April is National Soy Foods Month, which means that it is time to learn that soy is more than just a vegetarian alternative to meat. Soy can be used in many dishes, not just as a replacement for meat, but in addition to it. It is also a fantastic way for elders to get the lean protein they need.
As we age, it gets harder to eat due to weaker gums and problems with the teeth or dentures. This makes things like steak or other tough meats difficult to get down, because they are hard to chew. Soy, however, it a soft food, and, if prepared properly, can help your elder to get just as much nutrition as they would have with meat, with only a fraction of the fat content.
Soy also contains calcium, which can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis. In addition to this, it has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and even to reduce swelling and cramping!
If these things have convinced you to give soy a try, here are a few different ways you or your elder care aide could prepare it for your aging loved one:
Soy milk – Made for people with lactose intolerance, soy milk is gentle on the stomach, and doesn’t cause any of the bloating effects that regular milk can. It still contains calcium, so it can still be beneficial for bone health as well.
Tofu – Tofu might be known as a “hippie snack” to some of the older generation, but it is actually a very versatile food. It can be used in everything from soups to dessert favorites like pies and custards, and usually has no real discernable taste on its own. Instead, it takes on the flavor of the foods it is cooked in, making it a perfect replacement for things like meat, because you can get all the flavor of a great steak without having to chew so much.
Soy sprouts – Soy comes from the soybean plant, and the sprouts of this plant can be used in salads and sir fried dishes. They add a nice bite to the dish, and the only preparation they require is a thorough wash before eating.
Tempeh – This is a fermented version of soy that comes in a cake-like form. It can be used to replace meat in things like chili and pasta sauce, and helps to make meals feel extra hearty.
Soy nuts – Most people have not heard of soy nuts, but they actually make a great snack. With a flavor that is reminiscent of peanuts, they are actually roasted soybeans, which can be easier to eat than the peanuts themselves.
One thing to keep in mind as you or your elder care aide begin to add soy to your elder’s diet, though, is that it is not a good idea to overdo it. The USDA recommends that elders only eat 20 to 25 grams of soy per day, so as not to cause negative side effects like reduced thyroid function. So, while soy is a great replacement for some of the foods that your loved one might find tough to eat, don’t go overboard and replace every meal with a soy alternative!