Soy, or also known as soybean, is a part of the legume family, which includes dried beans, peas, peanuts, and lentils. Soybeans are vegetables that have been part of Asian diets for centuries, and it is now the most widely grown and utilized legume in the world. Some foods made from soybeans include tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milk, soy sauce, etc.
Soybeans have more protein than any other bean and are the only plant-based protein foods that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a high-quality, complete plant protein source. It is also low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and high in many important nutrients, such as B-vitamins, calcium, potassium, and magnesium, fiber and isoflavones. Here are some health benefits of soy.
1. Prevent Cancer
Epidemiological data show that countries with high soy consumption have lower risk of developing breast, prostate and colon cancers as compared to countries with low soy consumption. Research also found that animals fed soy protein experienced a reduction in the spread of malignant cancer cells.
2. Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Studies have shown that eating 25 grams of soy protein per day can significantly lower blood cholesterol levels. This amount of soy protein is effective in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol when substituted for high fat meats and other foods. The soy isoflavone genistein also may increase the flexibility of blood vessels.
In 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supported this claim and allowed food labels to promote soy as part of a heart healthy diet.
3. Promotes Healthy Bones
Preliminary studies in women have shown that eating soy protein with higher levels of naturally occurring isoflavones can prevents the loss of bone tissue. In addition, soy also contains calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for the development of strong bones.
4. Prevent Diabetes
Regularly eating soy has been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes, especially in people who are overweight. Soy offers complete protein, but without the cholesterol and saturated fat that many people with diabetes want to avoid. The carbohydrates in soy are complex, meaning they break down slowly in the body, limiting their impact on blood sugar.
5. Relieve Menopausal Symptoms
Preliminary research suggests that eating a diet rich in soy isoflavones may help alleviate menopausal symptoms in pre-menopausal women. During menopause, estrogen levels drop significantly. Isoflavones are able to bind to estrogen receptor cells, so the body doesn’t feel as though it is going through such a dramatic decrease. This can ease many of the symptoms of menopause, such as mood swings, hot flashes, and hunger pains.