Why soy?

Actually, the association between vegetable protein and reduced risk for heart disease is not very new information. Researchers have known about this association for quite some time. Soy is actually a vegetable protein that has come to the attention of researchers recently. The study of the effects of soy and its relation to chronic disease risk, including cardiovascular disease, has dramatically increased since this field began to emerge a few years ago. Dr. Anderson published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrating soy proteins ability to lower LDL cholesterol in study subjects. Just how soy protein works to lower LDL cholesterol is currently the hot topic for research. In three studies, soy protein was also demonstrated to raise HDL cholesterol.

Soy foods may also play a role in helping to control diabetes, which is another risk factor for heart disease. Soybeans are rich in soluble-fiber, which helps to keep blood sugars lower. Soy protein may also help improve kidney function, which is important for someone with diabetes. People with diabetes are at especially high risk for cardiovascular disease, as diabetics tend to have higher cholesterol levels, and soy protein may help to lower cholesterol levels. Soybeans are low in saturated fat and they are cholesterol-free. Plant foods are rich in a wide variety of compounds called phytochemicals. Soybeans contain a variety of phytochemicals, particularly one type of phytochemical called isoflavones. In various studies, isoflavones help to lower cholesterol levels. Isoflavones are being studied for a wide range of physiological effects that reach even beyond helping to combat heart disease. Soybeans are rich in nutrients, they are higher in protein and fat than other beans and are lower in carbohydrate content. Most of the fat in soybeans is unsaturated fat, however some soy foods have the fat removed.

How much soy should I consume?

Scientific studies show that 25 grams of soy protein daily in the diet is needed to show a significant reduction in cholesterol.

How can I incorporate more soy into my diet?

Although some foods made from soybeans may be foreign to the American diet, you may try to include some of these foods:

– cup soybeans: 14 grams protein
– cup soymilk: 7 grams protein
– cup roasted soy nuts: 34 grams protein
– cup soy flour: 8 grams protein
– cup tempeh: 16 grams protein
– cup prepared textured soy protein: 11 grams protein
– cup tofu: 10 grams protein.

Try using soymilk in place of cow’s milk on cereal in the morning. Make a fruit smoothie with berries and soymilk, or soft tofu, for a quick, healthy snack. Substitute textured soy protein for meat in recipes such as chili or lasagna (no one will know the difference). Substitute small amounts of soy flour for the regular flour in recipes. Sprinkle roasted soy nuts on a salad for a little extra crunch. Use soy oil in a recipe that calls for vegetable oil. So, even though some of these foods may seem a bit unfamiliar, it can be easy to incorporate them into your diet without making drastic changes, and your family may not even notice that you are using soy products, which may make dinnertime a little easier. Even if you only have one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, incorporating 25 grams of soy protein per day may help to improve your risk for developing the disease. Remember that those with high cholesterol levels will probably see the most benefit from using soy products, but they are a healthy alternative for just about anyone.

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