The soybean is one of a large family of plants called legumes. Legumes tend to be higher in protein than other plant foods; in fact, the mature soybean is about 42-percent protein, 33-percent carbohydrate, 20-percent oil, and 5-percent hull. In fact, the soybean is the only plant source of protein considered a complete protein.
Soy is similar to the best animal sources of protein without all the saturated fat. Soybeans contain minerals, including iron and, if the processing method is correct, calcium.
Soy - A Miracle Food?
Soy is touted as a "miracle" food because of its role in preventing disease, including cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis.
The evidence was so compelling that the FDA approved the following health claim for use on food labels: "25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease".
For many figuring out how to get this much soy in the diet is a challenge.
Fortunately, soy foods are becoming more widely available and versatile, so the choices extend far beyond the traditional tofu and soy milk. Today's soy protein ingredients allow people to get all the benefits of soy in a wide variety of favorite foods like soy "burgers," drinks and shake mixes, soy protein bars and more.
For example, a simple substitution of soy flour for up to 30 percent of all-purpose 5 flour, is an easy way to sneak in soy.
Soy protein isolate, a powdered form of soy, can be added to a smoothie, sprinkled over cereal or mixed in a casserole dish.
Even easier are the vegetable burgers, energy bars, breakfast cereals and snack foods made from soy. These require essentially no effort and are especially good for those who are wary of eating soy straight.
Soy foods are rich in isoflavones. Isoflavones are unique plant compounds that match human hormone receptors and aid in special health benefits.
Soy for Men
For men, the most direct cancer protection you receive from soy foods relates to the way isoflavones interfere with hormone-related cancers of the prostate. Isoflavones inhibit testosterone from turning into a form that promotes prostate cell growth, and thus, cancer.
Soy for Women
The breast cancer story is more complex. There is some evidence that soy foods rich in isoflavones may help protect against endometrial, breast and other hormone-related cancers, but the data is conflicting. While many experts believe that soy foods are health-protective for all women, others aren't as certain.
Because of its phytoestrogen content, soy is also believed to provide relief for symptoms of menopause. Phytoestrogens mimic the female hormone estrogen. In studies where participants included 20 grams of soy daily for six weeks, symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats were reduced.
Soy for Heart Disease
The FDA has approved this health claim for soy on food packaging: "25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease".
Check to see if a product contains isolated soy protein. Do not forget to compare the fat and calories. You want to be sure you are getting the most protein with the least amount of fat and calories.
April is National Soy Foods Month
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