Painless Ways to Add Soy to Your Diet

Tasty new soy products (and recipes) to try

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Terrified of tofu? Sour on soymilk? No worries. If you look closely at products in your supermarket, you'll be surprised at the new places soy has surfaced ... from soup to nuts, literally.

More and more people are motivated to supplement their diets with soy as evidence about the health benefits of soy protein continues to mount. Just in the past few months, studies have suggested benefits ranging from protecting the lumbar spines of women ages 49-65, to reducing colon cancer and heart disease.

A Tufts University study showed that soy protein may lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol levels and increase LDL particle size -- both of which are linked to lowering the risk of heart disease. Another study found that when middle-aged men at high risk of heart disease ate at least 20 grams of soy protein and 80 mg of isoflavones (the major phytochemical in soy) daily for five weeks, they ended up with lower blood pressure and lower total cholesterol, among other benefits.

In the interest of finding new ways to add soy to your diet, I tried some of these new soy products so I could report which ones are worth buying. I should let you know that although I do tend to like tofu, I am not what you would call super-enthusiastic about soy! Keeping that in mind, here are my honest opinions.

I.M. Healthy Soy Nut Butter

  • Where to find it: In the peanut butter aisle of your supermarket.
  • What's in it? Mostly roasted soybeans, with some soybean oil and soy protein isolate. It contains 7 grams of soy protein per 2 tablespoons.
  • Nutrition analysis: 2 tablespoons serving = 170 calories, 7 g protein, 10 g carbohydrate (3 g sugars), 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 140 mg sodium. Also: 6% Daily Value for calcium.
  • How does it taste? Better than I thought it would. If you are expecting peanut butter, you'll be disappointed. But it has its own flavor. I tried it on whole-wheat toast, wheat crackers, and celery sticks, and they all tasted good!

Gardenburger BBQ Chik'n

  • Where to find it: The frozen food section.
  • What's in it? Soy protein concentrate is the chief ingredient in these chicken-free soy patties. They have 14 grams of soy protein per serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: One patty with sauce = 250 calories, 14 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate (20 g sugar), 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 990 mg sodium. Also: 10% Daily Value for vitamin A, 15% for calcium, and 6% for iron.
  • How does it taste? Quite good and chicken-like. The BBQ sauce really helps to carry it off, but I found the texture and taste of the patty to be definitely passable.

Boca Meatless Burger

  • Where to find it: Frozen food section.
  • What's in it? Mostly soy protein. It has 11 grams of soy protein per burger.
  • Nutritional analysis: 90 calories, 13 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, and 340 mg sodium. Also: 6% Daily Value for calcium and 10% for iron.
  • How does it taste? OK. Once you add a slice of cheese and some BBQ sauce or other condiments, it tastes a lot better.

Quaker Instant Oatmeal [Nutrition for Women]

  • Where to find it: Cereal aisle.
  • What's in it? The first three ingredients are whole grain rolled oats with oat bran, sugar, and soy protein isolate. It has 2 grams of soy protein per packet.
  • Nutritional analysis: Per packet = 160 calories, 5 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate (13 g sugars), 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 g monounsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 290 mg sodium. Also: 20% Daily Value for vitamin A, 50% for calcium, 35% for vitamins D and E, folic acid, and iron, plus 20% of the B vitamins.
  • How does it taste? Great! It's definitely sweet, but because it contains a good amount of fiber, it's a satisfying breakfast. You can prepare it with nonfat or 1% milk instead of water.

Smart Ground taco/burrito filler (by LightLife)

  • Where to find it: The soy section of your supermarket, possibly near the produce section.
  • What's in it? The main ingredient is soy protein concentrate. It also contains wheat gluten, spices, and some other ingredients. It has 7 grams of soy protein per 1/3 cup serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: 1/3 cup = 70 calories, 10 g protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 210 mg sodium. Also: 6% Daily Value for vitamin A, 6% calcium, and 8% iron.
  • How does it taste? The added seasonings help it taste pretty good. You'll also be using it in recipes with other ingredients, which will make any soy taste less noticeable.

Tofurky Sweet Italian Sausage (by Turtle Island Foods)

  • Where to find it: The soy section of your supermarket, possibly near the produce section.
  • What's in it? The first ingredient is tofu; package did not list number of grams of soy protein per serving,
  • Nutritional analysis: 3.5 ounces = 260 calories, 25 g protein, 11 g carbohydrate, 13 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 516 mg sodium. Also: 2% Daily Value for vitamin A, 8% calcium, 10% iron, and 6% Daily Value for vitamin C. Though it may seem fairly high in fat, the fat comes mainly from tofu and some added canola oil, so it contributes desirable monounsaturated fats along with some polyunsaturated fats (including some healthy plant omega-3s).
  • How does it taste? Pretty good. I sliced it and fried it in a nonstick pan with canola cooking spray. I could particularly see using this sausage in recipes. It holds its shape well in cooking and blends well with the other flavors in a dish.

