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Kim Galeaz, RD
Nutrition Consultant to the Indiana Soybean Board firstname.lastname@example.org
oy cheese is another nutrient-rich addition to the soyfoods family. Consider these good reasons to add soy cheeses to the list:
- Low, moderate or no fat
- Cholesterol free
- A source of soy protein and isoflavones
- Great taste and texture
Finding soy cheese at most supermarkets is a little difficult right now; most carry only a few varieties, like the individually wrapped singles. But head to your favorite health or natural food market and you will be amazed at the growing soy cheese choices. According to the 1998 Soyfoods Directory, at least 12 companies make soy cheeses today. You will recognize some of the names....White Wave, Rella Good Cheese Co., Soyco Foods and more. Companies like Tofutti are newcomers on the soy cheese scene, with their imitation cream cheese product.
Here is a look at cheese varieties and a profile of their ingredients and nutritional value.
Varieties of Soy Cheeses
Soy cheeses are available in 6-, 8-, 12- or 16-ounce packages (chunks). Some are also in individually wrapped slices, just like typical American cheese.
- Cheddar flavor
- Mozzarella flavor
- Swiss flavor
- Monterey Jack flavor
- Pepper Jack / jalapeno flavor
- Mexican flavor
- Garlic/Herb flavor
- American flavor
- Parmesan flavor
- Provolone flavor
- Cream cheese alternative
While regular cheeses are made from dairy milk, soy cheeses are made from soy milk and/or tofu (and tofu is simply curdled and coagulated soymilk). Some soy cheeses have soy protein isolate added as well as some type of oil like canola or soybean oil. Flavorings are added, like red/green peppers, spices and herbs depending on what type of cheese it is (pepper jack, or Mexican or garlic/herb, for example). Salt and/or sea salt seems to be added to all varieties. Some have colorings added and many include an ingredient used to boost texture, like guar gums or carrageenan. Vegetarians are advised to read all labels, as some have milk protein (caseinate) added. But all are milk sugar (lactose) free.
A serving of any cheese, whether dairy or soy, is one ounce according to the Nutrition Facts label. Picture three dice stacked one on top of the other and that is equivalent to a 1 oz. cube. Or picture one of those individually wrapped American cheese slices; those are only 3/4 ounce. It is okay to eat more than one ounce of soy cheese at a meal, since most are reasonable in calories and fat. And besides, a good toasted cheese sandwich has to have at least two slices of cheese on it!
Regular cheeses run about 80 to 110 calories per one ounce. Soy cheeses run 55 - 80 calories per one ounce. Scanning about 10 different packages reveals the average is around 60 - 70 calories per ounce.
Protein levels vary greatly for soy cheeses, from 2 grams to 7 grams in 1 ounce. Choosing those with at least 4 grams of soy protein will help you achieve more soyfood benefits. Regular cheese has between 6 and 10 grams of protein in 1 ounce.
Many soy cheeses have calcium added, which is a plus from my viewpoint as a dietitian, because the nutritional calcium profile is then similar to dairy cheese. Most dairy cheeses provide between 15 and 30 percent of the daily value for calcium (1000 mg). Many of the soy cheeses I checked are fortified with calcium and offer between 15 and 30 percent calcium also. Several varieties have no calcium at all, so you will have to get calcium from other foods.
Like regular cheeses, soy cheeses have a moderate amount of sodium. Sodium helps give cheese flavor, as anyone who has had to consume low sodium cheese will attest to! Dairy cheeses have 100 - 450 mg sodium in one ounce; the soy cheeses I checked had no less than 200 mg.
Some soy cheese brands are fortified with about 10 % of the daily value for Vitamin A and E - two valuable antioxidants.
Soy cheeses contain 0 to 7 grams fat in one ounce; dairy cheeses may contain 0 to 10 grams of fat. Saturated fat will be lower in all soy cheeses, since typically their overall fat is lower and the ingredients used are either void or low in saturated fat. Many soy cheeses are equivalent to the reduced fat dairy cheeses on the market.
Soy cheeses, since they are not an animal product, are cholesterol free. Dairy cheeses contain an average of 20 - 25 mg cholesterol in one ounce.
Many melt just as well as full-fat and reduced fat dairy cheeses, but some do not melt as well.
You be the judge! I have found many soy cheeses to be more than acceptable alternatives to traditional cheeses. However, I doubt any cheddar cheese alternative - whether soy or reduced fat dairy cheddar - will be quite the same as a nice chunk of regular sharp cheddar!
Cheeses of any kind can provide wonderful added texture and taste to many recipes, so pick up some soy cheese the next time you are grocery shopping and try a slice or a chunk. Chances are you will enjoy the taste and have one more way to include soy in your diet. Bon appetit!
Recipes With Soy Cheese
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