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What's the story on soy?

Soy foods live by many different names: tofu, tempeh, miso and edamame are just a few of them. These items are commonplace, even staples, in many kitchens around the world because it's easily accessible, affordable and—bonus!—good for you.

Tofu and other soy foods are linked to lowering heart disease because they are excellent sources of protein. They are a good meal choice, too, because soy can replace less healthy protein options like animal fat, red and processed meat. In fact, studies have shown that Asian cultures, high consumers of soy products, have lower risk of heart disease and breast cancer, which may be linked back to soy. Studies also suggest that soy may reduce symptoms of menopause and the risk of osteoporosis.

Despite its small size, the soybean is a pretty big topic of controversy because of conflicting research to its link to cancer. Some studies found that soy had protective benefits when it comes to fending off cancer while other research showed it created an increased risk. The reason for the mixed results? Much of this research was performed on rats and mice. We now know that those animals react differently than humans do to the properties of soy.

Bottom line: Even though animal studies have shown mixed effects, advancement in research and human studies show no harm in eating soy foods. That being said, it's important to stick to soy foods instead of soy supplements. Not enough research has been done on the supplements to determine whether or not they are a healthy option.

Adding soy
As with all foods, it's best to eat the most-unprocessed form to reap all the healthfulness, so opt for soy foods. 

Tofu
Tofu can be stir-fried, grilled, added to stews and soups and used in mixed dishes such as lasagna.

Tempeh
Tempeh is a great addition to chili and pasta sauce.

Soymilk
Soymilk can be used in smoothies and on cereal.

Edamame
Edamame can be used in soup, stir-fries, and salads or eaten as a snack.

Soybeans
Roasted soybeans (soynuts) can be eaten as a snack or added to salads.

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