Soy foods reached a new level of acceptance over the last year with the purchase of natural foods manufacturer Kashi Co. by Kellogg, the world's leading cereal maker.

Kashi already produced lines of soy-enriched cereal, and it recently expanded its product assortment to include “GoLEAN” soy-based diet drinks and cereals.

The new products' labeling extensively uses government-approved health claims that have been developed in recent years with research funding from USB and other checkoff-funded programs.

Founded in 1984 by Philip and Gayle Tauber, Kashi grew by more than 100% during the fiscal year preceding Kellogg's purchase. Initially, Kashi represents a small percentage of Kellogg's business. In all of 2000, it did about $25 million in sales versus $7 billion for Kellogg. But analysts say Kellogg sees a continued trend toward healthier eating; the Kashi deal gives it a way to immediately plant itself in the alternative foods business.

“Kellogg management is being more aggressive in its product portfolio and becoming a larger player in the alternative, natural (grocery) outlets,” notes a research report from Merrill Lynch.

The move by Kellogg puts the company deeper into soyfoods marketing and also gives it greater access to alternative, natural-food retail stores. With its connections to Kellogg, Kashi also could gain more space on the shelves of major supermarket chains.

No figures on Kashi's price were announced, but analysts who follow the food industry estimated the deal at $30-50 million. Kellogg already owns Worthington Foods, Inc., the nation's leading maker of meat alternatives such as sausage and bacon, which also are enriched with soy protein.

Soy makes healthy folks healthier

Consuming soy has shown real benefits for people with high blood cholesterol levels. But research now indicates benefits for individuals with normal cholesterol levels.

In a study of 150 adults with normal blood cholesterol levels, those who consumed 40 grams of soy protein per day showed a 4.7% increase in their levels of high-density lipoprotein — HDL or “good” cholesterol as it's often termed. In addition, it did not significantly affect their levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad” cholesterol).

This is the first study that shows how soy protein affects cholesterol levels in adults whose cholesterol levels are normal, according to researchers led by Jiang He. He is an associate professor of epidemiology at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

These findings coincide with the American Heart Association statement that 25-50 grams of soy protein a day can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol by as much as 8% in people with high cholesterol levels. The isoflavones found in soy are believed to prevent LDL cholesterol levels from harming blood vessel walls.

So, how much soy is in common foods?

There are almost 20 grams of soy protein in ½ cup of raw, firm tofu, while a 90-g soy burger has 18 g of soy protein. Other soy products include miso, soymilk, soybeans, soy-based substitutes for hotdogs, sausage and other meat products, and soy cheese, soy ice cream and soy yogurt.

Is the bean good for the brain?

People who eat high amounts of soy might be improving their memories, based on a test by researchers at King's College in London. That was the case with a group of people who received a diet rich in soy over a 10-week period.

The amount of soy was roughly equivalent to ¼ pound of tofu or a pint of soymilk every day. They were compared to a group that consumed the same amount of protein, fat and calories, but no soy. Researchers believe the effect is due to the high content of isoflavone hytoestrogens contained in soy. These mimic estrogen's effect on the brain. Previous studies show memory improvements with estrogen.

SoyFoods Guide Online

Want to know more about including soy in your diet? We recommend the annual SoyFoods Guide, a 24-page booklet you can order or download via the Internet. The guide contains dozens of recipes and easy-to-understand information on how soy fits into a healthier diet.

It is published by Stevens & Associates in Indianapolis, IN, and is distributed by the Soy Protein Partners, a coalition of national and state checkoff groups, industry trade associations and manufacturers.

To download a copy of the 2001 Soyfoods Guide or order a printed version, go to www.soyfoods.com, a Web site funded by the Indiana Soybean Board.