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Healing Foods Pyramid

Healing Foods Pyramid™


Soy Image

Whole Soy foods are included in the Healing Foods Pyramid™ as part of a balanced, whole foods, plant-based diet. This Food Pyramid emphasizes foods that nourish the body, sustain energy over time, contain healing qualities and essential nutrients, and support a sustainable environment.

What are the recommended servings per day?

Why choose whole soy foods?

What are whole soy foods?

Whole soy foods are those which utilize the entire bean in its natural state. This allows the body to access the optimum nutrition the soy bean has to offer. Whole soy foods are a nutritious and versatile addition to any diet and can be found throughout traditional Asian and Indian cuisine.

Edamame (Green Soybeans)

These are large soybeans harvested when the beans are still green and sweet tasting. They are high in protein and fiber.


A smooth paste, made from soybeans and/or grains such as rice or barley, plus salt and a mold culture, aged in cedar vats for one to three years. Miso is a good source of protein, fiber, and zinc.

Soy Beans

A species of legume native to East Asia. They are commonly cultivated across the US and can be found canned or dry in black and white varieties.

Soymilk, Soy Beverages

Soybeans, soaked, ground fine and strained, produce fluid called soybean milk, which is a good substitute for cow's milk. Soymilk is an excellent source of high quality protein and B-vitamins.


Whole soybeans that have been soaked in water and then baked until browned. Roasted soy nuts are high in protein and isoflavones and are similar in texture and flavor to peanuts.

Soy Yogurt

Made from soymilk, its creamy texture makes it an easy substitute for sour cream, cream cheese or dairy yogurt. Soy yogurt is high in protein, calcium, and is a source of probiotics.


Whole soybeans, sometimes mixed with another grain such as rice or millet, are fermented into a rich cake with a smoky or nutty flavor. Tempeh is a good source of protein, calcium, and probiotics.

Tofu & Tofu Products

Known as soybean curd, tofu is a soft cheese-like food made by curdling fresh hot soymilk with a coagulant. It is a neutral-flavored product that easily absorbs the flavors of other ingredients with which it is cooked. Tofu is rich in high-quality protein and B-vitamins and is low in sodium.


Selected Sources of Whole Soy

Whole Soy Foods

Serving Size



1/2 cup, cooked



   ~ 30-60 mg per serving

Miso soup

1/2 cup


1/2 cup cooked


1 cup


1 ounce

Soy yogurt

1 cup


1/2 cup


1/2 cup

Specific Considerations

Ideas for Increasing Consumption of Whole Soy Foods

  1. Choose whole soy foods, such as miso, tempeh, tofu, soybeans, soynuts, and soymilk, over isolated soy products and supplements.
  2. Avoid heavily-processed soy ingredients such as soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrate, hydrolyzed soy protein, and texturized soy protein.
  3. To learn how to cook with soy foods, ask a friend for recipes, search the internet, or locate soy cookbooks.
  4. Edamame is usually located in the frozen section of the supermarket, and are available either in the pod or shelled. They cook quickly and can be eaten cold or warm, but don’t eat the pod! Shelled beans can easily be added to salads, soups, pasta, and salsa. Edamame in the pod are fun for on the go snacking- just throw them in a baggie and eat them right out to the pod. Edamame are also a healthy substitute for popcorn and chips while watching a movie, grab a bowl add a little sea salt and voila!
  5. Miso is the main ingredient in the traditional Japanese soup available in sushi restaurants. Miso can be found in many grocery stores; it can be used as a soup base, in salad dressings, and sandwich spreads.
  6. Soybeans can be used like dried and canned beans in soups, salsas and other dishes containing beans.
  7. Soymilk can be used in place of cow’s milk for cooking, baking, and drinking. Try adding some to smoothies, soups, or sauces. Soymilk comes in non-refrigerated recyclable boxes found on grocery shelves or refrigerated in plastic containers in the dairy section. Soy milk comes in chocolate, vanilla or plain. It also can be found in single serving sizes which makes it a great snack to leave at the office or in the car; and it needs no refrigeration before opening.
  8. Roasted soy nuts are available in most grocery stores and are great for snacking or adding to trail mix.
  9. Soy yogurt is a great substitute for dairy yogurt and is available in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores.
  10. Tempeh is sold in vacuum packed rectangular cakes/patties. Tempeh can be used in place of meat in stir-fries or pasta dishes. It can also be grilled or baked and used for sandwiches, salad toppers, or shish-kabobs.
  11. Tofu is found in water packed tubs in the refrigerated section or on grocery shelves. Uses for tofu are endless:
    • Silken tofu, which is smooth and creamy, can be used in place of cream in soups or as a substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream in salad dressings and dips.
    • Soft tofu is moist and more firm than silken tofu. It can be substituted for soft cheese like ricotta in your favorite Italian dish.
    • Firm and extra firm tofu will hold its texture and shape and can be used in place of meat in salads, shish-ka-bobs or fajitas.



Allergies: Living with a Soy Allergy
Web MD Website
Accessed June 1, 2009

Isoflavones: New Frontier in Nutrition
Soy Nutrition Information
Patterson, Anne
US Soyfoods Directory
Accessed June 1, 2009

Pesticides Health and Safety
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Accessed June 1, 2009

An Introduction to Probiotics
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
National Institutes of Health
Accessed June 1, 2009

Soy Wars
Greene, Alan
Web MD Website
Accessed June 1, 2009

Soy and Menopausal Symptoms
Stokes, Monica
Thomson American Health Consultants
Accessed June 1, 2009

Soy: Health Claims for Soy Protein, Questions about Other Components
Henkel, John
FDA Consumer Magazine May-June 2000
Accessed June 1, 2009

USDA-Iowa State University Database on the Isoflavone Content of Foods-1999
USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory [PDF]
Accessed June 1, 2009

Original Research and Review Articles

Barnes S, et al. Rationale for the use of genistein-containing soy matrices in chemoprevention trials for breast and prostate cancer. Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. 1995;22:181S-187S.

Bhathena SJ, et al. Beneficial role of dietary phytoestrogens in obesity and diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76:1191-1201.

Clarkson, TB. Soy, soy phytoestrogens and cardiovascular disease. The Journal of Nutrition. 2002; 132: 566s-569s.

Hasler CM. The cardiovascular effects of soy products. The Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. 2002;16:50-63.

Le HH, et al. Bisphenol A is released from polycarbonate drinking bottles and mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons. Toxicology Letters. 2008; 176:149-156.

Messina MJ, et al. Soy for breast cancer survivors: a critical review of the literature. Journal of Nutrition. 2001;131:3095S-3108S.

Messina MJ Legumes and soybeans: overview of their nutritional profiles and health effects. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1999; 70:439S-450S.

Sacks FM, et al. Soy protein, isoflavones, and cardiovascular health. Circulation. 2006;113:1-11.

Sarkar F, et al. Mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention by soy isoflavone genistein. Cancer and Metastasis Reviews. 2002; 21: 265-280.

The Healing Foods Pyramid™ was created by the Nutrition Education Team at the University of Michigan Integrative Medicine, Department of Family Medicine in 2005 and updated in 2009.

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