Nutritional Benefits Of Soy

The benefits of soy are numerous. It provides us with many compounds that are known to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer

For decades, soy has only been found in health food stores, laughed at by those of us who eat "normal" food. Soy aficionados may have the last laugh! Preliminary results of research being done on soy have displayed some very exciting data. Compounds found in soy and its "family"-tofu tempeh and soy milk- have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, lower cholesterol levels, and lessen some of the discomfort of menopause.

In fact some research is pointing toward the addition to soy in the diet of menopausal women as a possible supplement or alternative to estrogen replacement therapy. A study conducted at the Brighton Medical Clinic in Victoria, Australia showed that women who were given 1-1/2 ounces of soy flour every day for 3 months lowered the occurrence of hot flashes by a whopping 40%. The healing agents in soy are phytoestrogens. These are weaker versions of the estrogen women produce naturally, which run the range of benefits including blocking some of the negative effect of natural estrogen and supplementing estrogen levels when the body is running low. By blocking the overproduction of estrogen, which is thought to cause breast tumors, soy can lower the overall risk of breast cancer. In pre-menopausal women, it is also believed that the consumption of soy can lengthen the menstrual cycle. By doing so, the estrogen surges that happen at the beginning of the cycle occur with less frequency, thus reducing the lifelong exposure to the hormone.

Soy is not just beneficial to women though, men can also benefit from the phytoestrogens found in soy. It is believed that the testosterone level in men can be affected by the consumption in soy, lowering the occurrence of prostate cancer, the growth and spread of which is believed to be fueled by the male hormone testosterone. Also, research has shown that soy can increase the activity of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol receptors. These are traps on the surface of cells that grab LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream and ship them off to the liver where the are excreted. By lowering the amount of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, it is less likely that it will be damaged and stick to artery walls, which leads to heart disease. In 38 studies analyzed by James W Anderson, MD, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the Veteran's Administration Center at the University of Kentucky College in Lexington, he and his colleagues concluded that consuming 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of soy protein per day ,as opposed to animal protein lowered total cholesterol by 9% and lowered LDL cholesterol by 13%. Obviously, this type of reduction also lower the risk of heart disease , as every one percent reduction in cholesterol level lowers your risk of heart disease by 2 percent.

In addition to all of these disease fighting benefits, soy also has nutritional benefits. A half cup of tofu can provide 40% of your daily value DV of protein, 25% of your DV of calcium, and a whopping 87%-130% DV of iron. To get the most benefits from tofu, be sure to add them at the end of the cooking process. Overcooking soy can cause it to lose much of the phytoestrogen content. Also when buying soy, be sure to purchase soy that is not reduced fat. The full fat soy contains the highest amount of phytoestrogens . But don't worry, the fat contained in soy is polyunsaturated, which is not as dangerous as other types of fat found in meats and many dairy foods.

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