The benefits of eating soy

The richest dietary sources of phytoestrogens, soy foods — tofu, edamame, dried soybeans, soy milk, miso, tempeh — possess high-quality plant protein, lots of soluble fibre and a wealth of phytonutrients. These guidelines will show you how to maximize the benefits of soy by incorporating more into your diet.

The benefits of eating soy

What’s in it?

  1. Beta-sistosterol: A type of plant sterol, beta-sistosterol is under review for its potential to lower cholesterol and to relieve symptoms associated with prostate enlargement.
  2. Genistein and daidzein: These two powerful isoflavone phytoestrogens may protect against osteoporosis by inhibiting calcium loss from bones and increasing bone mineral density and content. Gen­­i­stein and daidzein may also help to prevent heart disease, prostate cancer and some forms of breast cancer. Soy foods are the richest sources of the isoflavones genistein and daidzein.
  3. Lignans: Experimental research suggests that these phytoestrogens with antioxidant properties may prevent harmful changes in cells, particularly those leading to breast, colon and prostate cancer.
  4. Phytic acid: This phytochemical may neutralize cancer-causing free radicals in the intestines.
  5. Protease inhibitors: Preliminary research indicates that a protease inhibitor unique to soy foods, Bowman-Birk Inhibitor (BBI), may slow enzyme production in cancer cells and reduce intestinal tumours.
  6. Saponins: These plant compounds have anticancer and cardioprotective properties and may help to raise levels of cancer-fighting immune cells, prevent bile acids from becoming cancerous agents in the colon and lower cholesterol levels.

Maximizing the benefits

To preserve phytoestrogen content, minimize cooking time for tofu and miso by adding them late in the cooking process.

Health bites

Manufacturers of soy products containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving state that daily consumption of soy protein (at least 25 grams), in conjunction with a low-fat diet, can lower cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.

Add more to your diet

  • Use diced tofu to replace some of the cheese in lasagna or macaroni and cheese.
  • Substitute soy milk for cow's milk in puddings, custards or smoothies.
  • Steam edamame (fresh soybeans) in their pods, then shell them. Add the beans to grain or vegetable salads.
  • Make a miso-carrot salad dressing. Whisk 30 millilitres (two tablespoons) of shiro miso into carrot juice along with 10 grams (two teaspoons) of sesame oil, some ground ginger and some wasabi paste.
  • Use soybeans in classic bean recipes such as chili or baked beans, but precook them before starting the recipe, because they can take several hours to soften.
  • Puree soft silken tofu with basil, garlic, almonds and a little Parmesan, and use as a pasta sauce.
  • Cut up firm silken tofu, drizzle honey over it, and serve in a fruit salad with melon and grapes.
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