What are the benefits of soy?

Soy contains a group of plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) called isoflavones. Two of these isoflavones, genestin and daidzen, are the substances believed to have protective effects on our health. Many aspects of health have been associated with eating soya including cancer prevention and reduced risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and menopausal symptoms, among others.

What has most interested scientists in recent years is the discovery of phytochemicals and the profound benefits of soy on human health. Benefits of soy include promoting heart health and healthy bones, preventing cancer and alleviating menopausal symptoms.
Soy beans contain high amounts of protein, including all essential amino acids (the only such vegetable source). Soy beans are also a rich source of calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber.

Osteoporosis

Another promising area for soy is bone health. Some studies have shown that soy foods rich in isoflavones favorably affect spine bone mineral density in peri- and post-menopausal women. It was believed that the isoflavone content contributed more than the soy protein. In these studies, 80 milligrams or more of isoflavones per day were found to be beneficial. The greatest benefits were obtained when soy protein was substituted for animal protein. In these cases, less calcium was excreted from the body, demonstrating diminished calcium loss. So far, studies have been small, and it’s not certain whether soy protects one’s bones over the long-term. Research is underway, and more information will be available soon.

Cancer

Since isoflavones in soy are plant estrogens, they act as weak forms of estrogen in the human body. Some experts disagree as to whether soy prevents or promotes cancer. Genestin may reduce natural estrogen cycles in women, decreasing risk of cancer, while others feel it may promote estrogen receptor positive forms of breast cancer. In laboratory, animal, population, and case-controlled studies, isoflavones have been shown to have protective effects against breast and prostate cancers. Results associated with colon cancer have been mixed. The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that randomized clinical trials are needed to better understand how all of this information applies to cancer prevention in humans.
For cancer survivors, the ACS acknowledges the conflicting scientific evidence on whether soy products are beneficial or harmful. They recommend that “moderate” amounts of soy can be part of a healthy, plant-based diet. ACS advocates against ingesting a high level intake of soy from pills, powders, and/or other supplements.

Heart Health

The cholesterol lowering effect of soy milk and its role of heart disease was widely recognized in the mid 90s when the results of a meta-analysis of 38 clinical studies were published. The results demonstrated that a diet with significant soy protein reduces Total Cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the “Bad” cholesterol) and Triglycerides.
The average consumption in these studies was 47 grams per day of soy protein, which is a considerable amount. One way to include this is to try a soy protein beverage or powder that may add 20 grams preserving. Soy protein was effective even in people who were already following the American Heart Association’s 30 percent-fat diet. Soy protein appears to lower triglyceride levels while preserving HDL cholesterol.

Benefits of Soy Milk

As the taste of commercial soy milk improves more and more people are drinking it as enjoyment. But many people drink soy milk for the added health benefits. So what are the benefits of drinking soy milk as compared to cow’s milk?

1 Soy milk contains only vegetables proteins

Vegetable proteins have the advantage that they cause less loss of calcium through the kidneys. It is known that a diet rich in animal (and dairy protein) creates a higher risk for osteoporosis.

2 Soy milk contains no lactose

About 75 percent of the world population cannot tolerate lactose. Some ethnic groups are more affected than others. For example 75 percent of Africans and 90 percent of Asians have lactose intolerance. As an additional benefit, soy milk contains the prebiotic sugars stachyose and raffinose. These prebiotic sugars boost immunity and help decrease toxic substances in the body.

3 Fewer people are allergic to soy milk

Only 0.5 percent of the children are allergic to soy milk, whereas 2.5 percent is allergic to cow’s milk.

4 Soy milk reduces cholesterol

The saturated fats in cow’s milk are unhealthy and increase your cholesterol. The protein in cow’s milk has no benefits for the cholesterol. Soy protein can decrease cholesterol levels. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration of US) confirms that soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart. The FDA recommends to incorporate 25 grams of soy protein in your daily meals.

5 Soy milk contains no hormones

Cow’s milk contains natural hormones (from the cow) but also synthetic hormones, which can influence the good working of our own body. The synthetic hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) increase milk production by as much as 20 percent.

6 Soy milk does not cause insulin dependent diabetes

Although no general consensus exists among scientists, some studies have shown an association between drinking cow’s milk in early life and the development of insulin dependent diabetes. This association does not exist with soy milk.

7 Soy milk is rich in isoflavones

The presence of isoflavones is the most important and unique benefit of soy milk. Each cup of soy milk contains about 20 mg isoflavones (mainly genistein and daidzein). Cow’s milk does not contain isoflavones. Isoflavones have many health benefits including reduction of cholesterol, easing of menopause symptoms, prevention of osteoporosis and reduction of risk for certain cancers (prostate cancer and breast cancer). Incidents of these cancers are very low in countries with high intake of soy products, including soy milk. Isoflavones are also antioxidants which protect our cells and DNA against oxidation.

Sources: Health Castle, Soya

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