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Soy products have been a part of the standard diet in China, Japan,
Indonesia, and other countries for centuries. In these countries,
it is known from personal experience that soy products can play an
important role in disease prevention. On the other hand, heavily-processed,
genetically-manipulated (non-organic) soy, or overuse of soy can be
By sampling traditional dishes from Japan, China and Indonesia, it can be seen that soy products make up a small to moderate part of the diet. Vegetables, whole grains, lean meats (e.g., fish), other legumes, etc. make up much of the diet. Such a balanced diet with the addition of ocassional use of small amounts of soy products provides the maximum health-building and disease prevention benefits. It is best to avoid getting sucked into any future "soy supplement hype" and stick to ocassional, small intake of healthier organic soy products such as tofu, tempeh, miso, soy milk, natto, tamari and shoyu.
Before detailing the benefits, Soy Info Online! has provided links to detailed nutrient compositions for each of the major organic soy products.
Soy Product Nutrient Charts
Soy Product Benefits
Traditional soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and soy milk are very high in protein. Tempeh has the highest percentage of protein of the traditional soy products providing approximately 22 grams of protein for each 4 ounce (113 gram) serving. Tofu provides approximately 9 grams of protein for a similar small serving size. The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for adult males (aged 25-50) is appoximately 63 grams and 50 grams for adult females (aged 25-50). Soy products can provide a significant portion of one's daily protein needs.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that the balance of amino acids (protein building blocks) in soy is not the same as meat. Because soy foods does not have an ideal balance of amino acids, some experts recommend taking in a little extra soy foods and/or combining soy products or legumes with a whole grain dish at meals where other protein (e.g., eggs, fish) is not eaten. The amino acids in whole grains combine well with amino acids in soy and legumes to make a more ideal balance of amino acids. If a person's diet is reasonably-balanced, however, there is usually no need to be concerned about getting enough protein.
Other legumes, nuts, and lean meats (e.g., fish) can provide are healthy sources of protein. It is best not to rely soley on soy foods for protein.
Several recent scientific studies have shown that a regular intake of traditional soy foods may help to prevent breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. One recent study related to soy products and prostate cancer determined that:
Researchers believe that the cancer protective effects from soy are due to the group of plant chemicals known as isoflavones, particularly genistein and daidzein. It is theorized that these isoflavones prevent cancer by inhibiting the growth of existing tumor cells (as opposed to preventing the development of tumor cells).
One epidemiological study showed that individuals who had high amounts of soy isoflavones measured in their urine (signifying that they had a regular intake of soy foods) had approximately one-half the breast cancer risk of those who had low amount of measured soy isoflavones in their urine.
Colon cancer rates (like breast and prostate cancers) are very low in countries with higher intakes of traditional soy products. Controlled scientific research related to soy products and colon cancer is still in the preliminary stages. One study in Hawaii found that vegetable fiber and certain vegetables and legumes (including soy products) help to lower the risk of colon cancer.
One study in Hawaii found soy product intake associated with lower risk of endometrial cancer. However, the effecs of soy and legumes were limited to women who had never been pregnant and never used estrogens. Other aspects of the diet lowered the risk as well, including vegetables grains, sea vegetables, and fruits.
It is known that in countries were traditional soy products are ingested regularly, the rates of cardiovascular diseases is low. There is some research that suggests that soy foods may help to prevent heart disease by reducing total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure and possibly preventing plaque buildup in the arteries (atherosclerosis). It is believed that the isoflavones from soy foods are the primary factors involved in these beneficial health effects.
One cup of tofu contains approximately 20% (204 mg) of the U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium intake (1000 mg) for adults 19-50 years old. Tempeh contains approximately 15% (154 mg) of the RDA. Soy Milk is not quite as good a source of calcium according to the USDA nutrient charts. In most countries, calcium intake is well below the RDA figures and there are little problems with osteoporosis largely because of the regular physical activity (esp. weight-bearing exercise) in these countries. Therefore, a moderate intake of soy products such as tempeh and tofu along with regular exercise may help prevent osteoporosis.
Another factor in the possible effectiveness of soy to prevent osteoporosis may be its content of the group of plant chemicals known as Isoflavones. Several studies have suggested that the isoflavones in soy products may be a factor in helping to prevent bone loss. In fact, one study in animals showed that soy intake may be as extremely effective in suppression of bone loss. However, preliminary results from human studies appear to indicate that the benefit may not be as great in humans.
There is some scientific evidence that soy products may help to prevent or alleviate menopausal symptoms. However, the research is still in a preliminary stage.
Probiotics refer to friendly bacteria which contribute to the health of the intestinal tract. Unpasturized miso contains a significant amount of healthy friendly bacteria. In addition, probiotic foods contain a "supernatant" which refers to the growth medium of the beneficial bacteria. The supernatant contains chemicals which are very powerful for inhibiting pathenogenic bacteria and fungus. It protects the probiotic bacteria from stomach acids and provides food for the bacteria to help them flourish once they reach their destination in the intestines.
A selection of the positive health effects of probiotics can be summarized with the following excerpts from "Probiotics" by Leon Chaitow, D.O. and Natasha Trenev:
It is not necessary to ingest large amounts of probiotic foods such as miso. In fact, it may be detrimental to do so because of the high sodium content of these probiotic foods. But regular or semi-regular ingestion (3-6 days per week) of probiotic foods such as miso can be a very healthy practice. For example, many people have a small cup of miso soup (using unpasturized miso) a few times per week.
There are other fermented probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, wine, natural and unflavored yogurt, etc. One advantage of miso is that persons who are sensitive to fermented foods can often tolerate the ingestion of miso. Please see the Cookbooks Section for books with miso recipes.
In addition to being a good source of protein and calcium, soy products such as tempeh and tofu are moderately rich in important minerals such as zinc, magnesium, iron and selenium.
SoyInfo.com is an independant entity and the opinions expressed therein are the sole responsibility of their owners. Life Research Universal brings this to you as a source of useful information only . Challenges or comments can be made to: SoyInfo.com directly and by sending LRU a copy at: LRU Reports