Jerk tofu. Classic American soy burger. If the thought of these meals has you craving their more traditional, calorie-filled meat counterparts, you’re probably not alone. But don’t be too quick to pass on foods that can help you incorporate soy into your diet. Soy has long been heralded for its potential health benefits—from promoting bone health to alleviating menopause symptoms, to even lowering the chance of developing prostate cancer—not to mention the nutritious role it can play in weight management. As a complete source of protein, it’s a great substitute for fatty foods that won’t leave you feeling hungry. Real Health takes a look at why—and how—to bring soy into your kitchen.

Soy protein lowers blood cholesterol levels. According to the United Soybean Board (USB), soy protein lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which can help reduce heart disease risk.

Soymilk offers an alternative for people who are lactose intolerant. Up to 80 percent of African Americans are lactose intolerant. Instead of skipping out on important nutrients in order to skip the upset stomach, try soymilk, which can offer the same health benefits without the discomfort. Tip: Add flavored soymilks and creamers to your coffee, like vanilla or chocolate.

You don’t have to sacrifice taste. “Many adults get turned off easily after trying something one time, and they won’t go back to it,” says Dr. O Dixon, CNS, LDN, a Laurel, Maryland based nutritionist. If you try one brand of a soy product and don’t like it, don’t be afraid to try another one, he suggests.

Soy products can be added right into some of your favorite dishes.  The USB recommends grilling fresh veggies such as squash and bell peppers with tofu, which will allow the soy product to pick up some of your favorite flavors. Other ideas: create your own salad dressing made with soybean oil and your choice of vinegar; top soy burgers with grilled onions and barbeque sauce.  Tip: When grilling or stir-frying tofu, buy an extra firm variety to avoid unwanted breaking and crumbling.

Remember that soy is just one part of an overall healthy lifestyle change. “Moderation is important,” says Dr. O, who adds that over consumption of anything is bad for your health. Still, he welcomes the move toward a higher level of consciousness surrounding our food choices. “It’s the willingness to stick to and stay focused on taking control of [our health] that’s important,” he says. “African Americans are suffering across the board on a number of diseases, many of which are preventable through dietary intervention.”

Photo Credit: (Tofu Fingers) United Soybean Board