Soy products are proliferating as more soy-based food products come on the market, and innovative products such as a soy lip balm are being developed.

USA Today, for example, reports that more than 300 food and beverage products made with soy were introduced in l999. The newspaper calls soy “a fascination that’s sweeping the country.”

Soy products are going mainstream, writer Nancy Hellmich said in USA Today.

“Doctors are recommending soy foods to their patients as part of a heart- healthy diet. Registered dietitians are suggesting them to clients. Parents are trying to figure ways to get their kids to eat more soy.”

One way kids are getting more soy is in their school lunch programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently removed limits on using soy in burgers and other popular lunch items in schools using federal funds in their food programs.

Another government agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has acted to allow foods containing soy proteins to use labels saying the products can reduce risk of heart disease. The FDA, which authorized the soy claim last fall, recommended that daily diets contain 25 grams of soy protein.

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Susan Schwartz, a nutritionist writing in the publication Heart & Health Reports, asked: “How much soy do you need? For helping to prevent heart disease,” she responded, “you should eat about 25 grams of soy protein with 50 to 60 milligrams of isoflavones per day.”

While the government actions helped increase soy use, most of the continuing interest in soy products comes from new products on the shelf, marketing experts say. The trend toward soy shows no sign of abating, USA Today reported. More than 37 million bushels of soybeans are now used to make soy foods, and the amount is expected to increase to 66 million bushels a year by 2005, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, in addition to food and beverage products providing soy health benefits, soy increasingly is being used in everyday commercial products. Soy ink in printing is one of the most popular uses, but now students at the University of Nebraska have added a new product: lip balm.

Two Nebraska students have developed a soy-based lip balm that won for them an award in the Nebraska Innovative Soybean Contest, sponsored by the Nebraska Soybean Board.