By Aaron Putze
The following article is the most recent edition of "At The Table," a column featuring conversations with notable Iowans about the multitude of ways farming positively influences Iowa and their personal and professional lives.
"At The Table" is authored by Aaron Putze, director of communications and external relations for the Iowa Soybean Association. Putze also coordinates of the Iowa Food & Family Project, a purpose-driven initiative celebrating food and farming that inspires greater trust between farmers and consumers. Aaron's guest for this edition of "At The Table" is Linda Funk, executive director of The Soyfoods Council.
A conversation with…
A conversation with Linda Funk, Executive Director, The Soyfoods Council
Biography: Linda is a Wisconsin native and moved to Iowa 12 years ago to start The Soyfoods Council. She has spent her entire career in the food world from chocolate to Pepsi to cheese and now soyfoods. Linda enjoys great food, loves to work with chefs and is passionate about the industry.
Aaron Putze: You are a respected expert when it comes to soyfoods. What's the one thing you want people to know about this super food?
Linda Funk: Soy is a nutritious, lean, complete protein that is low in saturated fat and makes a great addition to a balanced diet.
Aaron: I think of tofu when someone mentions soyfoods. Can you explain what tofu is and how it's prepared.
Linda: Good question! While I enjoy lots of meats and other interesting foods, soyfoods are also an important part of my diet. I've especially have become a fan of tofu — the secret is whether you want to have it blend in or keep its shape. Tofu is made from soybeans and water, curdled (much like milk is curdled in the cheese-making process) and made into either silken (soft) tofu or firm (water packed). Silken tofu works best in recipes that require a creamy finish such as salad dressings, dips or desserts (think healthy cheesecake!) and water-packed tofu works best when used in slices or cut into cubes to hold its shape for sautéing or stir frying. The great thing about tofu, besides its high nutritional value, is the way it takes on flavors of other ingredients like marinades and seasonings. Tofu is available in nearly any grocery store so have some fun and give it a try!
Aaron: Besides tofu, what other soyfoods are available?
Linda: The list is long! Soyfoods are found in every food category except fruit, unless you think of fruit- flavored soy yogurt. Examples include: Grains — soy cereal, waffles, pasta, bread, flour and grits; Vegetables — green soybeans (edamame), canned soybeans and soynuts; Milk — soy beverages, cheese, yogurt, ice cream; Meat — soy burgers, soy nuggets, soy crumbles, soy hot dogs, tofu, soynut butter (great for people with peanut allergies); and soybean oil.
Aaron: What's the difference between vegetable oil and soybean oil?
Linda: Soybean oil is one of the top-two most frequently used cooking oils in the country. In fact, most "vegetable oil" sold at the grocery store is really soybean oil —check the ingredient label to be sure that it is soybean oil!
Aaron: And its benefits?
Linda: Soy oil (liquid product you find on the grocery store shelves) is relatively low in saturated fat and high in poly- and monounsaturated fats, contains 0 grams of trans fat and is cholesterol free. It's also one of the few non-fish sources of healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Soy oil can be used in all types of cooking and baking with excellent results.
Aaron: Is edamame really a soybean?
Linda: Yes! Edamame, or green soybeans, are harvested when the beans are still green and sweet tasting before the drying down process starts. There are also specific varieties for edamame, too, that produce the big green soybeans in the pods. With 10 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, this fiber-rich, no-cholesterol vegetable is a great snack, side dish or recipe ingredient. You can find them frozen in the pod (pod not edible) or shelled. Try growing some edamame in your own garden — they like full sun and adapt to most soil types.
Aaron: Are soybeans edible once they are past the green stage?
Linda: That's another "yes." As soybeans mature in the pod, they ripen into a hard bean. Most soybeans are yellow, but you can also find brown and black varieties, either canned or dried.
Aaron: How would you describe Iowa's soybean growers?
Linda: Dedicated, hard-working and active members of their communities. Given the tremendous growth of the Iowa Soybean Association's environmental services and research programs, they're also committed to safeguarding our air, soil and water. They're just wonderful people!
Aaron: What is your favorite soyfood?
Linda: That is a hard question…to pick just one…but I love the conveniences of soynuts and all the flavors including chocolate-covered soynuts, as well as the "darling" of the soybean industry right now and that is edamame!
Putze serves as the Iowa Soybean Association's director of communications and external relations and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project (www.iowafoodandfamily.com). He can be reached at [email protected] or 515-334-1099. The program is funded in part by the soybean checkoff.