Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Secrets of Soybeans

When you want to get the healthiest diet foods into your daily regimen, should you consider soybeans? Possibly yes, possibly no. 

Soybeans one of the healthiest diet foods.
For good reasons, many people include soybeans (including their variants tofu and edamame) in their list of good-for-you foods. But scientists and health professionals also caution that there are possible risks to soybean cooking

Before you throw the baby out with the soybean oil, let's look at both sides of the soybean health debate so  you can make an informed choice in your diet.

The Benefits of Soybeans

The soybean has been a part of the human diet for almost 5,000 years. It’s a versatile product, eaten in various forms, including:
  • Whole soybeans: One of the most popular forms is as Edamame, which is prepared from immature soybeans that are still in the pod. The pods are first boiled or steamed and then served with salt. These green soy beans are found in Japanese, Chinese, and Hawaiian diets, on restaurant menus and in the freezer section of grocery stores.
  • Soy protein isolate: In this form, it is often added to such products as soy sausage patties, protein shakes, and soybean burgers. 
  • Soy flour: It is often used as a high-protein or gluten-free substitute to other flours.
  • Tofu: A curd made from mashing soybeans, coagulating the resulting soy juice and then pressing the curds into soft white blocks, mostly used in Asian or vegetarian cooking. 
Eight key soybean benefits:
soybean benefits
The benefits of soybeans are many.
  1. High protein – Unlike most plant foods, the soybean is high in protein, similar in quality to meat protein. And yet it’s also a good source of fiber, which no common meat source can boast.
  2. Phytonutrient-rich – Soybeans contain many active phytochemicals with antioxidant benefits, including phytoestrogen phenolic acids, and the isoflavone Genistein. Collectively, these have possible anti-tumor properties and may aid in prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis.
  3. Affordability – Soy is a considerably cheaper protein source than meat.
  4. Cholesterol – Many scientific studies reveal that soy in the diet can lower bad cholesterol in the body. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adding 25 grams per day of soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, can reduce the risk of heart disease.
  5. Menopause – Some studies indicate that soy may also reduce symptoms of menopause and the risk of osteoporosis. Soy products may possibly prevent certain hormone-dependent cancers, including breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and prostate cancer.
  6. Diabetes – Soy protein may help reduce insulin resistance, kidney damage, and fatty liver in people with diabetes, according to a study in rats.
  7. Hypertension – A recent study shows that eating soybean protein appears to prevent and may help to treat hypertension.
  8. Bone loss – A study using soy milk revealed an anti-inflammatory effect, which may aid in the prevention of bone loss and cancer.

The Downsides of Soybeans

Not everything is rosy when it comes to soybeans. While there are many soybean health benefits, be aware that:
  • Soybeans contain moderate amounts of a natural substance called purine, which in large amounts can make gout worse. Persons with gout should not eat a lot of soy products.
  • In spite of the beneficial isoflavones in soy, there are other bioactive anti-cancer components in soy, such as protease inhibitors, lignans, phytosterols and saponins, although you can reduce these risks by eating soy as close to whole form as possible.
  • For individuals who are allergic to soy, side effects include stomachaches, constipation, and diarrhea.
  • Some research indicates an increase in male infertility with sufficient consumption of soy products.
  • Soy contains phytoestrogens that may have some of the effects of the human estrogen hormone if consumed in large quantities.
  • Based on some studies, the Israeli government advises women with breast cancer or a high risk of it to consult their doctors about soy in their diets. From related data, the country’s health ministry also issued recommendations that soy consumption be limited in young children, avoided in infants, and consumed in moderation in adults due to potential cancer concerns, pending authoritative future studies.
  • Drug interaction risks with soy products include warfarin, aspirin, and thyroid-replacement drugs.
With all these precautions are soybeans healthy or not? There is no question that, while they may not belong in everyone's healthful diet plan, there are many health benefits of edamame, soybeans, and tofu when you modify your nutritional eating habits with the above cautions.

Soybean Recipes

The soybean is a remarkably flexible food with a wide range of dietary uses in health recipes. To get you started, here are some of my favorites:
If you have a favorite soy health recipe, please share it, or the link to it, in the comments below.

Soy research

Want to dig a little deeper into the fascinating subject of soybeans? Here are some helpful links:
Is soy a part of your diet? Use the comments section to share your opinions on whether it should or should not be. 

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

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