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The Health Benefits of Soy Foods

Ms. Sarah Farooqi

2 min read

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Soybeans belong to the legume family, which is comprised of dried beans, lentils, and peas. Soy, or soya, is obtained from soybean plants. Unfortunately, most soybeans grown today are genetically modified. Soy is found in foods such as soy sauce, soy milk, miso, tempeh, and tofu. Soy is also added sometimes to foods such as cereals, bread, and meat products. It is high in protein and is used as a meat substitute for vegetarian products such as soy hot dogs and soy burgers and is also used as a lactose alternative. Although soy is native to East Asia, its popularity has made it one of the most widely cultivated legumes in the world. Here are some of the health benefits of soy foods:

  • Soy is a great source of plant protein. Studies have shown that including more plant protein than carbohydrates in your diet has cardiovascular benefits like lowering blood pressure.
  • Unlike animal protein which is high in cholesterol and fat, soy foods are low in saturated fat and cholesterol-free. You can substitute animal protein with soy a few times a week to reduce your overall risk for such diseases.
  • Soy foods are also a good source of polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol. Of particular importance are omega-3 fats, which are essential polyunsaturated fats found in soy that can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Soy-based foods are also consumed for their good source of fiber. Fiber is great for gut health and reduces cholesterol and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Intake of fiber-rich soy foods like edamame, soy nuts, black soybeans, tempeh, and soy flour can boost your dietary health.
  • Soy foods are rich in minerals and vitamins. They contain b-vitamins, zinc, iron and different antioxidants. Some soy foods are also fortified with calcium, vitamin B 12 and vitamin D so that vegetarians do not miss out on these essential nutrients.
  • It can also benefit women experieincing negative symtoms such as hot flashes, due to menopause. Although this does still require a larger and more comprehensive study
  • Soy also has some antioxidant properties, which can greatly benefit those who work out regularly since it will reduce the damage the excercise may do to their bodies.
  • Some studies have shown that soy can actually reduce the chances of breast cancer in women by a whopping 30%. This can be seen in the lower cancer rates of countries where more soy is consumed, such as Japan.

Although it is often said that there a lot of benefits of soy foods, it still remains controversial among the fitness community. This is because soy contains isoflavones, which are estrogen-like compounds. Some studies suggest that isoflavones can be cancerous, mess with thyroid function, and impair female fertility. At the same time, other studies have shown that intake of soy can bring down high cholesterol and help women with menopause symptoms. That’s why there is a lot of confusion regarding the consumption of soy foods. This variation in studies can be attributed to the huge variation in their methodology. They often use different ethnicities and different forms of soy to draw their conclusions and thus achieve different results.

Recent research has suggested that moderate consumption of soy foods that are minimally processed is not detrimental to health and has expressed that soy doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer. In fact, soy can help protect against certain types of cancers. Soy is also beneficial for fertility, as long as you don’t go overboard with your soy consumption. Even though soy foods don’t mess with thyroid functioning in individuals with healthy thyroids, people with an underactive thyroid should limit their intake of soy foods as overconsumption could interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication.

According to some studies, replacing protein gained from eating animal meat with more plant-based protien such as soy, can actually increase your lifespan. This is mainly due to its cardiovascular benefits but also an increase in fiber intake. This is great news for vegetarians who are looking for ways to remain fit and maintain a healthy amount of protien.

The bottom line is that there are a staggering number of benefits of soy foods, so long as you eat the minimally processed forms of soy such as tofu, miso, edamame, and tempeh, and consume a moderate amount. It also important to maintain a healthy diet overall as soy alone will not be able to make a person healthy. The key here, as with most things, is balance.

If you have an underlying health condition, talk to your doctor to work out the amount of soy that is right for you. You can find and book an appointment with top Nutritionists in Karachi, Multan and Islamabad through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Ms. Sarah Farooqi - Author Sarah Farooqi is a leading Dietician at Shapes and Founder at Better You. She worked as Nutritionist at Fatima Memorial Hospital and Sheikh Zaid Hospital previously. Sarah can be seen sharing her expertise in Shapes Newsletter and at seminars on various health and nutrition topics. Sarah's special interests include: Weight Management, Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension.
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