Friday, November 4, 2011

Soy - it does a body good, or does it?

Soy has been labeled as a health food since it first was introduced in its many forms decades ago.  It comes as a bean that can be boiled in and eaten from the pod (edamame).  It's proteins have been isolated and powdered as a food additive (smoothies, etc.), especially for body builders, athletes and vegetarians.  It has been made into curd and then formed into tofu.  It's liquids have been extracted to create "milk" and all of the other "dairy" products have followed.  Other isolates have been used in preserving food and in so many other ways as part of our pre-packaged food culture I can't possibly mention them all here.  Read a nutrition label and you are likely to find soy in some form.

Is it still a health food if we have taken it apart into so many pieces, it barely resembles the initial product - a soy bean?  This is the current controversy.  So what should we do?  Products that keep the bean whole - meaning there is no chemical and over-processing involved to extract some part of the bean, such as soy milk, tofu, or the beans themselves in either a roasted snack form or the boiled bean (edamame) are great.  The rest, including protein powders, really should be avoided as much as possible - soy protein bars included.

Soy has a lot of isoflavones which act like estrogen.  There's cancer protection in those isoflavones!That's a good thing, but for some involved with a breast cancer diagnosis, check with your doctor.  Soy is also a complete protein - it contains all of the essential amino acids.  However, soy is a pesticide heavy crop, so use an organic brand.

Experiment with soy!  I use silken tofu - sold right on the shelf in the Asian food aisle - in smoothies and puddings.  I use the extra firm tofu for just about anything - grilled, sauteed, salad addition, soup addition, etc.  Tofu just has to be marinated or cooked in way so it soaks up the flavors around it.  I use the soy bean (edamame) in salads or in anything as a substitute for peas.  I also eat tempeh which is a fermented soybean product that is delicious grilled and made into a faux chicken salad.  The following recipe is an absolute favorite!

How will you try soy this week? 

Edamame Salad w/ Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

4 lg. salads

1 head garlic or less, if desired
1 TB extra virgin olive oil, approximately
6 TB red wine vinegar
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 lb. or 3.5 C edamame, fresh or frozen (taken from the pods) I buy 2- 12 oz. bags in pods
2 C corn, fresh or frozen
1 lg. cucumber, quartered and sliced chunky w/ skin
2 stalks celery, diced
¾ C walnuts, toasted and chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 TB fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 oz. feta, crumbled or diced

Optional:  Lettuce leaves and a whole wheat tortilla or pita

  1. Take the center from the head of garlic, then chop off the top of the head getting each clove.  Place the garlic on a small piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in the oven on 350º for about 30 min.  You can then squeeze the garlic out onto a board and mash it smooth.  Do the roasted walnuts at the same time, but roast only 3-5 min.
  2. Put the rest of the dressing ingredients in a jar with 2 tsp. olive oil and the mashed garlic.  Shake well.
  3. If you buy edamame pre-cooked and steamed, you are set to go with that.  Otherwise, boil water and place the edamame in the water to cook for about 7 min.  Test one to see if it is cooked.  Rinse under cold water and then shuck into the bowl.
  4. Boil the corn for just a few minutes, rinse under cold water and drain.  Mix with edamame.
  5. Toss in the cucumber, onion, celery, parsley, feta, and dressing.  If you are not planning to eat all of the salad immediately, add the walnuts as you eat.
  6. The salad can be served as is.  Or, serve on top of you favorite lettuce.  Or, serve as a wrap or a pita sandwich with lettuce (my favorite is the wrap).

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