Are Soy Curls Healthy? (And Are They a Whole Food?)

Butler Soy Curls are a vegan meat substitute that I’ve come to love. They’re essentially just dehydrated strips of soy protein. They taste great and are pretty easy to prepare. But are they healthy?

Soy Curls are generally considered healthy. They are made from non-GMO, whole soybeans without chemical pesticides, preservatives, or additives. They’re also a good source of protein, fiber, iron, and potassium. Although Soy Curls are generally healthy, they may be seasoned with oil, salt, or sugar that reduce their nutritional value.

Below, I’ll look at how Soy Curls compare to other soy products like tempeh, tofu, and TVP. Are Soy Curls higher or lower in protein and fiber? Also—do Soy Curls count as a whole food? And should you be worried about soy overall?

What are Soy Curls?

Soy Curls—cooked and seasoned.

Soy Curls are a meat substitute made from dehydrated, whole, non-GMO soybeans. The protein strips are slow-cooked and processed into soy strands. The strands are then soaked in water and dried at a low temperature. (source)

The texture of Soy Curls reminds me of chicken… Even more than some of the “vegan chicken” products I’ve tried!

  • I thought Soy Curls might taste something like tofu skins, but I was wrong.
  • They have a singular (I think better) taste than most other meat substitutes.
  • Soy Curls are broken into strands, so you can use them on pizza, enchiladas, stir-fry, pasta, salads, and tacos.

Soy Curls are a tasty treat, but they can be hard to find in stores. Personally, I order them from Amazon (linked here). I buy a pack of several at a time, so it lasts longer.

How Much Protein Do Soy Curls Have?

The nutrition panel for Butler Soy Curls.

Protein is crucial for vegan athletes, older people, and really everyone. Soy is a good protein source because it’s a “complete protein”—it provides all 9 essential amino acids.

But Soy Curls are just one of the vegan protein options made from soybeans. How do Soy Curls compare to tempeh, tofu, and TVP when it comes to protein content?

Well, here’s the raw data:

  • Soy Curls: 11g protein, 5g fat, 8g carbs in 120 calorie serving.
  • Tempeh: 18g protein, 4.5g fat, 12g carbs in 160 calorie serving.
  • TVP: 12g protein, 0g fat, 7g carbs in 80 calorie serving.
  • Tofu: 8g protein, 4g fat, 2g carbs in 80 calorie serving.

But to pull meaningful data from this, we should calculate the macronutrient ratio—that is, the percentage of calories from protein. That’ll help us see past the arbitrary “serving sizes,” and see which gives us the most protein per calorie.

When you calculate macronutrient ratios, you see that:

  • TVP is about 60% protein.
  • Tempeh is about 45% protein.
  • Tofu is about 40% protein.
  • Soy Curls are about 37% protein.

So, Soy Curls are at the bottom of the list… But this doesn’t mean Soy Curls are actually “less healthy” than TVP, tempeh, or tofu. They’re just not quite as efficient as TVP or tempeh when it comes to hitting your protein goals.

[Related post: How to Get 100g of Protein a Day as a Vegan (Meal Plans)]

But when it comes to what makes a food healthy, arguably a much more important factor is fiber.

What About Fiber?

How do Soy Curls stack up against tofu and TVP?

Soy Curls are a pretty good source of fiber. But let’s look at how they compare to your other options for soy protein products—TVP, tempeh, and tofu.

Here’s the raw data:

  • Tempeh has 6g of fiber in a 160 calorie serving.
  • Soy Curls have 6g of fiber in a 120 calorie serving.
  • TVP has 4g of fiber in an 80 calorie serving.
  • Tofu has 1g of fiber in an 80 calorie serving.

And again, to remove the discrepancy based on serving size, let’s look at the grams of fiber per 100 calories:

  • Soy Curls have about 5g of fiber per 100 calories.
  • TVP has about 5g of fiber per 100 calories.
  • Tempeh has about 3.75g of fiber per 100 calories.
  • Tofu has about 1.25g of fiber per 100 calories.

Here we see that Soy Curls actually lead the pack (along with TVP)! So yes—Soy Curls pass the fiber test with flying colors.

Are Soy Curls Processed?

Soy Curls are less processed than most meat substitutes. They are made from whole, non-GMO soybeans. These soybeans are broken apart, but no part is removed. Soy Curls are not made from protein isolate like textured vegetable protein (TVP) or textured soy protein (TSP).

Also consider: Soy Curls are made without additives or chemicals. There’s no oil, sugar, or salt added to the product. And the soybeans are even grown on a family farm, so you don’t have to worry about industrial pesticides.

Do Soy Curls Count as a Whole Food?

Soy Curls are generally considered a whole food, as they are made of whole soybeans and nothing else. Although the soybeans are ground up, no components are removed. There are also no oil, sugar, salt, or preservatives added.

“Whole food” could be defined different ways. But I always liked Dr. Michael Greger‘s definition:

Nothing bad added, nothing good taken away.

And by this definition, yes, Soy Curls are a whole food. They’re made of whole soybeans and nothing else!

Now, there may be an argument that in-tact soybeans are even healthier than Soy Curls. Often, in-tact foods are digested more slowly by the body, which can help to stabilize blood-sugar.

That can matter quite a bit when it comes to grains like oats and rice. In-tact grains are often much better for blood-sugar than flours or cereals. See this page for details.

That said, I’m not too worried about Soy Curls causing problems by themselves. The main way that people will make Soy Curls unhealthy is just by cooking them in unhealthy oils or eating them with refined carbs like white pasta.

Is Soy Actually Bad for You?

Soy foods have long been touted as “heart healthy” and a great source of protein. Soy has even been shown to help with fertility. But not all reports on soy are positive.

Contradictory reports link soy to dementia, thyroid cancer, and even breast cancer. Some people also freak out about soy because of the phytoestrogens. Can they mess with your hormones?

But the evidence is not super strong for most of these anti-soy theories.

If you want to dig into some of the details, here are some links on who shouldn’t eat soy and why it may be possible to eat too much soy. But the balance of evidence suggests that soy is safe and effective for most people.

Taking all the above points together, I consider Soy Curls to be a great addition to a balanced, healthy lifestyle. They’re high in protein and fiber and free of highly processed additives.

That said, if you have a soy allergy, you should avoid Soy Curls at all costs! And check out some of the products I shared in these posts instead:

Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey

1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).

2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet—the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.

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