Center for Young Women's Health



What is soy?

Soy refers to products such as soy milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, ice cream, nut butters, and other foods are all made from soybeans. Soy foods have recently become more popular in the United States, although people in Asia have eaten soybeans for hundreds of years.


What are the health benefits of soy?

Soy is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and iron. Soy contains heart-healthy fat and is also low in saturated fat.


Where can I find soy foods?

Foods containing soy can be found at most local grocery stores, health food stores, or Asian grocery markets. Here are some different soy foods.


Soy Food
Green soybeans Fresh soybeans can be eaten as snack or meal after boiling them in lightly salted water for 15-20 minutes.
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein Hydrolyzed vegetable protein is made from soybeans and other vegetables. It can be added to soups or casseroles to add protein and flavor.
Miso Miso is a paste made from soybeans, grain, and salt. Miso can be used to make soup or sauces.
Soy cheese Soy cheese is made from soy milk and can be used as a substitute for sour cream, cream cheese, or cheese.
Soy flour Soy flour is made from ground roasted soybeans. Soy flour can be added to baked goods to add protein. However, soy flour cannot be used in place of all of the flour in a recipe because it doesn't have gluten, which is a protein needed to help dough rise.
Soybeans Whole soybeans can be soaked and added to stews and soups for flavor and protein. They can also be roasted for snacks.
Soymilk Soymilk is made from soybeans that have been soaked in water, ground, and strained. Fortified soy milk (which has added calcium and vitamin D) can be used instead of milk as a drink, in cereals, and in other recipes. Soy milk comes plain and in different flavors such as chocolate and vanilla.
Soy nut butter Soy nut butter is made from roasted whole soy nuts, which are crushed and blended with soy oil. The butter can be used in place of peanut butter and is a great substitute for people who are allergic to nuts.
Soy nuts Soy nuts are made from soybeans, which are soaked and then baked. They can be eaten as a snack, added to trail mix, or used as a salad topping.
Tempeh Tempeh is made fermented soybeans and grain. Tempeh can be marinated and grilled and added to soups, casseroles, or chili.
Textured soy protein, textured vegetable protein (TSP/TVP) Textured soy protein/textured vegetable protein is made from soy flour. It's most often used with, or instead of, meat in casseroles. If TSP/TVP is substituted for meat, other flavorings then need to be added. TSP/TVP can be bought as dried kernels and then prepared with boiling water.
Tofu Tofu is made by curdling fresh, hot soy milk. Firm tofu can be used in soups, stir-fries, and casseroles. Silken tofu can be used for dips and dressings. Tofu is popular in many lunch or dinner entrees.


Nutrition facts for soy foods:


Soy food Protein Calcium Iron
Green soybeans, cooked (½ cup) 11 g 130 mg 2 mg
Fortified soymilk (1 cup) 6 g 80 mg 1 mg
Soy cheese (1 oz) 4 g 50 mg 2 mg
Soy flour (½ cup) 15 g 90 mg 3 mg
Soy nut butter (2 Tbsp) 7 g 70 mg 0 mg
Soy nuts (¼ cup) 14 g 60 mg 2 mg
Tempeh (½ cup) 15 g 110 mg 2 mg
Textured vegetable protein (¼ cup) 12 g 80 mg 3 mg
Tofu, firm (½ cup) 10 g 250 mg 2 mg


What are some easy ways to eat soy?

Here are two easy recipes to try:


Tofu Stir-fry



2 cups of rice (white or brown)

2 cups of cut-up vegetables, your favorites or any of the following: green pepper, red pepper, broccoli, bok choy, spinach, mushrooms, onion, carrots

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons sliced green onions

1 cup tofu, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon canola oil

½ teaspoon fresh minced ginger

Soy sauce to taste



  1. Fry the mixed vegetables, garlic, and ginger in canola oil until tender.
  2. Add the cubed tofu and onion and fry until warm.
  3. Add soy sauce to taste. Serve over rice and enjoy.

Miso Soup



2¼ cups water

2 ounces firm tofu, cut into ¼ inch cubes

1 tablespoon white miso

2 teaspoons barley miso

½ cup chopped fresh spinach or bok choy

1 finely chopped scallion



  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil.
  2. Set aside ½ cup of the boiling water.
  3. Add tofu to the remaining water and turn the heat down to medium. Cover the pot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add spinach or bok choy and cook on low for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until the greens are tender.
  5. Remove soup from heat.
  6. With the hot water you set aside, blend in the white miso and barley miso.
  7. Add the blended mixture to the soup. Add scallion and serve.

Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 2/23/2012


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Your body needs protein for nearly everything it does. Protein is needed to build and repair our muscles, to make our hair and skin, to fight against infections and to carry oxygen in our blood...

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