Soy and Other Great Veggie Friends
Soy has long been a staple of diets in the East and as early as the 18th century, and Americans have slowly incorporated this complete plant protein into their diets in many beneficial ways. This protein packed superfood not only reduces your risk of heart disease, but it even works to prevent bone loss and fractures with its calcium content.

As more studies are done on the nutritional benefits of soy, more health advantages are being uncovered. Improvements in metabolism, easing the symptoms of menopause in women, better circulation and a decrease in risks for developing diabetes are just some of the many improvements to health that could be enjoyed with regularly added soy to the diet.

Amazingly, soybeans contain a whopping 38 percent of their nutrients in the form of protein. Also, as a source of eight essential amino acids, soy enjoys the status as the only complete protein that is not animal derived. Incorporating foods made from whole soy are also a beneficial source of fiber, calcium, B vitamins and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Soy comes in a variety of easy to use products. Fresh soybeans, known as edamame, can be shelled or purchased already shelled, just like peas. The curd of the soybean, also known as tofu, is an extremely versatile way to add more soy to your diet. With soft tofu, you can create many tempting recipes such as creamed soups, salad dressings and smoothies. Firm tofu can be cubed or sliced any way to add to stir fry dishes and more.

However, not everyone can incorporate soy into their diets, whether due to an allergy or other considerations. Surprisingly, upping our vegetable servings and combining with unique alternative proteins can produce a meal that’s full of colorful vegetables and a wide variety of healthy nutrients that meet recommended protein requirements.

Combining different foods that together provide adequate protein sources is a perfect way to make a meal unique and packed with the nutrients your body requires. For example, combining couscous, chickpeas and beans into a delicious salad is a tasty alternative to soy.

If you’re still looking for more alternatives to soy, there are a few surprising foods that provide you with all the protein you’ll need. If you haven’t heard about spirulina, you should learn about its benefits. Not only does it contain four grams of protein in just one teaspoon, you’ll gain this benefit with only adding 30 calories. It is often added to smoothies to add not only protein, but 80 percent of your daily iron requirement and essential B vitamins.

No list of beneficial soy alternatives would be complete without mentioning spinach. Containing 5 grams of protein per cup, this delicious leafy green adds iron, vitamin C and great taste. Spinach is also a versatile vegetable as well that can be added to an omelet, as a topping on a pizza or creamed into a delicious side dish.

We are all looking for interesting ways to make dinners lively, delicious, fun and healthy. It’s exciting to serve and enjoy nutrient dense meals that rely on the many different kinds of protein filled veggie combinations out there. Feel free to go beyond soy when it’s not a choice in your diet. As soy and protein alternatives make their way into everyday recipes, you’ll find plenty of cookbooks and chefs creating tasty dishes that incorporate your favorites. Explore and enjoy!