Long considered a staple in the diets of the health conscious, soy has been added to the recommended list of foods by the American Heart Association. Soy products such as tofu and soy beverages are most commonly packaged in aseptic cartons, according to the Aseptic Packaging Council.

With this packaging, soy products can be stored, unrefrigerated, for up to six months, thanks to the revolutionary aseptic processing and packaging system -- the same technology used to fill kids' drink boxes.

In its recent recommendation, the American Heart Association stated that eating soy can lower cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, and added soy to a list of foods, such as orange juice, bananas, leafy green vegetables and oatmeal, that most people should try to eat every day.

"With heart disease listed as the single biggest killer in the United States and many industrialized countries, eating a healthy diet has never been more important," said nutritionist Nancy Berkoff, Ed.D., R.D., C.C.E., C.W.C. "Many soy products are low fat and all have no cholesterol since cholesterol is only found in animal products. So, the American Heart Association's recommendation is no surprise to most nutritionists.

"In addition to its obvious health benefits, the fact soy is packaged aseptically is another big plus in terms of food safety," Berkoff continued. "The aseptic packaging system prevents foods from contamination by filling a sterilized package with a sterile food product within the confines of a hygienic environment. Aseptic packaging allows products to be stored without preservatives at room temperature for long periods of time."

The Aseptic Packaging Council is a trade association representing the major U.S. manufacturers of aseptic packages -- Tetra Pak Inc. of Chicago and SIG Combibloc, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1989, the APC's mission is to inform the American public about the product benefits and environmental attributes of aseptic packaging.