The market for soy-based foods and beverages has exploded in the past two years, thanks to more palatable products and, more important, a crucial stamp of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In 1999, the agency concluded that soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can potentially reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels. To use the claim, a product must contain at least 6.25 grams of soy protein and be low in fat and cholesterol.
When the FDA gave the nod, soy products rang up about $2 billion in annual sales. Last year, according to Find/SVP, sales had expanded to $3.5 billion; the research and consulting firm predicts that figure could top $8 billion by 2005.
Connections to other health conditions have helped fuel demand for soy products as well. Soy beverages appeal to lactose-intolerant diners seeking alternatives to dairy, and many menopausal women have gravitated toward soy foods as a way to relieve midlife symptoms. Researchers continue to explore connections between soy and a host of other diseases.
The most popular soy product is soy milk, which is now widely available in a variety of brands. Dining halls at the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH offer plain and flavored soy milk in half-liter cartons along with about a half-dozen other types of milk.
Chuck Wagers, Wooster’s director of hospitality services, says another familiar soy food–tofu–figures prominently at the school’s Asian food station. Chefs cut firm tofu into strips, deep-fry it, then marinate it in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and crushed red peppers.
But soy milk and tofu are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to soy products (see box). A good example of where soy might show up on the menu is a seafood recipe (p. 56) developed by Gary Hooker, a regional chef for Compass Food Works, that incorporates soy flour and soy pasta. Fm
Soy in Disguise: Selected Soy Foods
Edamame: Fresh, large soybeans, often sold (and served) still in the pod
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP): a flavor enhancer
Miso: A smooth, salty paste consisting of soybeans and another grain, salt,
and a mold culture; used to flavor soup and other dishes
Soy flour: roasted soybeans ground into a fine powder, soy flour is gluten-free
Soy cheese: Made from soy milk
Soy fiber: Inexpensive sources of fiber, including okara, soy bran and soy
isolate fiber; often byproducts of food processing
Texturized soy protein: Extruded, defatted soy flour that produces meat-like
chunks and grains
Soy nuts: whole soybeans that have been soaked in water, then baked; soy
nut butter is made from soy nuts that are crushed and blended with soy oil and other ingredients
Tempeh: Chunky, tender soybean cake made from fermented soybeans
and often other grains such as rice or millet; can be marinated and grilled
or added to dishes