Dec 8, 2017
Sorting Out Soy Products
Susan Kundrat

For athletes who are vegetarian, food made from soy can be a great way to get the protein they need. But what are the best sources? Soybeans are formulated into so many foods these days that it’s a challenge to keep them all straight while traversing the grocery aisles. Here’s a sampling of many available soy foods, with their specs.

Canned soybeans: Soybeans that are cooked and ready-to-eat are easy to use and provide a good source of quality protein. They can be thrown into soups, chilis, bean dips, salads, burritos, etc.

• 1/2 cup supplies 13 grams of protein and 150 calories.

Edamame: These large green soybeans are harvested when sweet and can be frozen (either in the pod or out). They taste great salted and make a healthy snack for athletes on the go.

• 2/3 cup out of the pod supplies 9.5 grams of protein and 105 calories.

Frozen meals: More and more companies are utilizing soy as a form of protein in non-meat frozen meals and entrees, and these are a good option for a healthy, fast meal.

Jerky: In many natural food stores, “soy” jerkey is available for a quick snack option. Most jerkeys are flavored concentrated forms of soy protein and provide 10 or more grams of protein per serving.

Meat analogs: Soybean-based meat alternatives combine soy protein or tofu and other ingredients to simulate various kinds of meat. Many of these products look like meat and have flavors very close to meat.

• 1 soy “sausage” patty supplies 7 grams of protein and 55 calories.

• 1 soy “chicken” patty supplies 9 grams of protein and 150 calories.

• 1 soy “hot dog” supplies 11 grams of protein and 62 calories.

Miso: A smooth paste made from soybeans, a grain (such as rice), salt, and a mold culture, then aged in special cedar vats for one to three years, miso is traditionally used in Japanese cooking to flavor soups, sauces, dressings, and marinades.

Soy crumbles: This product is found in the frozen food aisle and can be used to replace ground beef or turkey in recipes. It works well in foods like chili, spaghetti sauce, “meat” balls, lasagna, and tacos.

• 2/3 cup of soy crumbles supply 10 grams of protein and 70 calories.

Soy flour: Made from roasted soybeans ground into a fine powder, soy flour is at least 50 percent protein. It comes in three forms: natural or full-fat, which contains natural oils found in the soybean; defatted, which has the oils removed during processing; and lecithin-added. It can be substituted for up to half of the wheat flour called for in recipes.

• 1/2 cup supplies 21 grams of protein and 164 calories.

Soy milk: When soybeans are soaked, finely ground, and strained, soymilk is produced. Soymilk is generally fortified with calcium and is an excellent source of protein.

• 1 cup supplies 9 grams of protein and 120 calories.

Soy sauce: Made from fermented soybeans and heavily salted, soy sauce can be a great condiment for athletes needing to replace sodium losses from heavy workouts.

Soybean oil: A natural oil extracted from whole soybeans, it’s the most widely used oil in the United States. Many oils are blends of soybean oil and other oils. It’s also used in many margarines and is high in monounsaturated fat, a “good” fat.

Sports bars and shakes: Many sports bars and shakes utilize soy protein isolates or soy protein concentrates (70 to 90 percent protein) as their protein source. These are both highly-digestible forms of protein.

Soy nuts: Whole soybeans that have been soaked in water and then baked until browned become soy nuts. They are packaged ready to eat and make great on-the-go snacks. They are higher in protein and lower in fat than most nuts.

• 1/4 cup supplies 10 grams of protein and 136 calories.

Soy nut butter: Made from roasted soy nuts that are crushed and blended with soybean oil and other ingredients into a spreadable form, soy nut butter is similar to peanut butter but lower in fat and higher in protein.

• 2 tablespoons supply 8 grams of protein and 170 calories.

Soy yogurt: Made from soymilk, soy yogurt has a similar texture to milk-based yogurts. It’s found in many flavors and is often calcium-fortified.

• 8 ounces of soy fruit yogurt supplies 6 grams of protein and 150 calories.

Tempeh: Whole soybeans (often mixed with another grain) are fermented into a dense cake with a smoky or nutty flavor. High in protein, this product can be baked or sautéed, used in casseroles or soups, or added to a stir-fry.

• 1/2 cup supplies 15 grams of protein and 160 calories.

Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP): Perhaps the least-expensive way to incorporate soy, this product is a dried form of processed soybeans. Sometimes known as “soy chunks” or “soy flakes,” it can be found in bulk in many stores and when rehydrated, can add a boost of quality protein (70% protein) and fiber to soups, stews, and sauces.

• 1/4 cup supplies 12 grams of protein and 80 calories.

Tofu: Also known as soybean curd, tofu easily absorbs the flavor of foods mixed with it. It comes in three varieties: firm tofu (can be cubed and used in soups or stir-fries); soft tofu (softer texture and good for recipes where a creamier texture is needed); and silken tofu (creamy and great for smoothies or to replace sour cream or cream cheese).

• 1/2 cup supplies 10 grams of protein and 97 calories.

Susan Kundrat, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, is a Clinical Associate Professor of Kinesiology and the Nutritional Sciences Program Director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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