The FDA claims having 25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a low-in-saturated-fat and cholesterol diet reduces heart disease risk.
Family: N.O. Fabaceae
Synonym: Coumestrol, daidzein, edamame, frijol de soya, genistein, greater bean, shoyu, soja, sojabohne, soybean
Habitat: The soybean is native to Southeastern Asia.
Soybean, classified as oilseeds, is an annual plant that does not grow more than five feet tall.
Part Used Medicinally:
Soybeans contain all the essential amino acids the body requires and is therefore a complete source of protein. Soybeans do not have any cholesterol, and are high in fiber. They have many vitamins, minerals, and phytochemical compounds (isoflavones). They are a rich source of calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, B-vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. Soybean oil is one of the few common vegetable oils that contain significant amount of aLNA and omega-6 fatty acids.
While the soybean’s high isoflavones, genistein and daidzein content prevents cancer, some consider it as the cause for thyroid and reproductive health problems. Isoflavones, with their estrogen-like properties, alleviate certain menopausal (hot flashes) and PMS symptoms. They also have favorable effects on cognitive function, particularly verbal memory and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Isoflavones are good for pre-menopausal women with cyclical breast pain and protect the body from hormone-related cancers. Soybean-rich diets can reduce testosterone levels in men. It is believed to be effective in preventing prostate cancer. Soy proteins provide antioxidants, reduce artery clogging plaques, improve blood pressure, boost the immune system, and lower the risk of atherosclerosis. Soy proteins lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and decrease blood clotting (thrombosis), which reduces the risk of heart attack and strokes. Their effect on HDL (good cholesterol) has not been proven. Soybeans are effective in treating gallbladder stones and Crohn’s disease. Their soluble fiber protects the body from cancers, such as colon and rectal malignancies. Soy proteins and soluble fibers help regulate glucose levels and kidney filtration especially in nephrotic syndrome. Soy is also effective in lowering blood pressure and sugar levels in individuals suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Natural soy milk contains about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk. Most commercially available soy milk is enriched with vitamins especially B12. Unlike cow’s milk it has little saturated fat and no cholesterol or casein, which many consider to be a benefit. It is also a rich source of lecithin and vitamin E.
Soy products contain sucrose as the basic disaccharide instead of galactose, it can safely replace breast milk in children with Galactosemia or in lactose-intolerant individuals. It is high in isoflavones, organic chemicals, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are good for the heart.
- Soy is traditionally considered to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Like milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, and wheat soy can also act as an allergen.
- While some studies claim soy protects against breast cancer, others show the estrogen-like effects of isoflavones may be harmful for women with breast cancer.
- Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility, hypothyroidism and thyroid cancer.
- Soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease in infants.
- Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders.
- Soy-rich foods increase the body’s vitamin D requirement.