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Sensational Soy

By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Image of Cooked Edamame
The longest life spans in the world are found on the Japanese island of Okinawa. It appears they've found a few keys to longevity, and soybeans are an elemental part of their diet. Coincidence? Hardly. Soy has been an integral part of the Asian diet for centuries. Beyond its variety of forms, tastes, and textures, soy products confer a number of health benefits.

There are as many antiaging benefits from soyfoods as there are forms of soyfoods. Let's begin with the phytochemicals. Though most traditional soyfoods are not richly colored with correspondingly-hued phytochemicals attached, they do have a plethora of one class of phytochemicals called phytoestrogens. The predominant forms of these plant estrogens are genistein and daidzein. Their resemblance to human estrogen enables them to simulate some of the hormone's effects in the body.

When introduced in moderation via natural soyfoods, phytoestrogens may provide the essential benefits of human estrogen through several mechanisms that are not completely understood. (If you have concerns about hormonally induced cancers, ask your physician is soy is good for you.)

Miso is a paste made by cooking and then fermenting soybeans with salt. A variety of grains is sometimes added (e.g., barley, brown rice) and the fermentation period varies, generally from one to three years. All of these options result in a large variety of miso pastes, ranging from mild and yellow to strong and dark brown. In general, the longer the miso is aged, the darker the color and stronger the flavor. Its intensely rich flavor goes a long way to enhance a broth, a stew, or a marinade. Just a dab is needed.

Where there's fermentation, there are bacteria, and in this case, fermentation is a good thing. The beneficial bacteria found in unpasteurized miso products are called probiotics. Some consider them a useful aid to improving digestion and the health of the intestinal tract. There is some scientific evidence that fermented products with probiotics can help to prevent some forms of cancer, too.
Image of Tofu
Tofu is made from cooked soybeans. It is usually purchased in a white block form in textures from soft to extra firm. It's incredibly versatile because it tends to absorb the flavors or seasonings added to the dish in which it's used. Stir-fried, grilled, baked, or raw, explore its chameleon character in this this easy, scrumptious recipe.

Grilled Miso Tofu Steaks
This recipe is inspired by Nobu restaurant’s infamous Miso Black Cod dish.

Serves 4

Image of Ingredients
¼ cup Sake
¼ cup mirin
4 Tablespoons White or Yellow Miso* Paste
3 Tablespoons Melissa’s Agave Nectar
1 pound package Melissa’s Firm Tofu


In a small saucepan, bring the sake and mirin to a boil. Simmer for 30 seconds and remove from heat. (This will burn off the alcohol). Whisk in the miso and agave nectar. Allow to cool and transfer marinade to a shallow baking pan.
Image of preparing tofu
Prepare the tofu steaks while the marinade is cooling. Place tofu on a cooling rack set on a sheet ban. Place dinner plate on the tofu and a heavy saucepan on top of plate to press out excess liquid. Allow to drain for 1 hour. Pat dry and cut tofu lengthwise into 4 slices/steaks.
Image of marinated tofu
Add the tofu slices to the cooled marinade, turning to cover both sides with marinade. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. (Alternatively, I like to seal the marinated tofu in a vacuum pack bag which forces the marinade to penetrate more quickly.)
Image of grilling tofu
Drain Tofu Steaks well. Heat grill to medium high and lightly oil the grill rack. Grill 8 minutes, turning once halfway through or until browned and crispy. Can be served hot or cold on a sandwich or with a salad.
Image of Grilled Miso Tofu Steaks
Miso is a fermented soybean paste, which is used as a flavoring in Japanese cooking. Its flavor is very concentrated and it is very salty; use in moderation. It is available at Japanese markets and in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets.

Nutrition Analysis - for 1 serving:

Calories 160
Calories from Fat 45
Total Fat 5g
Sat Fat < 1 gg
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 260 mg
Total Carbohydrate 14g
Fiber 1g
Sugar 10g
Protein 10g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 20%
Iron 8 %
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