Is there joy in a steaming cup of hot cocoa made with chocolate soy milk?
“As soon as you say ‘soy,’ a lot of people think ‘healthy,’ ” says Mitzi Dulan, a registered dietitian.
The Star’s Healthy Hot Cocoa provides high-quality vegetable protein, less saturated fat than regular milk and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
But soy also has its detractors.
“Soy is definitely controversial right now,” Dulan says. “Depending on your age and whether you’re male or female, moderate amounts of soy are probably OK, but I wouldn’t overdo it.”
Dulan recommends reading “What To Eat: An Aisle-By-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating” (North Point Press, 2006) by Marion Nestle, a respected food and nutrition professor at New York University.
In the chapter “Soy Milk: Panacea, Just Another Food,” Nestle looks at how soy took on the aura of a superfood through a clever combination of marketing and promotion.
Does the science back it up?
Soy proteins have been found to reduce blood cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. But they also contain phytonutrients called isoflavones that weakly mimic the female hormone estrogen, which some researchers worry may lead to increased risk of breast cancer.
“If the science behind the health benefits of soy foods is not particularly compelling, neither is the science suggesting that there is harm in eating reasonable amounts of them, “ Nestle writes.
What’s the smart consumer to do?
Remember that a healthy diet is a series of tradeoffs, and moderation just makes sense.
Shopping tip: Soy milk in a variety of flavors is available in the health food section of the supermarket. The Star’s testers used Light Silk Soy Milk (silksoymilk.com), which contains organic evaporated cane juice for 120 calories per 1-cup serving and just 1.5 grams of fat (0 grams saturated).
The same size serving of 1 percent chocolate milk has 2.5 grams of fat and 160 calories per serving.
Reduced-calorie soy milks also are available. Be aware that these products contain artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, a sweetener that neither Dulan nor Nestle recommends. These soy milks also may contain more fat than the light varieties, so read the labels carefully.
Storage tip: Look for soy milk in the dairy case and on supermarket shelves. Refrigerated soy milk is perishable and will stay fresh seven to 10 days after opening. Soy milk sold in aseptic cartons doesn’t require refrigeration until opened, then use within five days.