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Benefits of Soy Food

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 5 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
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Benefits of Soy Food

Soybeans and soy foods are definitely good for your health. More than 500 scientific studies to date confirm the disease-fighting potential of soy foods. In fact, we now know that people who consume a diet high in soy have historically had lower incidence of chronic disease - including heart disease- the UK's biggest killer.

Soy and Heart Disease

Soy foods may help lower the risk of heart disease in two ways. Firstly, they are rich in a group of phytochemical compounds called isoflavones, which may work to reduce the risk of heart disease. Isoflavones are found in significant amounts only in soybeans and soy foods, such as tofu, soymilk, tempeh and textured soy protein. Secondly, Soy foods are not only low in saturated fat and free of cholesterol, but contain proteins, which have been shown to directly lower blood cholesterol, which also potentially reduces the risk of heart disease.

Soy and Cholesterol Reduction

Scientific studies show that 25 grams of soy protein daily in the diet is needed to show a significant cholesterol-lowering effect. To gain these health benefits, you would need to consume the equivalent of four cups of soymilk daily. This addition of four servings of soy products a day would be expected to decrease LDL cholesterol levels about 5-7 percent.

Osteoporosis

Other studies have revealed that soy may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis -a disease that affecting 24 million Americans. Osteoporosis causes the loss of bone mass and strength. It affects both men and women, but is primarily found in post-menopausal women. A study at Division of Nutritional Science, University of Illinois, found that post-menopausal women with high concentrations of soy in their diet had stronger bone health. Other studies have found that bone density increases with the consumption of ipriflavone, (a chemical isolated from soybeans), and bone quality improves. Soy has also shown promising results in the prevention of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and hot flashes during menopause.

Soy and Cancer

Cancer is the UK's number two killer, second only to heart disease. There is a growing body of evidence linking soy foods to cancer prevention. One study, conducted n the USA, found that a molecule produced in the intestine when soy is digested stops a hormone, which can lead to prostate cancer.

While some studies shave shown that soy offers a protective effect against breast cancer, a few studies showed the oestrogen-like effects in isoflavones may be harmful for women with breast cancer. The data on soy and breast cancer are not conclusive, and more work is needed to be done before any dietary recommendations can be made.

Soy and Diabetes

Studies conducted into soy's effect on diabetes have discovered less glucose in the urine of diabetics who consumed soybeans. This may indicate that their cells were able to absorb more glucose because of the soy in their diet. Soluble fibre, found in soy, may help to regulate glucose levels. Scientists also believe that a high-fibre, high-carbohydrate diet may actually help enable cells to recognize the insulin in the bloodstream. It is important to note, however, that the fibre content in soy foods can vary significantly.

Sources of Soy and isoflavones

Traditional sources of soybeans and isoflavones include tofu, bean curd, tempeh, soymilk, miso and soy sauce. There are a growing number of soy-based products available, such as soy-burgers (veggie-burgers), soy hotdogs, soy-based cheese, soy ice cream, and soy yoghurts. Soy products contain all three macro-nutrients for good nutrition -- protein, carbohydrates and fat -- and many micro-nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, calcium, folic acid and iron.

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