Friday, April 4, 2008

May is National Salad Month

Flowers are in bloom, warm temperatures are around the corner and nothing quite feels more like summer than a cool, refreshing salad with a variety of in-season fruits and vegetables. May is National Salad Month, and with soyfoods, creating a fresh and healthy meal is fast and easy.

Soy packs numerous health benefits as do most vegetable salads. The more colorful your salad is, the healthier it will be, and tossing some soy on it just amplifies the positive nutritional value.

Salads have a reputation as being a go-to food when it comes to dieting. The addition of soyfoods to your salad will help in more ways than one. First of all, soy is jam-packed with protein—the only plant food that has the same equivalent as an animal product. Studies have shown soy protein will decrease your appetite, keeping you full longer and less likely to snack a lot in between meals or gorge yourself at dinner time.

According to Dr. Mark Messina, adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University, some studies have even shown soy to decrease body fat.

“There is some data, although it is quite speculative, that soy causes loss of body fat,” says Messina. “Even if weight loss is not increased to a greater extent with soy versus other proteins, body composition may be improved—less fat, relatively more lean muscle tissue.”

What isn’t at all speculative but has been proven is soy protein reduces LDL (bad cholesterol) while helping weight loss.

“There is no question that soy protein lowers cholesterol,” says Messina. “More specifically, it lowers bad cholesterol about 4 percent, which in theory reduces risk of coronary heart disease by about 10 percent. Second, soyfoods are low in saturated fat, and when displacing more traditional sources of protein in the U.S. diet, soyfoods reduce saturated fat intake, and as a result, cholesterol is further lowered.”

Obesity has been linked to diabetes in many individuals. Along with protein, soy contains isoflavones which may reduce blood glucose and insulin levels while stopping fat tissue build-up and enhancing the breakdown of fat.

“For diabetics, I think soy has some advantages,” says Messina. “It is very heart healthy which is important because heart disease risk in diabetics is greatly increased compared to non-diabetics. Second, soy protein doesn’t stress the kidneys as much as other proteins, which is important because one of the main medical complications of diabetes is renal disease.”

While lowering your blood glucose levels, soy can reduce your blood pressure as well. The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects approximately 50 million Americans and one billion people worldwide.

Substituting soynuts for other protein sources in a healthy diet appears to lower the blood pressure in postmenopausal women, and may also reduce cholesterol levels in women with high blood pressure, according to a report.

“Evidence suggests soy protein lowers systolic (top number) blood pressure about 4 points (4 mm Hg) or so and diastolic blood pressure about 2 points,” says Messina. “Although that may seem small, that is very clinically relevant.”

A common misconception is as long as you’re eating a salad, you’re making a healthy choice. For the most part, that can be true until it comes time to add the dressing. All nutritional value gets thrown out the window the second a thick, creamy ranch dressing douses your salad. Using the wrong kind of dressing can add as many calories as a cheeseburger to your healthy intentions. However, you don’t have to sacrifice taste along with calories.

Using soy and other ingredients, you can make your own Ranch, Thousand Island or Caesar dressing right at home. And it is easy, delicious, nutritious and inexpensive!

This spring when you’re surrounding yourself with all the beauty of the season and fresh air, incorporate soyfoods to make this May the healthiest National Salad Month yet.

Creamy Ranch Dressing
1 ¼ cups soymilk
12 oz silken tofu, drained
1 oz package ranch salad dressing

Mix the ingredients together, and you have a low-fat, protein-filled ranch dressing. In a ¼ cup there are only 48 calories, as opposed to regular Ranch dressing which contains 140 calories in 2 tablespoons, or 280 calories for ¼ cup.

If ranch dressing isn’t your weakness, but you still want a creamy dressing, here’s an alternative for Thousand Island dressing.

Thousand Island Dressing
12 oz silken tofu, drained
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons chopped sweet pickles
¼ cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons chopped green onion.

After combining the tofu, water, vinegar, lemon juice and chili sauce in a blender, stir in the pickles, green peppers and onions. For ¼ cup, there are 50 calories, 3 grams of soy protein and 7 grams of carbohydrates as opposed to regular Thousand Island that has 59 calories per tablespoon or 236 calories in a ¼ cup.
Finally, here’s a healthy alternative for a Caesar dressing. This is what you’ll need;

Caesar Dressing
3 garlic cloves, preferably large
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 ¼ cups cubed firm silken tofu
¼ cup lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. There are 17 calories per serving, 1.4 grams protein, 1.6 total carbohydrates and .4 grams of fiber.

The word “salad” is not exclusive to lettuce topped with veggies. There are also various bean and pasta salads, and this Mexican Black Bean and Corn Salad is sure to spice up any fiesta. Here’s what you’ll need:

Mexican Black Bean and Corn Salad
2 cans (15 oz.) black soybeans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 large red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped green onions
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
2/3 cup chopped cilantro, optional
Juice from 2 limes (about ¼ cup)
1 ½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soybean oil

Combine the first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Make dressing with lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and soybean oil; combine well. Pour over salad ingredients and toss lightly to combine. Chill several hours before serving.

This recipe makes about 8 cups with 117 calories per serving, 8 grams protein (6 grams soy protein), 16 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 340 mg sodium, 40 mg calcium and 5 g dietary fiber.

Recipes are courtesy of The Soyfoods Council

No comments: