It's been a hot health food for years, with good reason: Soy is an excellent source of vegetarian protein, linked to a lower risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, some types of cancer, and even type 2 diabetes. But because of that "health halo" effect, there are more and more soy products hitting the shelves—and some are so heavily processed that they've been depleted of nutrients. These tips will help you choose more whole-soy options—and less of the artificial, made-in-a-lab stuff.
Sources: Gerard E. Mullin, M.D., director of Integrative GI Nutrition Services at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Elvira de Mejia, Ph.D., professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Vandana Sheth, RDN. Heidi J. Silver, Ph.D., R.D., director at Vanderbilt Nutrition and Diet Assessment Core Lab, Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
It tops the soy list because it's fermented, so it's rich in good bacteria. Fermentation also helps your body absorb more nutrients in soy, like calcium. Grill it, pan-fry it, or shape it into "meatloaf."
This savory paste is used for soups, dressings, and more. It's fermented, so it has a probiotic kick. One tablespoon has a hefty 634 mg of sodium, but it's so flavorful, you'll use only a tiny bit.