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A Sampling Of Soyfoods

By Phyllis Herman, M.S., C.N.S.

Hailed as "the most potent cholesterol-lowering dietary factor yet discovered" by "The New England Journal of Medicine", soy protein has also been heralded in recent months for its ability to stop cancer cells from dividing and spreading and for easing the symptoms of menopause. No pharmaceutical company could ever come up with a drug with as many healing benefits as are naturally found in the simple soybean!

Even so, many Americans are reluctant to give this unfamiliar food, a staple of the Asian diet, a chance. Perhaps the most versatile, most loved (by vegetarians) yet most feared (by the meat-and-potatoes crowd) soyfood is tofu or, as it is called in Oriental restaurants "bean curd." Soft and bland in its basic form with little flavor of its own, tofu acts like a sponge in absorbing other flavors from marinades and seasonings. It comes in a variety of textures from firm (best for marinating and adding to a stir-fry or salad) to silken (to give pureed soups, salad dressings or desserts a creamy texture).

For those who want to sample prepared tofu before undertaking a new recipe, health food stores and many supermarkets now carry marinated baked tofu (with Mexican, Thai, Oriental or Italian flavors) that can be cubed and added to a vegetable stir-fry or simply sliced and incorporated into a tasty sandwich.

Prepared burgers of various kinds which incorporate tofu, TVP (textured soy protein) or tempeh (a fermented soybean patty popular in Indonesian cuisine) are another easy way to get some soy into your diet. Boca Burgers and Lightlife Tamari Marinated Grilles are two excellent brands worth trying.

Merely substituting soymilk for cow's milk on your morning cereal will bring with it a host of health benefits. Soymilk comes in various flavors as well as in a low- or no-fat version. A delicious smoothie can be made with carob or vanilla flavored soymilk plus a banana and some frozen strawberries. Even fruit flavored soy yogurts exist! Almost every dairy product has its soy alternative.

Miso, a salty paste made from fermented soybeans, can be used as the flavoring in soups, stews, sauces and salad dressings. Because of its concentrated flavor, a little goes a long way. This versatile robust condiment abounds in health benefits, particularly related to digestion. An easy broth can be made in a mug by pouring boiling water over one rounded teaspoonful of miso. Packets of dried miso are also available and easy to use in the office or when traveling. Try a cup of miso soup with your lunchtime sandwich instead of coffee or tea.

Here are a couple of delicious yet simple recipes for you to try which demonstrate the versatility of tofu.

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