If you are someone who attempts to eat all food groups in healthy quantities, you know that finding lean sources of protein can be quite challenging – especially if you are a vegetarian, vegan or have any other dietary restrictions. Soy protein is a great option for you!
Soy is a good source of a complete plant protein containing many beneficial nutrients such as proteins, fiber, unsaturated fat, antioxidants and phytoestrogens. It is useful in displacing animal foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Soy has been scrutinized in the medical community for years due to its phytoestrogen content. Phytoestrogens act as a weak form of estrogen and have the ability to mimic its effect on the body. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries and testes and can be associated with the development of some cancers (breast and endometrial). The main phytoestrogens in soy are called isoflavones.
Many individuals are hesitant in consuming soy protein due to claims of it increasing the risk of cancer. It is important to note that studies in regards to this are very conflicting. Thus far there is no evidence of soy causing an increased risk in cancer. Soy can act as a weak estrogen in some cases and also block the actions of estrogen in other situations.
Here are the Top 4 health benefits to Soy:
1. Soy Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer
- Soy food intake (5-10 mg of isoflavones) actually reduced the risk of breast and prostate cancer in most studies
- Soy food consumption starting at a younger age may be protective against breast cancer
- Incidence of certain types of cancer are known to be lower in populations that consume a typical Asian diet which is high in soy products
2. Soy Can Ease Menopause
- Soy may ease the following menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, low libido, reduced bone density and fatigue
3. Soy and Cardiovascular Disease
- Soy was found to improve glycemic control, reduce cholesterol levels and decrease inflammatory markers
4. Soy and Osteoporosis prevention and treatment
- Soy can be used to improve bone density
Although there are some amazing health benefits to soy, it is important to be aware that excess soy consumption can have potential negative effects.
Here is a list of cons associated with soy:
- Soy can suppress thyroid function
- Soy supplementation may not be beneficial for estrogen dominant female conditions and testosterone sensitive male reproductive conditions
- Soybeans are rich in anti-nutrients (Phytic acid) which can block the uptake of essential nutrients
Be sure to consume soy protein that is non-GMO and fermented, as this optimizes protein and isoflavone availability as well as absorption in the body. Some brands that carry non-GMO soy protein include: NOW Foods. If soy consumption in your regular diet is high, then it is best to choose an alternate source of protein powder supplement, such as whey or pea protein.
In a nutshell, opt for natural whole protein sources of soy like beans, lentils, nuts seeds, edamame, tofu and tempeh and/or organic non-GMO soy protein powder. Naturopathic ethos revolves around the notion of everything in moderation. Thus, soy protein in moderate amounts is not harmful to health and can be beneficial to overall health.
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