Twenty years ago, when I traveled to the Far East, soy was no big deal. It was everywhere, but Americans were wary of its nutritional value. Today, however, soy products are in-vogue.

Go to any Chinese, Indian, or Thai restaurant and you will find a form of soy called tofu. Tofu is created when the liquid from soybeans (soy milk) is curdled and pressed into a block. It has a custard texture and is flavorless. Herbs and spices that surround tofu give it its flavor.

You can also find tofu in the produce section of grocery stores. Choose firm tofu - it contains more calcium and protein. Frozen soy garden burgers, soy sausage, soy hot dogs, and tempeh are also available at natural food markets and some grocery stores.

Soy in your diet may help prevent diseases. Asians have lower rates of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease. A possible explanation is that soy is a replacement for saturated fats found in meat products.If you replace some of your animal protein intake with soy products, you not only decrease your saturated fats, you increase your polyunsaturated fat which helps to lower your blood cholesterol.Thirty grams of soy each day has been shown to improve cholesterol levels. You can receive 10 grams of soy from a soy protein bar, 8 ounces of soy milk, or 4 ounces of tofu.

Soy rich eating may help prevent a variety of other ailments including hot flashes in post menopausal women according to the April, 1998 issue of the Physician and Sports Medicine. After menopause, your estrogen production declines. Soy helps provide hormones your body no longer manufactured after menopause.

Soy contains phytochemicals. These are substances found in plants that have been shown to be healthful in many ways. Genestein is a phytochemical in soy that may prevent the growth of tumor cells.

Soy provides you with high quality protein and calcium. Replace ground beef with tofu in any recipe. Mash tofu with non-fat mayonnaise to create an egg-salad-soy-sandwich. Or blend tofu into dips or dressings.