There's a new word buzzing through health food circles that is good news for the soybean industry. The talk is all about edamame — a gourmet name for boiled green soybeans.

While the name might sound complicated, edamame is getting rave reviews whether served as an appetizer at restaurants or simply as an afternoon snack at home. Country crooner Faith Hill was seen snacking on edamame during a backstage interview with Country Music Television, and Kelly Ripa has talked them up as one of her favorite foods while on air with her show “Regis and Kelly.”

That celebrity status has helped edamame move mainstream as a snack or dinner ingredient. Edamame can be served shelled (which works well in casseroles, soups and stews) or in the pod as a finger food. It is a great source of fiber, protein and vitamins and minerals. At restaurants, the beans are frequently served steamed and lightly salted. If you can't find them fresh at your local grocery store, you may find precooked edamame in the freezer section.

Like edamame, excitement also continues to build for many of soyfoods because of their healthy benefits in the diet. Research continues to indicate that soy protein may help reduce cholesterol and help protect against cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.

Those attributes are making soy products quite popular on grocery store shelves. Start taking stock and you'll notice that soy goods range from dairy replacement products, cereals, crackers, artificial meat, such as tofu, and more.

As an example, Heartland Fields, an Iowa-based soyfoods manufacturer, has found success with its line of frozen, heat-and-eat soy entrees. Available primarily on the West Coast, but also through Hy-Vee stores in Iowa and adjacent states, it offers Soy Lasagna, Soy Beef and Broccoli, Soy Chili and other flavorful combinations.

With the nutritious and delicious selection of soyfoods continuing to expand, the future for soyfoods looks very exciting, and as the Heartland Fields tagline suggests — “Healthy Never Tasted So Good!”

SOY ON THE GO

In today's fast-paced, grab-and-go society, the marketplace is continually seeking on-the-go snacks for kids and adults. Soy is filling that need with snacks that are not only convenient, but healthy. New additions to snack food shelves include:

  • Soy on the Go, from ZenSoy, an organic soy milk in an easy-pack box. It's available in vanilla, chocolate and cappuccino flavors. ZenSoy also offers snack-size pudding packs available in chocolate, vanilla, banana and chocolate/vanilla swirl flavors.

  • Better Bites, from MicroSoy Corporation, are a gluten-free, sweet soy snack being touted for their great taste. Conveniently packaged in single serving bags of six snaps each, one package of Better Bites provides exactly 6.25 grams of soy protein and only 139 calories.