If you are pregnant and vegetarian, soy becomes all
the more important because of the protein in it. The
popular belief that protein is best obtained from
animal products is a myth. When pregnant your need
for protein increases because you are replenishing
your own body alongside, you are providing your baby
with the raw materials for its growth. Soy was once
considered an Asian delicacy, and was more often featured
in vegetarian palates. Gradually this changed and
now soy is gaining popularity in the West because
of its health benefits and versatility. A fact that
can help change your mind about soy (if you are not
already convinced) is that soy is a plant food that
is a 'complete' protein and contains all nine of the
essential amino acids.
A little background on
• Amino acids are the building blocks of protein
and protein is part of every cell in the body
• There are about 20 different amino acids which
your body uses to manufacture body proteins, of which
nine are considered essential. That is to say your
body cannot make them and so you must get them from
the food you eat.
• Animal foods such as meat, fish, eggs etc
contain all nine essential amino acids and are therefore
considered to be 'complete' proteins.
• Plant foods contain essential amino acids
but not all nine of them and are therefore regarded
as 'incomplete' protein
The benefits of Soy
• Soy is rich in protein, calcium, fiber, phytochemicals
and some vitamins.
• Its health incentives are plenty: reduces
the risk of certain cancers, lowers LDL cholesterol
and minimizes to some extent the loss of calcium in
• Its versatile enough to adapt and blend into
almost anything you cook, from a latte to a stew
• It makes a good substitute for those who are
• Vegetable protein sources such as soy often
contain additional beneficial complex carbohydrates
and are less acid-forming than meat.
Soy comes in many forms. Tofu, tempeh, miso and soy
milk to name a few. Don't go by the names – they taste
better than they sound.
• Tofu is made from soy milk that has been allowed
to solidify into 'cakes'. It is whitish in color and
comes in various textures, from smooth and jelly-like
to extra firm. It has very little taste on its own
and takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with.
The softer varieties can be used in soups and purees
for instance and the firmer ones can be used in stir-fry
dishes or it can be grilled, pan-fried or baked.
Tempeh is actually fermented soybeans wrapped in special
leaves until it firms up into a cake. It can then
be sliced and cooked like meat or fish, and like tofu
it can be used in stir fries, grilled or pan-fried.
• Textured vegetable protein or TVP is a defatted,
dehydrated soy protein that comes in either flakes
or small nuggets. It makes a satisfactory substitute
for ground meat, especially when it is prepared in
highly flavored sauces or spices.
• Soybeans make a good substitute for refried
beans. They can also be added to salads and soups.
• Soy milk can be used as a substitute for cow's
milk. Supermarkets sell varieties that are fortified
with calcium and vitamin D and these are ideal if
you are lactose-intolerant. Soy cheese is a good non-dairy
alternative to the real thing.
• Miso is a fermented paste of soybean combined
with rice, barley or wheat. It is salty and is often
added as a flavoring to enhance foods or made as a
Despite the pluses, like all other foods, soy too
should be eaten in moderation. If you are a vegetarian,
do not rely on soy as your main protein food but include
other varieties into your diet. Soy is best consumed
in the form of whole soy foods rather than from dietary
supplements (pills and powders).