The Many Health Benefits of Soy Protein

Not just for hippies and vegetarians:

Many of us avoid vegetarian products and dishes – perhaps we feel there is something a little odd about a meal containing no meat! Meat free choices are available in almost all restaurants and being a vegetarian, or even a vegan, has probably never been easier. However, the rest of us meat eaters can also benefit from increasing the amount of soy protein in our regular diet – give the edamame a try next time you go for sushi, or try the tofu at your local salad bar and you may be pleasantly surprised.

A healthy choice:

Soy products make great alternatives or substitutes for meat. The protein found in soy is extremely healthy due to its low fat content and that it is a complete protein – that is to say, soy protein contains all of the nine amino acids essential for healthy body functions including maintain healthy DNA and metabolism. Not only is soy a great source of healthy, high quality protein, it is also an excellent source of fiber – something sadly lacking in many western diets. Soy protein is cholesterol free and low in saturated fat – a known risk factor for heart disease. Half a cup of cooked soybeans provides one third of the daily protein requirement and contains only 149 calories (a similar serving of cooked beef has around 230 calories)These health benefits mean that soy protein is an excellent alternative to meat, poultry, eggs and even fish and, can be freely used in most recipes as a substitute.

All about soy:

Soybeans are legumes – in the same food group as cannellini beans, kidney beans, haricot beans etc. Soybeans are easily available in various formats – dried, canned, fresh, and frozen or in the guise of edamame, (the name given to soybeans harvested before reaching full maturity). There are many soybean products available which makes incorporating this great healthy protein into your diet even easier –

  • Roasted soybeans are sold as soy nuts or made into soy butter
  • Soy milk and yogurt
  • Tofu – available in textures ranging from silky to extra firm
  • Miso – fermented soy paste
  • Tempeh – used in sandwiches as a meat alternative, often grilled and eaten as a standalone food item
  • Food products made from soy include burgers, cereals, energy bars

Checking the labels of the food we buy is something that more and more of us do on a regular basis – is you notice the words ‘soy protein isolate’ this is an indication that the protein content of that product is mainly soy based.

A wonder bean!

Other benefits of including soy as a regular part of your diet come from its phytochemical content – which includes isoflavones – thought to reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and breast cancer.Soy products such as miso and tempeh, which have been fermented, are thought to provide nutrients in a way that is more easily absorbed by the human body. Including at least three servings of soy in your daily diet will provide many benefits and is easy to do when using soy-milk, yogurt or tofu for example. As with most foods it is of more benefit, where possible, to choose the less processed form of the soybean when it is closer to its original form.

A word of caution:

Whilst it is safe to say that we would all benefit from including more soy in our diet there are some products that should, at present, be avoided.

  • Soy isoflavone supplements – these products fail to provide the full nutritional benefits of soybeans and, it is not yet understood what the safe intake of these supplements is.
  • Products containing soy protein isolates, although low in saturated fat, are generally high in sodium content and artificial additives and so should not be relied upon as a staple part of your diet.

Increasing soy intake:

It is a simple process to include more soy protein in your diet – whether you are a vegetarian or a meat eater who wants to cut back a little.

  • Replacing some of your every day products with soy protein is a great way to ease yourself into getting used to soy in your diet.
  • Use soy nuts instead of your usual snacking choice. Replace peanut butter with soy butter
  • Use unsweetened soy milk in place of your regular choice milk

Incorporating soy protein into your diet in place of meat may take a little longer to get the hang of but is still easy enough for most of us to do.

  • Use steamed or boiled edamame in place of chickpeas in your hummus recipe.
  • Season cooked edamame with the seasoning of your choice and use as a snack option
  • Choose silken tofu to thicken sauces, dips or smoothies
  • Choose firm or extra firm tofu for stir-fry, grilling or baking. When using tofu always ensure that you first remove any excess moisture – place the tofu between two sheets of clean kitchen towel, place a heavy pan on top and leave for about an hour. When using tofu in cooking it can be marinated in the same way as meat products and will absorb the flavors of the dish it is being used in.
  • Use whole soybeans in soups, chili or in salads.

It is easy to see that soy protein is versatile as well as healthy and should be included in any healthy well balanced diet.

Author’s Bio:

Natalia Z. is a one of the specialists – a  new health center which is responsible for bringing free and accurate medical information to the Internet.

 

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