So, What’s the Deal With Soy?

Soy products are popping up everywhere in our supermarket—even in skin creams and lotions. Why is the humble soybean receiving so much attention?

Soy has many health benefits and can act as a perfect substitute for many of your favorite unhealthy food choices. As milk, veggie burgers and soy cheeses, or as the perfect addition to any stir-fry, regular consumption of soy can help reduce your risk of heart disease, ease the symptoms of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis.

Soy for a Healthy Heart
In October 1999, the Food and Drug Administration gave manufacturers permission to label products that contain soy with the health claim, "May help lower the risk of heart disease". This health claim is only allowed if the product has 6.25 grams or more of soy protein per serving and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This number came from studies that found a diet containing as little as 25 grams of soy protein per day can help to reduce LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol), as well as reduce hypertension. However, ingesting 25 grams of soy protein per day without following a proper diet will not produce heart health benefits.

Cancer-Fighthing Benefits
Studies show that regular consumption of soy products may protect against some forms of cancers such as breast, uterine and prostate.

Soy contains compounds called isoflavones, which are also known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are the plant form of estrogen. They appear to be equivalent to the human form of estrogen, without negative side effects. It is believed that isoflavones are the cancer-fighting compounds of soy, acting by blocking a protein called tyrosine kinase, which promotes the growth of tumor cells.

Studies show a positive relationship between moderate soy intake and a decrease in cancer rates. Other studies report these anticancer benefits are greater when soy is consumed throughout a lifetime, particularly starting in the preadolescent years. More research is needed in this area to make a direct connection between soy intake and reduced cancer rates.

Women’s Health
Soy has been found to relieve symptoms of menopause. The isoflavones in soy mimic the effects of human estrogen, easing symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause, such as hot flashes and bloating.

Where Can I Find Soy?
Soy can be found in many products, such as cake and pancake mixes, desserts, cereals, margarines and oils. Soy protein can also be found in meat and cheese substitutes such as, soy burgers, veggie meats, soy cheeses, soy yogurts and soy sour cream.

More traditional and less processed forms of soy include:

Tofu: A white, flavorless substance that is usually found in blocks. It is made from cooked and pureed soybeans that have been pressed into this shape. It comes in three different textures: firm, soft and silken. It is best to use silken tofu in smoothies, dips and pies, and firm tofu in stir-frys.

Soymilk: Also called a soy beverage, you can use soymilk as you would regular milk—over cereal, in beverages or for cooking. Soymilk is particularly useful for those who have a milk allergy or who are lactose intolerant. Look for brands that are fortified with calcium. Similar to regular milk, soymilk should be discarded after it has been in the refrigerator for longer than 7 to 10 days.

Soy flour: This is made by grinding roasted soybeans into a fine powder. This flour adds extra protein to any recipe. It can be used in baked goods and used as an egg substitute.

Textured soy protein: This is made from defatted soy flour that is compressed and dehydrated. It can be used as a meat substitute or along with meat in dishes such as meat loaf. Try Truestar’s vegetarian chili recipe.

Tempeh: Made from whole, cooked soybeans that are formed into a chewy mass and used as a meat substitute.

Miso: A fermented soybean paste that is used for seasonings and in soup.

Soy nuts: A great snack, soy nuts are available in many flavors, such as BBQ and salt and vinegar. Start by adding one serving of soy to your diet daily to reap the health benefits.