The soybean may be small but it packs a powerful punch. For over 5,000 years, Asians have known the benefits of soy but it has only been in the last few decades that the health benefits of soy have been acknowledged by the Western world. Soy is high in protein, low in fat, and contains all of the eight essential amino acids which makes it a complete protein. Soy is also packed with vitamins and minerals as well as isoflavones, a plant hormone that resembles estrogen, which are a main factor in soy’s many health benefits. People who enjoy a diet rich in soy products will also enjoy the following health benefits.
1. Weight Loss and Soy
Researchers found that people were able to lose weight if they substituted protein-rich foods, such as a dairy or meat products, with a soy-based food. Soy-based foods are lower in calories and fat as compared to dairy products and meat and are also full of fiber which helps you to feel full longer. Adding soy to your diet can also boost your metabolism, increase energy and build lean muscle instead of fat which can occur in a diet rich in dairy products and red meat. Try replacing burgers with soy burgers, milk with soy milk and adding soybeans, soy nuts and soy cheese to your diet.
2. Lower Insulin Levels
Adding soy to the diet has also shown to lower blood glucose and insulin levels. It has been found that soy isoflavones lower the build up of tissue fat and also accelerates the breakdown of fat in the body. This makes soy helpful in reducing the risk of developing diabetes and also beneficial to diabetics who are trying to lose weight.
3. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
A diet rich in soy products can reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides and increase good (HDL) cholesterol. Eating soy can also reduce the build-up of plaque in the arteries which is responsible for causing heart attacks and strokes.
4. Relieves Symptoms of Menopause
According to a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who had a diet rich in soy reduced the symptoms of menopause by 40% as compared to women who had no treatment. During menopause, women experience a loss of the hormone estrogen which causes symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, sleep problems and night sweats to occur. Because the isoflavones in soy contain a plant-based estrogen similar to human estrogen, adding soy to the diet helps to replace the lost estrogen and reduce the negative symptoms. Treating menopause with soy instead of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) also reduces the woman’s risk of developing uterine and breast cancer.
5. Improves Bone Health
Adding soy to your diet can improve bone health in two ways. First, isoflavones in soy work to inhibit bone breakdown much as estrogen does. In women experiencing menopause, soy actually helps to reduce the risk of osteoporosis by replacing the lost estrogen that causes bone breakdown. Second, a diet rich in animal fats (red meat, dairy products) can cause calcium to be eliminated from the body through the urine. By eating a diet rich in soy instead, you reduce the risk of eliminating the calcium you need to keep your bones healthy.
6. Prevents Some Cancers
According to the article titled Soy Protein: Can it Really Prevent Cancer? by Suzanne Clark of Vanderbilt University, studies have shown that adding soy to the diet can reduce the risk of breast, colon, lung and prostate cancer. The high antioxidant properties as well as isoflavones in soy help to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. However, more studies need to be done before the scientific community completely understands the soy-cancer connection.
Adding Soy to Your Diet
Eating soy food products is the best way to add soy to your diet. There are an abundance of soy food products on the market to make it easier to add soy to the diet. Food products like soy milk, soy nuts, soybeans, tofu, soy cheese and soy yogurt are readily available. There are also products such as soy oil, soy flour for baking, soy nut butter and soy meat products. For the optimum health benefits, it is recommended to eat 100 to 200 milligrams of soy each day. For those who cannot get enough soy through foods, it is also available in capsule and powder form. There are no known side-effects from eating soy or taking the proper dose of soy supplements.
Adding soy to your diet is an easy way to bolster your health and prevent many of the diseases caused by poor diet and lifestyle choices. Even substituting a few foods you eat now with soy foods can make a big difference. Whether you are trying to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or prevent cancer, adding soy to your diet is a safe and effective way to do it.