More Americans than ever before believe that soyfoods are healthful — including popular new snack foods and a new margarine — and are changing their eating habits to incorporate soy into their regular diets.

A new survey by the United Soybean Board, representing the U.S. soybean industry, found that 7l percent of American consumers now believe soy products to be “very healthful.”

Meanwhile, a new ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows two new margarines to make health claims that they may help lower the risk of heart disease. One of the products, called Take Control®, contains phytoesterol esters. Phytosterols are natural compounds derived from vegetable oil processing by companies like Archer Daniels Midland.

More than two dozen studies have shown that the so-called plant extract margarine, used instead of conventional margarine, can reduce LDL or bad cholesterol.

The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter, Health After 50, also reports on the two new vegetable oil spreads in its forthcoming October issue: “Research shows that when these products are used properly, they can help lower total blood cholesterol.” One to two tablespoons of Take Control consumed daily can lower total cholesterol by up to l0 percent, the newsletter said.

And a popular new soybean snack called “Edamame” is the “latest craze” among health-conscious gardeners, according to the Washington Post. Pronounced eh-du-MOM-ay, the green, edible soybean came from Japan and has “swept to North America on the wave of fascination with Asian cuisine,” the newspaper said.

“What makes edamame a new phenomenon is the snack itself, and the broader acceptance of the edible soybean as an ingredient in cooking,” Adrienne Cook wrote in the Post. “… Soybeans are widely regarded as a favorite of both gourmets and farmers.

Rich in nutrient value, soybeans are considered to be one of the most healthy sources of protein available.”