Daily Nutrition & Health
Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training 1 August 2023
Soy-based products are gaining in popularity – and not just among vegetarians who look to soy products to provide protein in the diet.
The humble soybean boasts some extraordinary nutritional benefits. Soy is the only vegetarian source of complete protein. This means that soy supplies all the essential amino acids – the building blocks that must be supplied by the diet because the body cannot manufacture them. In fact, the quality of soy protein is as good as animal sources of protein such as meat, eggs or milk products.
Protein is vital to life.
Our bodies require protein to manufacture muscle tissue, hormones, enzymes and other essential materials to keep the body functioning properly. And, adequate dietary protein helps keep hunger at bay.
Like other plant foods, soybeans contain naturally-occurring, beneficial phytonutrients in the form of compounds called isoflavones. Isoflavones are found in other beans, too, but soybeans are the richest source of these substances which can function as antioxidants.
Since animal sources of protein contain cholesterol – and plant foods do not – soy products like soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soybeans (edamame) and soy meat substitutes provide high quality protein without cholesterol.
Isolated soy protein is a high quality protein that is derived from soybeans. All the fat and carbohydrate has been removed from the soybeans, leaving a protein powder that can be incorporated into a variety of foods.
In 1999, the FDA issued a health claim for soy which stated that “25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease”. It has been observed that the risk of certain health conditions appears to be lower in countries where soy consumption is relatively high, and scientific research is ongoing to discover more about the health benefits of soy.
While the research continues, we can enjoy one of nature’s healthiest plants that has been a staple in the Chinese diet for over 5,000 years. A food that’s high in protein, cholesterol-free, and antioxidant rich - what more could you ask for?