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Health Benefits Of Soybean You Didn't Know

Health Benefits Of Soybean

Soybean is a versatile plant protein that is low in calories, carbohydrates, and fats, and is entirely devoid of cholesterol. It is rich in dietary fiber and contains essential fatty acids. Regular consumption of soybean is found to prevent cancer, delay menopause, strengthen bones, keep weight in check and fight cardiovascular diseases.

Soybean, in its various forms–milk, granules, flour, chunks, tofu, and oil–has been part of Asian diet for as long as one can remember. The first known cultivation of these legumes happened in China as early as 1100 BC. Archaeological data show that soybean was being cultivated in these regions for food by then. And by the 1st century AD, the legume, which is related to peas and peanuts, was being grown in Japan and surrounding southeast Asian countries.1

Soybean is often called the ‘miracle crop’ because of its various uses. It is known as one of the best sources of non-dairy, non-meat proteins and can be used in different forms. It is also categorized as oilseed, a generic reference to plants that can produce oil. Since it is a very resilient plant, soybean can be grown in different kinds of soil conditions. Today the maximum types and the largest quantity of soybean are grown in the US.2

Soybean is a major part of the South Asian diet. It is this cuisine that has shown the world how soybean can be eaten in different forms like tofu, miso, soy sauce, and tempeh. According to studies on the bean, soy has high protein and vitamin content but low in calories, carbohydrates, and fats, and is entirely devoid of cholesterol. This versatile legume is fast becoming a food staple in many kitchens because it is easily digestible and provides an alternate protein source to those allergic to dairy products, especially milk proteins. Almost 38 percent of the bean is protein, 18 percent is lecithin, which is an oil body, has soluble carbs and 15 percent of the bean is dietary fiber. It also contains essential fatty acids like linoleic acid, oleic acid, and linolenic acid. It also has 9 essential amino acids that are important for a healthy body.3

Isoflavonoids, The Magic In Soy

It is a proven fact that eating soybean on a regular basis in any form has many health benefits. What makes soybean such a healthy legume is the presence of isoflavonoids, a major phenolic phytochemical.4

In fact, isoflavonoids or isoflavones are a type of flavonoid that has strong antioxidant and protective properties and are often prescribed as a nutraceutical to improve overall health condition. Soybean is the richest known source of isoflavones, which prevent several ailments including various forms of cancer, atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia etc.5

Moreover, isoflavones are a common form of phytoestrogens6, a non-steroidal, plant-based compound which acts like estrogen. It can prevent hormone-dependent cancers like breast and prostate cancers, osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms. In fact, soy-based phytoestrogen is being seen as a substitute for animal-based estrogen used in estrogen replacement therapy.7

Let’s take a look at the health benefits of soybean.

1. Prevents Cancer

When you notice the low incidence of cancer among people living in the South Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea compared to the population in the western world, it is evident that their diet plays a major role in preventing the disease. National Cancer Institute in the US suggests that since the South Asian diet consists of high levels of soybean, which contains known anticarcinogens, people eating that diet are bound to have lower chances of cancer. The experimental studies have shown that having soybean on a regular basis has a protective effect on hormone and non-hormone related cancers.8

Soy protein also helps in regulating the menstrual cycle and in increasing the length of follicular phase and delaying the onset of menstruation. This, in turn, lowers the risk of breast cancer in women.9

2. Protects Bones, Makes Them Stronger

The soy isoflavones, which are strong antioxidants, also help in protecting the bones and preventing bone loss. This becomes important for women who are in the perimenopause stage and experience bone density loss as they transition to menopause. In a 24-week clinical study, where perimenopausal women were given soy isoflavones on a daily basis, it was seen that there was a positive change in the bone mass density of the lumbar spine. It shows that having soybean foods can have a beneficial effect on bones.10

3. Prevents Cardiovascular Damage

If you are looking to control your cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease, then it is a good idea to swap some of the animal protein in your diet with vegetable protein. Clinical studies show that replacing animal protein with soy protein helps in decreasing the serum concentration of total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides without impacting the HDL levels.11

Taking soy-based foods not only improves cardiovascular health but overall bodily systems because of the polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are present in them.12

4. Keeps Weight In Check

When you eat a high soy protein diet your metabolism improves and it has a positive effect on your overall weight. High soy, low-fat diet actually lowers the BMI and improves lipid profile. As a result, you are able to lose body fat while retaining muscle mass. This is a good way to deal with obesity or excessive weight.13

Is Black Soy A Better Option?

  • Black soybean has high levels of fiber and contains over 40 percent of protein which is better than regular soybean. It also has essential micro-elements like zinc, copper, magnesium, selenium, and phosphorus that are important for the healthy body.14
  • Black soybean has additional health benefits as well. It can help deal with iron deficiency and related anemia. Black soybean extracts actually regulate iron metabolism in the body and help in alleviating anemic conditions.15
  • Research also shows that black soy peptides also help in weight management. When black soy protein was given to obese people on a daily basis, they noticed a big change in the body weight and body fat mass.16

4 Ways To Have Soybean

Soybean, though a legume, is quite versatile in the way it can be added to your diet. The best thing about this is that whichever way you eat it, the benefits you get is almost the same.

