From Tempeh to Tofu, Soy 101

August 20, 2013

Should you stock up on soy? Here's a brief guide to the various soy products in your local supermarket

Should you stock up on soy? Soy foods are often the center of nutrition controversy; but it seems in moderation, for those who can tolerate soy, soy foods can contribute to an overall healthy diet.

There are many soy products out there and SupermarketGuru wants to set the record straight on what they all are. From Tempeh to edamame to tofu here is your guide to what’s on the supermarket shelves.

Edamame are the “immature” green soybeans still in the pod. They are often served at Japanese restaurants as a starter, and are now a popular snack in homes across America. Edamame are an excellent source of protein, fiber and also contain vitamins A, C, folate and more.

Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning most often made from soy. Miso is produced by fermenting soy, and potentially barley and rice. The result is a thick paste used for sauces and spreads, pickling vegetables or meats, and mixing with soup stock to serve as miso soup. Miso is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals.

Soy milk is a beverage made from soybeans. A traditional staple of Asian cuisine, it is a stable emulsion of oil, water, and protein. It is produced by soaking dry soybeans and grinding them with water.

Soy protein often found in protein drinks and bars is a protein that is isolated from the soybean meal. In these products its presence is primarily for added protein. Do check labels on salad dressings, soups, beverage powders, breads, breakfast cereals and more for soy protein – in these foods it is used for texture and emulsification.

Soy yogurt is yogurt made from soy milk. Soy yogurt is a great alternative to dairy yogurts, and those who consume soy yogurt can also benefit from the probiotics used to make the yogurt. Do read labels for added sugars as well as the presence of live and active cultures.

Tamari and Soy Sauce are both made from fermented soybeans, with the amount of wheat being the main difference between the two. Tamari is really a more general name for soy sauce that's made with little or no wheat (read labels) and a greater concentration of soybeans, versus soy sauce which is usually always made with wheat.

Tempeh is a soy food that has been eaten in Asia for hundreds of years. Tempeh is made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans formed into a patty, similar to a very firm veggie burger. Many commercially prepared brands add other grains, such as barley, as well as spices and extra flavors. Tempeh is high is protein as well as calcium and iron.

Tofu is a soybean curd product made from soymilk that has been curdled and pressed into thick rectangles. Tofu is an excellent low-fat non-animal protein source; used in many foods as substitute for ricotta or other cheeses in some frozen entrees or meats in deli foods and hot dogs. Tofu comes in various densities from extra firm to silky or dried and therefore has many food and beverage applications.

Now that you know some of the different types of soy products out there, get out and try something new today! And stay tuned for the health benefits of soy.