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Soy: Is It Unhealthy for Kids?

Q. I want to cook more with soy, but I've heard it may be unhealthy for kids. Should I be concerned?

A.
Probably not. Some controversial research has shown that the estrogens naturally present in soy-based foods might affect the timing of puberty in girls and boys, but even up to three servings a day (which is far more than most American kids eat anyway) is perfectly healthy. "Soy is low in fat, has no cholesterol, and is packed with fiber," says Cynthia Sass, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "It's especially good if it replaces protein that's high in saturated fat, like red meat." Plus, a new study suggests that girls who eat soy-based foods may have a reduced risk of breast cancer later on.

The bottom line: Adding soy to your family's diet is a smart move. Here's how you can do it on the sly:

* Mix four to six ounces of tofu into a pound of ground beef or turkey when making burgers or meat loaf.

* Swap soy milk for cow's milk in a breakfast smoothie (or in a shake for dessert).

* For every cup of wheat flour, replace two tablespoons with soy flour the next time you make cookies or bread. It adds protein without changing the texture or flavor.

* Top a homemade pizza with half soy cheese and half mozzarella. You can even try subbing in soy pepperoni.

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