Sausage for breakfast, cheese and deli meat in a midday sandwich, and a steak for dinner, hot off the grill. As good as it all sounds, these may be off-limits for anyone concerned about saturated fat and cholesterol. What if you could satisfy your appetite—and your taste buds—with vegetable protein alternatives?
Alternatives made from soy protein offer the opportunity to reduce cholesterol and animal fats in your diet without giving up foods you love. Thanks to flavorful recipe ideas, you don’t have to give up good taste, either!
What Is Soy?
Soybeans are small, green legumes that grow in pods resembling peas or lima beans. They contain high-quality, complete protein. Unlike other plant foods, soy contains all the essential amino acids your body requires from protein in food sources. This makes it nutritionally similar to animal proteins—with the major difference that soy is cholesterol-free and naturally low in fat. Soy is a good source of B vitamins, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and zinc. It also contains essential fatty acids, including omega 3s.
Some products, made from the whole soybean, offer all the nutrients and health benefits of unprocessed food. These include Soymilk, made from a blend of ground soybeans and water. Soymilk tends to be smooth, creamy, and slightly sweet. Consumers are using it to replace cow’s milk in everything from cold cereal to baking—sales of soymilk grew by over 300 percent from 1992 to 2000.
Tempeh, a hearty soybean loaf that may be combined with grains. Its nutty flavor and appealing, chewy texture make tempeh a great substitute for meats in stir-fries and sandwiches. Don’t be put off by the grainy appearance or dark spots on its surface. This is a natural occurrence of the fermenting process. Try marinating tempeh before cooking for a versatile and satisfying meat alternative.
Tofu, made of liquid squeezed from soybeans in a process similar to making cheese from cow’s milk. It comes three ways:
firm, good for grilling and in stir-fries and casseroles
soft, great for soups and recipes calling for tofu blended in
silken, wonderful in smoothies and creamy desserts
Tofu’s neutral taste works to your advantage in cooking, since it absorbs whatever flavors you introduce.
You’ll find a growing number of meat and dairy replacements made with soy. Check the refrigerator and freezer sections of your favorite store for these alternatives:
Soy “dairy” products including cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, dairy creamer, mayonnaise, and yogurt.
Soy “meats” including cold cuts (bologna-, turkey-, and salami-style), breakfast and chorizo-style sausage, burgers, chicken, franks, and pepperoni.