Morningstar Farms Veggie Breakfast Sausage Links

  • Where to find it: The frozen food aisle.
  • What's in it? The first four ingredients are textured vegetable protein (wheat gluten, soy protein concentrate, and water), water, egg whites, and corn oil. Package did not list grams of soy protein per serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: 2 links = 80 calories, 9 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 2 g polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 g polyunsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 320 mg sodium. Also: 50% Daily Value for vitamin B-12 and 8% iron.
  • How does it taste? I have had meatless sausage links that tasted so bad I couldn't even swallow them, but these were surprisingly good. The texture seemed nice, too. I'm not sure if children or picky eaters would find these passable, but I sure did! I tried them by themselves and dipped in pancake syrup, and I liked them either way.

Veggie Shreds (Cheddar Flavor) cheese alternative (by Galaxy Nutritional Foods)

  • Where to find it: The soy section of your supermarket, possibly near the produce section.
  • What's in it? The first ingredient is "veggie milk," which is made from filtered water, isolated soy protein, and organic soymilk solids. Package did not list grams of soy protein per serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: 1 ounce = 60 calories, 6 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 390 mg sodium. Also: 25% Daily Value for vitamin A, 25% for calcium, 250% for vitamin D, and 25% for vitamin E and folic acid.
  • How does it taste? It doesn't quite smell like regular cheese, but it looks and melts like reduced-fat cheeses on the market. It tastes OK, too. I didn't find it as tasty as some of the reduced-fat regular cheeses (like Cracker Barrel Light Sharp Cheddar or Kraft 2% Reduced Fat Monterey Jack), but it tastes and looks much better than the fat-free cheeses out there.

Gimme Lean! Sausage Style (by LightLife)

  • Where to find it: The soy section of your supermarket, possibly near the produce section.
  • What's in it? The first four ingredients are water, textured soy protein concentrate, tapioca starch, and soy sauce. It has 7 grams of soy protein per 2 ounce serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: 2 ounces = 50 calories, 8 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 330 mg sodium. Also: 10% Daily Value for calcium, and 6% for iron.
  • How does it taste? If you're expecting pork sausage, you will be disappointed. But if you are motivated to eat a sausage made from soy, you might like this product. I highly recommend cooking it in crumbled pieces with some canola cooking spray or oil (it is a rather dry product), then mixing it with other ingredients in a recipe.

Veggie Cream Cheese Alternative (by Galaxy Nutritional Foods)

  • Where to find it: The soy section of your supermarket, possibly near the produce section.
  • What's in it? The first two ingredients are "veggie milk" (which contains, among other things, organic soymilk solids) and nonhydrogenated canola oil. The package did not list grams of soy protein per serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: 1 ounce or approximately 2 tablespoons = 50 calories, 2 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 220 mg sodium. Also: 10% Daily Value for vitamin A, 10% calcium, 10% vitamins D and E, and 10% for folic acid.
  • How does it taste? The texture reminds me of a cross between ricotta cheese and cream cheese. It didn't smell appealing to me, but it tasted OK. It would work as a bagel spread with added flavoring like herbs, roasted garlic, etc. And it would probably work in some recipes that call for cream cheese.

Veggie Sour Cream Alternative (by Galaxy Nutritional Foods)

  • Where to find it: The soy section of your supermarket, possibly near the produce section.
  • What's in it? The first two ingredients are "veggie milk" (which contains, among other things, organic soymilk solids and isolated soy protein) and nonhydrogenated canola oil. The package did not list grams of soy protein per serving.
  • Nutritional Analysis: 1 ounce = 40 calories, 1 g protein, 3 g carbohydrate, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 50 mg sodium.
  • Also: 15% Daily Value for vitamin A, 15 % calcium, 15% vitamins D and E, and 15% for folic acid.
  • How does it taste? Sour cream is a tough product to reproduce. There are only a couple of light sour cream products on the market that I like. I wasn't happy with the taste of the veggie sour cream, but if you mixed it with some other ingredients and were fairly motivated, you'd probably find this product passable.

Annie Chun's Miso Soup (with tofu)

  • Where to find it: Probably in the soup aisle.
  • What's in it? Soybean paste (miso) and diced tofu are the two soy ingredients. The package did not list grams of soy protein per serving.
  • Nutritional analysis: 1 bowl = 230 calories, 6 g protein, 45 g carbohydrate, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 890 mg sodium. Also: 10% Daily Value for vitamin A, 6% calcium, 8 % iron, and 6% for vitamin C.
  • How does it taste? Pretty good, not great. (Maybe miso soup is an acquired taste.) But this is a very convenient product: Just microwave it with some water, in the bowl it came in, for about 1 minute.