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Health Benefits Of Soy

Soy health benefits have become the subject of much discussion in the last decade. These benefits are attributed to the proteins present in soy as well as other compounds such as phytochemicals and isoflavones. Unfortunately soy also poses certain health risks and so it is important to discuss this with a nutritionist or your dietician before you include it in your diet plan. Some of the most common soy benefits are given below:
  • Bone health: Soy products do not contain calcium and so substituting regular milk with soy milk could cause calcium deficiency. However, the isoflavones in soy may be in a position to prevent bone loss and help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
    Isoflavones are natural compounds that have antioxidant properties and can have a positive impact on the body. The isoflavones in soy help to counter the breakdown in bone tissue and this helps in the long term maintenance of bones. A high consumption of animal protein can cause excess calcium to be excreted through the urine. If soy protein is consumed in place of animal protein, it could help to prevent and treat this loss of calcium.
  • Heart health: Research into the benefits of soy for heart health show that those with cardiovascular diseases could benefit from the regular intake of soy. Saponins are natural chemical compounds and are found in soy products. These compounds help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and this helps to prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries – which is a common cause of stroke or heart attack. Other soy compound help to increase the flexibility and resilience of the blood vessels and this aids circulation. 
  • Cancer Prevention: Studies have shown that the intake of soy foods on a regular basis could help to prevent certain hormone-related cancers like breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.
  • For women: There are several soy health benefits for women, the most prominent being prevention of breast cancer. Some studies on breast cancer suggest that women who consume more of soy foods are less prone to cancer of the breast. Research has confirmed that a high consumption of isoflavones in soy was related to the lower occurrence among post-menopausal women with estrogen and progesterone positive breast cancer. Further surveys indicate that for more secure protection against this disease, the consumption of soy should begin by adolescence. Soy appears to be particularly beneficial for active women because of the isoflavones it contains; namely, daidzein. These estrogen-like compounds have been found to be especially helpful for women going through menopause – helping reduce the hot flashes, irritability, and discomfort associated with this transition stage.
  • For men: One of the most common cancers among men is prostate cancer. Studies have suggested that drinking soy milk may help prevent prostate cancer. This is one of the most significant soy health benefits for men as the regular consumption of soy can reduce the risk of prostate cancer by as much as 70 per cent.
  • Blood Pressure: Soybeans are rich in calcium for healthy bones, and in magnesium which regulates blood pressure. Lower systolic blood pressure has been associated with soy and milk protein additives, rather than dietary supplements containing refined carbohydrates. However, it now seems that high blood pressure can be prevented, and even treated, with a diet that includes soy nutritional supplements.
  • Weight Management: Calories in soy food like soy milk, soy sauce, soy bean sprouts, and tofu vary but are not very high and so these foods are ideal for weight management.   

It also contains several essential amino acids which help to regulate hormonal levels.

Soy Nutrition Facts

Soybeans are simply loaded with nutritional elements and components. Research on soy nutrition facts shows that their protein and digestive fiber content are quite impressive. 
  • Soy milk and in fact all soy foods, offer the best in soy nutrition benefits. They offer a healthy and balanced intake of carbohydrates and protein, with no cholesterol, and negligible saturated fat. With soymilk and all soy foods so loaded with such a variety of nutrients, it is not surprising that soy nutritional value is the subject of many independent research programs. You can look up soy recipes as this would be an ideal way to ensure variety in your meals. Soy can also be used as a substitute for meat in several dishes.
  • Soybeans have a mild and pleasant flavor and can be easily combined with other vegetables and spices. More information on soyabean oil benefits
  • Soy salads, soy dips, and soy appetizers are all delicious options that are often easy to prepare.
  • Soy muffins and soy cookies are very popular with kids and healthier options as compared to fast foods. You could also consider a healthy banana-soy or cocoa- soy smoothie to help you cool off in summer.  

Side Effects Of Eating Soy

Soybeans contain a chemical called phytic acid, as do most beans and grains. This phytic acid has many negative effects on the body when consumed, and to counter this, the soybeans should be thoroughly soaked before cooking. Phytic acid is responsible for many of the side effects of soy as it destroys several nutrients, including vitamins that have been stored in your muscle and bone tissue. This is why it is extremely important to make sure that you follow the correct procedures when cooking soybeans. Trypsin inhibitors are a group of chemicals in the soybeans that prevent the stomach from breaking up proteins, so the high protein content of soybean is countered by this chemical.

Dangers and risks of soy are:

  • Breast Cancer: Certain studies also indicate that the consumption of soy could be detrimental to women with a history of breast cancer. The results of the research on the soy risks for breast cancer suggest that soy may encourage tumor growth.
  • Pregnancy: There is also a lot of research on the dangers of soy during pregnancy but most of the results are inconclusive. Obstetricians generally advise pregnant women to avoid soy milk and other soy products during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Thyroid & Metabolism: The dangers of soy include soy phytoestrogens. They are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may lead to thyroid cancer. People with hypothyroidism are advised to limit their soy intake as soy is known to aggravate the condition. Hypothyroidism causes weight gain because there is not enough thyroid hormone being produced. This causes the metabolism to slow down, contributing to obesity. The effects of soy on the thyroid may not be detected by medical tests, and so fasting before the test is standard. This ensures that compounds in the food do not affect the test results.
  • Testosterone Levels: Some of the adverse effects of soy on men are related to the effect of soy on testosterone levels. Isoflavones are not very different from the hormone estrogen, which is present in very small amounts in men. The dangers of soy on testosterone are that when soy is consumed in large amounts, testosterone levels are lowered, and this has an adverse effect on men. The effects include weight gain, lower sex drive and sperm count, and erectile problems. In men, testosterone levels lower naturally after the age of 30.
  • Estrogen: In addition to these hormonal imbalances, the soy effects on estrogen should not be ignored. A sudden increase in the estrogen level of men, women, and children is one of the dangers in the consumption of soy. Too much estrogen could lead to a weight gain and to other health problems.
  • Children: They could be affected by early puberty in girls and delayed puberty in boys. The risks of soy for children and boys cannot be ignored as soy is harmful for hormones if consumed in excess and this in turn can have severe effects on a developing child.
Submitted on September 21, 2011