Never before has eating one simple food held so much promise for health. Soy has been shown to reduce symptoms of menopause and PMS, protect against breast, prostate, and colon cancer, build bone and prevent osteoporosis, regulate blood sugar levels, protect against heart disease and Alzheimer’s, and lower cholesterol levels. In fact, the FDA has recently given the green light for soy food manufacturers to tout soy’s heart healthy benefits right on the label with the American Heart Association’s seal of approval.
Who would have imagined so much disease fighting power could be packed into one tiny pod?
For centuries, the Chinese and Japanese have enjoyed soybeans as a staple in their diet, providing an excellent source of protein. What’s interesting is that in these Asian cultures, we see lower incidences of breast cancer as well as PMS and menopausal symptoms in women, lower incidences of prostate cancer in men, and lower incidences of Alzheimer’s, even though the typical Asian lifespan is longer than that of ours in the United States. Research has now attributed these lower rates of chronic illness, in part, to their particularly high dietary consumption of soy.
So what gives soy such great healing power?
Soy is the only common food source of a class of plant hormones, or phytoestrogens, known as isoflavones, which appear to offer protection against a variety of ailments. It is these isoflavones, Genistein and Diadzein, that have been the focus of more and more research with quite beneficial findings.
Ease Menopause and PMS
Soy is what is known as an “adaptogenic” – the phytoestrogens in soy can have an estrogen like effect if your estrogen levels are low, and will actually bind to estrogen receptor sites and block estrogen if levels are too high. For this reason, soy is a great natural way to balance hormone levels and can be used as a safe alternative to hormone replacement therapy, offering most of the benefits, without the risks or side effects. Research has confirmed that soy protein as a regular part of the diet can relieve many of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, anxiety, headaches and insomnia. For these same reasons, soy is able to relieve similar symptoms associated with PMS as well as help regulate periods.
Studies have also shown that the phytoestrogens in soy can sharply reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer with their estrogen blocking effects, particularly cancer causing environmental estrogens known as xenoestrogens. Soy is the only food source that is a powerful antioxidant and offers many anticancer compounds that inhibit tumor growth.
Soy consumption also helps bones and offers protection against osteoporosis. Soy not only helps prevent bone loss, but also has been shown to actually build bone – a benefit HRT cannot offer. Additionally, many soy products contain calcium – another boost for your bones, and when you eat soy protein rather than animal protein, your body excretes less calcium. Quite a case for the bone building benefits of soy!
Also, ipriflavone, a derivative of the soy isoflavone diadzein, has been shown in numerous studies to increase bone density and prevent further bone loss.
Perhaps the biggest claim to fame for soy is its ability to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Soy has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on blood vessel reactivity, which may be why it is helpful with migraine headaches. The fiber, isoflavones and antioxidants in soy all provide wonderful cardiovascular benefits.
So Just Say Soy!
With all these health benefits, it’s hard to say no to such a miracle food. And for those of you who say all this talk of soy conjures up thoughts of white lumps of tasteless tofu available at health food stores and Asian markets as a non-meat protein alternative for health fanatics – not so. Soy is for everyone who wants to reap its many benefits. And, with so many good tasting soy food alternatives readily available today – it’s easy to incorporate soy into your diet.
Here are a few particularly tasty recommendations that seem to go over quite well, even with the most resistant soy consumer.
One of the simplest easiest ways to add soy to your diet is with a high quality soy protein shake. My recommendation is the OptiPRO S by PhytoCeutical Formulations. Not only does it taste great and mix instantly, it’s all natural, contains no sugar and has been formulated specifically to mitigate symptoms of menopause, while protecting cardiovascular health, building bone density, preventing risk of cancer and helping with weight management.
Try using soymilk instead of cow’s milk. Ask for soymilk the next time you order your favorite coffee from the local coffee shop or try it over cereal or mixed with a soy protein powder for the added protein boost. The Silk brand has a pleasant taste, comes in a variety of flavors and is good by itself as a snack.
A handful of roasted soy nuts makes a great high protein, low carb snack. Many brands come in an assortment of flavors from unsalted to BBQ and Hot Cajun or even sweet Apple Cinnamon. Try a few brands to see which tastes and textures best suit your fancy.
Soy Nut Butter. If you have ever tasted it, I needn’t say more. A delicious alternative to peanut butter, soy nut butter is high in protein, lower in fat, and safe for all those allergic to peanuts. It’s only downfall is it’s highly addictive and the excuse you are getting your daily allowance of soy isoflavones will only work for a while.
Edamame, the steamed green soybeans popularized as an appetizer in Asian restaurants, make a wonderful snack or compliment to dinner or a salad. They are readily available fresh or frozen, in or out of their pods.
Tofu and Tempeh are still great sources of soy protein and are now available prepared as Burgers, Dogs and meat alternatives of all kinds. My favorites are Light Life’s Gimme Lean Sausage and Gardenburger’s frozen meals & wraps. These are particularly tasty and are enjoyed by even the finikiest, who are reluctant to try soy.
Just try adding a couple of these items into your diet, and sampling the ever growing market of great tasting soy products, and in just a short time, not only will you be reaping the health benefits, but you will be looking forward to three or four serving of soy a day.