Serve up Soy for the Holidays [INFOGRAPHIC]

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With the holidays coming up, I find myself looking at drool worthy recipes to create for friends and family get-togethers. Growing up, food has been something that brought our family together and allowed us to slow down and appreciate spending time with one another. This sentiment has followed into adulthood for me, and preparing food for family and friends is now synonymous with the holiday season for me. This year, I am fortunate enough to spend time with my family (grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and cousins) and friends.

As you can probably see, there is quite a wide range of ages and tastes I am cooking for each holiday season as some of my loved ones have various dietary restrictions and some are just picky. One food that I know will be a hit during the holidays is soy. Yes, really. Just ask my brother and sister about my banana whipped oatmeal made with soymilk. Or ask my best friend about chocolate pudding made with silken tofu (trust me on this one!) Also, soy is an awesome option for many main dishes since it is a vegan and vegetarian friendly option. And BONUS-it also packs a powerful nutrition punch for a wide range of age groups!

More than 15 years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim for soy stating that “25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” In addition to reducing risk of heart disease, soy has additional cardiovascular benefits and has been shown to lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and progression of cardiovascular disease.

Beyond cardiovascular benefits, soy is a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids in the right amounts for the body to use. Protein, a macronutrient built up by amino acids, contributes to satiety, builds lean muscle mass, and maintenance of a healthy weight. Beyond weight management, incorporating soy into the diets of aging populations can prevent sarcopenia, an age-dependent and progressive loss of muscle mass.

Additionally, soy is a great option for younger children and older kids. Foods fortified with soy boost levels of essential iron, calcium, and potassium to help contribute to healthy growth and development. Soy is also a versatile, protein rich alternative for children with food allergies.

Now that we have covered the benefits of soy for a wide range of ages and tastes, what are some soy sources? Soybeans, such as edamame, are a primary example of soy and are great appetizer options for the holiday season. Soymilk is a great alternative for those avoiding dairy and want the benefits of having a protein-rich beverage to start the day. Swap your traditional latte a few times a week for a soy latte or add soy milk to your morning bowl of cereal or oatmeal.

Need a quick on the go snack? Roasted soy nuts are a great salty, shelf stable snack that can power you through holiday road trips or shopping excursions. Other snack options include protein bars or beverages fortified with soy. The soy amps up the nutrition power of these convenient snacks. Finally, tofu, tempeh, or soy patties are excellent meat alternatives that I find myself turning to time and time again to make healthful and satisfying holiday main dishes.

Besides being a versatile and convenient food, soy offers a multitude of health benefits that have direct applications to everyone, young and old!  So this holiday season, say yes to soy- your friends and family will thank you.