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Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Soy for Heart Health

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This is the third of three posts on heart health because it is National Heart Month and heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women in this country! Check out the first post on risk factors for heart disease and the second post on how to decrease risk for heart disease.

This post is devoted to information on soy protein. Soy has an FDA approved health claim, meaning there is enough scientific evidence that supports the claim. The claim reads that a diet low in saturated fat and trans fat and containing 25 grams of soy protein may reduce risk of heart disease. Soy protein has been shown in clinical studies to reduce LDL cholesterol, especially when substituted for animal protein.

When many people hear the word soy, unpleasant images of blocks of tofu come to mind. But soy can be VERY tasty!

My favorite sources of soy (no particular order):

Edamame (see picture above): Edamame is as close to nature as you can get soy. It is green soybeans in the shell (you can also purchase them out of shell). Edamame is a popular appetizer at Japanese restaurants. They look like sugar snap peas, but there is one important difference. Don't eat the shells! You take the shell and pop the peas into your mouth and discard the shell. I add shelled edamame to salads, soups, main dishes, or just eat it cold right out of the package. Look for it in the frozen foods section or in the produce near the tofu.

Soy Nuts: Basically just dried soybeans. They are lower in fat that other nuts and of course have the heart healthy soy protein.

Soy Milk: My favorite is Silk Vanilla. They have Light Soy Silk Vanilla now that is only 80 calories, 6 grams of soy protein and half the fat of original Soy Silk. Look for it near the milk in the dairy case. Great in cereal, oatmeal, or just as a glass by itself! You can get vanilla, chocolate, or plain.

Veggie burgers: My hands down favorite veggie burger is Morningstar Farms Tomato and Basil flavor. It is so yummy! They have a ton of varieties like black bean, asian, regular grillers, and grillers prime. If you have not had a veggie burger in years, please try them! In frozen foods section (green boxes).

Other veggie alternatives: There are so many sources of soy protein in other veggie meat alternatives besides just veggie burgers. I love the veggie breakfast sausage, veggie crumbles (like ground beef to add to tacos or chili), veggie "chicken" strips, veggie breaded "chicken" patties, and veggie pepperoni. You can find these in frozen foods or in produce where the tofu is.

Tofu: Tofu is a very bland food, but if you spice it up it is actually quite good. It absorbs lots of different flavors. You can buy tofu already flavored or add your own marinade. Firm tofu is good in stir fries and silken tofu is good in smoothies. I love the Nasoya brand. Found in produce section.

Bars: There are a ton of bars that contain varying amounts of soy protein. My favorites are Kashi Go Lean Crunchy bars (cinnamon coffee cake is best flavor) and Genisoy (chocolate mint or peanut butter honey are the best flavors)

Soy Protein Powder: Again, there are a ton of different brands of soy protein powder. I tend to use Genisoy brand. You can add a scoop of protein powder to smoothies.

Didn't know you could find soy in so many different places and forms, huh?

Oh, and one last thing.  The United Soybean Board and a top Hollywood jewelry designer, gorjana, have teamed up to create a special charity Heart to Heart necklace for WomenHeart, a national organization dedicated to promoting women's heart health through advocacy, community education, and patient support.  The necklace is a very pretty little heart and costs $45.  100% of the proceeds go to WomenHeart.  To order the necklace, go to gorjana.com and click on Company then Charity tab.


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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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