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Soy, chic?

Sounds unlikely. But with more great news about its health benefits, people who want to eat well and look good are seeing its oh-so-stylish side.

a new superfood
Soy is our latest food superhero. The FDA recently announced that 25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can help prevent heart disease. Scientists attribute much of soy's healthfulness to its high levels of isoflavones (plant chemicals that mimic estrogen), and they're busy investigating soy's potential to prevent osteoporosis; reduce menopausal symptoms; protect against cancers of the breast, prostate and colon; and regulate diabetes.

the soy spectrum
The vogue for soy has led to a deluge of new soy products, from trendy energy drinks to earthy-crunchy soybean trail mixes. None of these compares in healthfulness to classic soy foods, such as the ones listed below. In general, those that are highest in protein are the best for you.

Edamame are young, green whole soybeans that are cooked, seasoned and eaten out of the pod. (Don't eat the pod!) A half-cup delivers 11 grams of protein.

Miso is a salty fermented paste made from a mixture of soybeans and rice or barley. One tablespoon contains 2 grams of protein.

Soy milk is a creamy beverage extracted from cooked, pureed soybeans. Eight ounces contain 7 grams of protein.

Soy sauce is a blend of fermented soybeans and wheat. It contains lots of flavor--but no protein.

Tempeh is an Indonesian specialty made from fermented, cooked whole soybeans pressed into cakes. Four ounces provide 19 grams of protein.

Tofu is prepared from curdled soy milk that's processed to remove excess moisture, then cut into blocks. It's available in several different forms: extra-firm, firm, soft and silken. Depending on the type, 4 ounces deliver anywherefrom 9 to 13 grams of protein.

soy boy
Artist David Shapiro is the first to agree that tofu is a food with extraordinary potential. After all, he makes sculptures with it. "I had one of those lightbulb moments when I was eating at a Malaysian restaurant," he recalls. "I was looking to create a self-portrait out of material that was tangible but would not stick around. Tofu is the anti-marble." His hyper-realistic, yet ghostly, faces last about two weeks before disintegrating, a statement in soy about the tension that exists between life and death, between what endures and what vanishes.

Published March 2000
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