So you can eat your soy:

1. As Bean Seeds

Green soybean, called edamame, can be had as a salad. In this, the seeds are still in the pod. You can also eat sprouted bean seeds if you want to up your daily intake of antioxidant isoflavone. When you germinate soybean seeds, you are actually increasing the levels of soy isoflavones in it, which is important for good health.17

2. As Milk

Soy milk, which is made by soaking, grinding and straining the seeds, is a good source of phytoestrogen. It can be had daily to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Research shows that men who drink big quantities of soy milk have lower chances of getting prostate cancer.18

Soy milk is also a good substitute for cow’s milk and can be had by those who are lactose intolerant. It also helps in lowering lipid count that helps in managing weight and cardiovascular diseases.19

3. As Tofu And Miso

Both tofu and miso are fermented versions of soybean. While miso is made from fermented soybean paste, tofu, also called bean curd is made from fermented soy milk. Both are known to be excellent sources of the antioxidant soy isoflavones that the original bean is so rich in. Tofu is also a good source of not just protein, but also iron and calcium. Since both are fermented, they also have a probiotic benefit on the stomach. Miso, with its sweet-salty taste, is a major flavoring agent in Asian food.

4. As Oil

It is a good cooking medium and is a healthier option as it is rich in poly and monounsaturated fats. It is low in trans fat, and even in oil form, it retains high levels of antioxidants. Soy oil can be used on a regular basis to add dietary fatty acids that do not impact the cardiovascular health. It improves overall health.20

References   [ + ]

1. History of Soybeans. NCSOY.
2. Soybean-The Miracle Crop. USSEC.
3. Singh, Preeti, R. Kumar, S. N. Sabapathy, and A. S. Bawa. “Functional and edible uses of soy protein products.” Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety 7, no. 1 (2008): 14-28.
4. McCUE, P. A. T. R. I. C. K., and Kalidas Shetty. “Health benefits of soy isoflavonoids and strategies for enhancement: a review.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 44, no. 5 (2004): 361-367.
5. Faraj, Abdul, and Thava Vasanthan. “Soybean isoflavones: Effects of processing and health benefits.” Food Reviews International 20, no. 1 (2004): 51-75.
6. Tham, Doris M., Christopher D. Gardner, and William L. Haskell. “Potential health benefits of dietary phytoestrogens: a review of the clinical, epidemiological, and mechanistic evidence 1.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 83, no. 7 (1998): 2223-2235.
7. Cos, Paul, Tess De Bruyne, Sandra Apers, Dirk Vanden Berghe, Luc Pieters, and Arnold J. Vlietinck. “Phytoestrogens: recent developments.” Planta medica 69, no. 07 (2003): 589-599.
8. Messina, Mark J., Victoria Persky, Kenneth DR Setchell, and Stephen Barnes. “Soy intake and cancer risk: a review of the in vitro and in vivo data.” Nutrition and cancer 21, no. 2 (1994): 113-131.
9. Cassidy, Aedin, Sheila Bingham, and K. D. Setchell. “Biological effects of a diet of soy protein rich in isoflavones on the menstrual cycle of premenopausal women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 60, no. 3 (1994): 333-340.
10. Alekel, D. Lee, Alison St Germain, Charles T. Peterson, Kathy B. Hanson, Jeanne W. Stewart, and Toshiya Toda. “Isoflavone-rich soy protein isolate attenuates bone loss in the lumbar spine of perimenopausal women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 72, no. 3 (2000): 844-852.
11. Anderson, James W., Bryan M. Johnstone, and Margaret E. Cook-Newell. “Meta-analysis of the effects of soy protein intake on serum lipids.” New England Journal of Medicine 333, no. 5 (1995): 276-282.
12. Sacks, Frank M., Alice Lichtenstein, Linda Van Horn, William Harris, Penny Kris-Etherton, and Mary Winston. “Soy protein, isoflavones, and cardiovascular health.” Circulation 113, no. 7 (2006): 1034-1044.
13. Deibert, P., D. König, A. Schmidt-Trucksaess, K. S. Zaenker, I. Frey, U. Landmann, and A. Berg. “Weight loss without losing muscle mass in pre-obese and obese subjects induced by a high-soy-protein diet.” International journal of obesity 28, no. 10 (2004): 1349-1352.
14. Jian-min, C. O. N. G. “Analysis of nutrition component in black soya bean [J].” Science and Technology of Food Industry 4 (2008): 085.
15. Mu, Mingdao, Aimin Wu, Peng An, Xiaoli Du, Qian Wu, Xiaoyun Shen, and Fudi Wang. “Black soyabean seed coat extract regulates iron metabolism by inhibiting the expression of hepcidin.” British Journal of Nutrition 111, no. 07 (2014): 1181-1189.
16. Kwak, Jung Hyun, Chang-Won Ahn, Soo-Hyun Park, Sung-Ug Jung, Byung-Jung Min, Oh Yoen Kim, and Jong Ho Lee. “Weight reduction effects of a black soy peptide supplement in overweight and obese subjects: double blind, randomized, controlled study.” Food & function 3, no. 10 (2012): 1019-1024.
17. Zhu, Danhua, Navam S. Hettiarachchy, Ronny Horax, and Pengyin Chen. “Isoflavone contents in germinated soybean seeds.” Plant Foods for Human Nutrition (Formerly Qualitas Plantarum) 60, no. 3 (2005): 147-151.
18. Jacobsen, Bjarne K., Synnøve F. Knutsen, and Gary E. Fraser. “Does high soy milk intake reduce prostate cancer incidence? The Adventist Health Study (United States).” Cancer Causes & Control 9, no. 6 (1998): 553-557.
19. Bricarello, Liliana P., Nelson Kasinski, Marcelo C. Bertolami, Andre Faludi, Leonor A. Pinto, Waldir GM Relvas, Maria CO Izar, Silvia SM Ihara, Sergio Tufik, and Francisco AH Fonseca. “Comparison between the effects of soy milk and non-fat cow milk on lipid profile and lipid peroxidation in patients with primary hypercholesterolemia.” Nutrition 20, no. 2 (2004): 200-204.
20. Deckelbaum, Richard J., and Claudia Torrejon. “The omega-3 fatty acid nutritional landscape: health benefits and sources.” The Journal of nutrition142, no. 3 (2012): 587S-591S.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.