5 Ways to Add Soy to Your Diet

Soy foods have been used as meat alternatives and milk substitutes for years, but you don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan to incorporate these healthy legumes into your diet.

Soybeans are related to lentils and peas, plus dry beans like navy beans and black beans. Like all other legumes, soy is high in protein. In fact, soy is a "complete protein" source that contains all the essential amino acids—unusual for a plant-based food.

Soy is also an excellent source of healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats. That makes it good for your cardiovascular system, along with the fact that it is high in antioxidants called isoflavones.

There have been media reports through the years about soy causing problematic hormonal changes in both men and women. For that reason, some consumers have shied away from consuming soy-based foods. But research has shown that moderate soy consumption is likely safe for most people.

Scroll down to learn more about the major forms of soy and how you can incorporate them into your diet.


Swap Soy Milk for Cow's Milk

Soy milk

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Fortified soy milk can be used in place of dairy milk for drinking and can be included in many recipes. In fact, a one cup serving of soy milk counts as a healthy source of calcium and vitamin D.

One cup of plain soy milk has about 100 calories and 300 milligrams calcium. Flavored soy milks typically have a few more calories and sugar. 

Soy milk is also used to make soy-based coffee creamer and soy yogurt, perfect for people who want to avoid dairy products. You can also make your soy milk at home. It won't have as much calcium, but it's still good for you.


Add Tofu to Your Menu


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Tofu is also called soybean curd, and it's similar to cheese in texture. There are different types—soft, firm and extra-firm.

Tofu is another excellent source of calcium and it's used as the main ingredient in a variety of main dishes, like this Sticky Baked Tofu Noodle Bowl. With a little preparation, tofu can be stir-fried, baked, grilled or used as an ingredient in many vegetarian recipes.


Eat Tempeh in Place of Meat


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Tempeh is soy that has been cooked, slightly fermented and formed into cakes, often with additional ingredients like grains or other legumes. Because it's fermented, it has a different flavor—a little like mushrooms or yeast.

Tempeh has a firm texture and can be cut into pieces (like steak) or crumbled (like hamburger), so it's often used as a meat substitute. Tempeh isn't as high in calcium as tofu, but it is high in iron and protein.


Make Recipes With Edamame


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Edamame is made from green soybeans that haven't yet matured. They're boiled in salt water, cooled and served as an appetizer. The cooked soybeans can also be stripped from the pods and used in salads and other dishes.

These dishes include:


Snack on Roasted Soybeans


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Soybeans that are allowed to mature fully turn a golden color. They can be roasted and served as a tasty snack (sometimes they're called "soynuts") or made into soybean butter, which can be used as an alternative to peanut butter.

Roasted soybeans can get a little high in calories – one cup of dry-roasted soybeans has over 400 calories (and if they're roasted in oil, the calorie count will be even higher).


Use Soy Products for Flavoring

miso paste in bowl with spoon

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Soy sauce and miso paste are soy products that are used to add flavor to dishes. Soy sauce is made from soy, wheat, and other ingredients.

It's best used as a condiment (and only sparsely) because it's so high in sodium. In fact, one tablespoon has over 800 milligrams. 

Reduced-sodium soy sauce is available but it's still a significant source of sodium. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, it's best to avoid all soy sauce. 

Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and salt, and it may have rice or barley. It's high in antioxidants, but one tablespoon has over 600 milligrams of sodium, so it's probably off-limits if you need to watch your sodium intake.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Soy.

Additional Reading

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.