A Bean called Soy…

Soybeans have been on the radar due to their health benefits which include cardiovascular health, reducing menopausal symptoms and others such as reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
Since I see quite a lot of vegetarians too, I thought I would talk about how including soy products can be an excellent source of protein and other major nutrients.

Soy foods come in different varieties such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy milks and yoghurts, soy nuts and miso. The nutrient profile of soybeans is illustrated in the following:

  • High Quality Protein – soybeans are an excellent source of protein as they provide all the essential amino acids which is similar to those found in meat.
  • Fibre – Soybeans contain soluble fibre which is known to interfere with the absorption and metabolism of cholesterol.
  • Low in saturated fat and is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
  • Good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc.
  • Are high in phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens in Soy

Phytoestrogens are hormone-like substances which are of plant origin and that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen given the right conditions in the body. There are two types of phytoestrogens – lignans & isoflavones. The phytoestrogen content of soy is believed to play a role in reducing menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes where the phytoestrogens can act as a very mild form of hormone replacement therapy. However, more research is needed in this area.

Association of Soybeans & Heart Disease

The reason why soybeans have been hailed as a healthy food to include for heart health is due to their cholesterol lowering effect. Studies have shown that a diet high in soy protein can lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad choles.) cholesterol levels, and reduce triglyceride levels too. The diets in these studies contained about 47g of soy protein. This could be achieved by including 2 -3 serves of soy products per day. The reason for this health benefit is still not fully understood as it could be the actions of phytoestrogens, fibre, or soy proteins or a combination of all working together. Recently, the hype on soy proteins and heart health has declined as more studies have shown only a small effect on cholesterol levels. Guidelines now suggest that an amount of 25g of soy protein in combination with a low saturated fat diet can still provide some health benefits.

Overall, soybeans could be considered as another food to include as part of a well balanced diet. You can try calcium fortified soymilk & soy yoghurts, soy bread, tofu in stir fries, miso soup, soy based cheese…

(Note: Some fermented soy products can be high in salt such as soy sauce!)

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