try adding TSP to family favorites like sloppy joes, spaghetti sauce, chili and tacos. You can even try the chicken-style TSP strips for zesty chicken fajitas. Generally one pound of TSP will equal about three pounds of ground beef. One quarter cup of dry TSP (1/2 cup cooked) provides 11 grams protein.
Edamame is really just the immature form of the soybean. Harvested while still green and full of a sweet yet nutty flavor, you can find them fresh in the produce section or frozen in the freezer aisle. Using edamame in lunches or dinners seems ideal, since it lends itself well to soups, stews and salads. And a half cup of edamame holds 6 grams of protein, the same in an ounce of meat. Try making an edamame salad with fresh romaine lettuce, steamed and cooled edamame, mandarin oranges, shredded carrots, crispy wonton strips and a sesame ginger dressing. You will love this satisfying and protein-filled lunch.
Soybeans that are baked until crisp are called soy nuts. Like munching on something crunchy between meals? Try soy nuts. You can find them in a multitude of flavors too: barbecue, ranch and even wasabi and sea salt. Use soy nuts in your next homemade trail mix, just add dried raisins or dried cranberries and a few dark chocolate chips to make it the perfect blend of sweet and salty. Just a half cup of soy nuts provides 34 grams protein!
Made by curdling fresh, hot soymilk and pressing out the liquid, tofu is a unique ingredient that can be a part of many types of dishes. At the supermarket, you have your choice of silken, soft, firm or extra firm varieties of tofu. Silken and soft varieties work well in dishes that are creamy, like dips and smoothies. Firm and extra firm tofu varieties are dense and hold their shape well in dishes like stir fry or soup. Tofu can be baked, broiled, barbecued, grilled and steamed. Marinating tofu first before cooking enhances flavors in the dish, and you can even freeze marinated tofu up to six months. A half cup of tofu has 10 grams of protein.
As you push your cart around the supermarket, look for these and other soy foods to enhance your protein at meals.
Disclaimer: Prior to changing your diet to include more protein foods, review your medications and medical history with your physician.
Jen Haugen, RDN, LD is an award-winning dietitian and family nutrition consultant with extensive retail and clinical nutrition experience. Known as the Down-to-Earth Dietitian, Jen specializes in nourishing moms so they can better nourish their families through kitchen-counter cooking schools and modern-day victory gardens. She recently presented her first TEDx talk on “How Moms Can Change the World,” and even more recently transitioned from full-time retail dietitian to part-time school dietitian so she can more fully live her values by spending more time cooking and gardening with her family and working with food companies that value family too. Find her at www.jenhaugen.com and @jenhaugen.
Join Jen for a #SoyInspired Tweet Chat on April 28: Want Protein? Soy Has It!