Many foods containing soy--more than just tofu--line the grocery store shelves. Whole soy is processed into many different foods, such as soy milk; soy protein, a healthy extract of soybeans, is frequently used to fortify foods from pasta to pudding.
Soy Protein Use
Food manufacturers often add soy protein to foods to increase nutrition and texture, such as with cookies and crackers. Many processed meats, like bologna and hot dogs, contain soy for increased cohesion of fibers as well as fat absorption. Soy adds aeration to such food products as whipped cream, and creates a lighter color for bread and rolls.
Whole Soy Use
Foods that contain whole soy, not just soy protein, include soy milk, soy yogurt, soy crisps, tempeh (soybean patties), soy burgers, edamame (boiled soybeans) and miso (fermented soybean paste).
Soybeans are a nutritional powerhouse and are low in saturated fats. Soy protein contains plenty of fiber, as well as folate, iron and calcium. Soy also provides complex carbohydrates to the body and an array of B vitamins.
There is growing concern for one of the components of soy, known as isoflavones. Some studies, like those conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National Center to Toxicological Research, claim that the isoflavones may have a drug-like effect in the body in large doses, and that excessively high isoflavone levels may contribute to an increased risk of cancer.
From 2003 to 2007, the soy food and beverage market grew 29 percent. The increased demand for soy products is generally credited to growing consumer awareness about the health benefits of soy foods.