Updated: Mar 3, 2020
What is Soy?
Soy is made of soybeans, a legume that is native to Asia. It is a complete protein, which means that it contains the 9 essential amino acids.
Although soy is a complete protein and contains all the amino acids it is low in tryptophan and methionine. By pairing soybeans with brown rice, this will add more of these amino acids. Tryptophan and methionine are two amino acids and are part of the protein building blocks of tissue, skin, hair, muscles etc. Tryptophan helps with sleep quality and mood, where methionine helps produce molecules critical for normal cell functioning.
Soy contains minimal saturated fat.
Soy contains phytonutrients apigenin, ferulic acid, gibberellins, isoflavones (including genistein and daidzein), kaempferol, luteolin, and quercetin. Phytonutrients are chemicals that are produced by the plant which contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Soy is a phytosterol. Phytosterols are steroid-like molecules found in several foods that are like estrogens. This is where soy and phytosterols are misunderstood. They differ from estrogen, so the effect is only mild and lasts short term. They can lock into estrogen receptors and stimulate them, thus mimicking their actions and in turn the function of these hormones. They can mimic estrogen like functions but are not an estrogen.
According to imedpub Phytosterols may produce health benefits in animals/humans such as reduction of cholesterol levels with decreased risk of coronary heart diseases, anti- inflammatory activities, induction of apoptosis (death of cells) in cancer cells, disease prevention and treatment.
Soy contains the phytonutrient isoflavones which are anti-angiogenic (they prevent blood vessel growth to tumors).
Lignans that are found in soy are protective against hormone related cancers. Lignans are parts of plants that have antioxidant and estrogen properties, both of which can help lower the risk of cancer and improve overall health.
The isoflavones daidzein and genstein, which have been shown to reduce urinary excretion of calcium, stimulate bone growth, inhibit bone loss and stimulate calcitonin release (hormone released by the thyroid to help with calcium balance). Other benefits of isoflavones may include protection against age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, hormone-dependent cancer and loss of cognitive function. (Study)
According to this study Study soy products reduced LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol.
Please note that soy is considered goitrogenic vegetables. Goitrogens are naturally occurring substances found in foods that block the absorption and utilization of iodine. (They are also in vegetables in the brassica family only in their raw state, heat destroys the goitrogenic action). It is unknown if the fermented form is goitrogenic.
There are mixed studies done on the goitrogenic effect of soy on iodine absorption in the body. Some studies (Study) say that there is only minimal to no effect on iodine absorption as long as the iodine intake is adequate.
Using the land to grow soy is a much more productive use of land than raising meat. Raising soy can provide up to 20 times more protein per acre than raising beef can.
Best Types of Soy –
Soy is important to buy organic. Most of the soy that is grown in the US is Genetically modified and we do not know the effects on GMO’s in the long term. The organic certification cannot be used on GMO foods.
GMO soy also contains the controversial pesticide glyphosate. According to studies GMO soy that contains glyphosate contains less nutrients than the organic version. (Study)
Types of Soy -
Edamame/Whole Soybeans – Whole soy products are the least processed and include soybeans and edamame, which are immature (green) soybeans. Soymilk and tofu are also made from whole soybeans.
Fermented Soy – Tempeh (Fermented Soy Cake), Soy Sauce (soy, roasted grains, salt, water and a type of mold/yeast)
Processed Foods – Soy is used as a filler in many foods. It is also made into a wide variety of vegan/vegetarian products such as soy cheese, soy yogurt, and meat alternatives.
Soy Isolate – A processed soy protein found in protein powders, and protein balls.
Water Washed Soy Protein – This is one of my favourite protein powders. It is a whole food protein that is minimally processed through a water washing process. This retains a lot more nutrients than a soy isolate protein. This specific protein also contains fiber, and fruits and vegetables. It is gluten free, low fat, no cholesterol, no artificial flavourings, no colouring, no preservatives, no wheat, dairy or eggs, no caffeine or herbs, and is kosher.
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