July 11, 2011

8 Reasons to Include Soy in Your Diet

We often say that soybeans can be a replacement for meat for the vegetarians. Why shouldn't it be? It is a very good source of plant based protein. And you don't need to compromise on the taste! Adding the same spices - ginger, garlic, onions and garam masala, to prepare a soy curry will give you the feel and the aroma of your favorite chicken recipe. And it is not only the taste or the protein content that will make soy products a popular choice! Soybean is a storehouse of nutrients and you can avail the health benefits from a number of soy based products like soy milk, tofu, soy sprouts, nuts, sauces and flour.

Soybean is a species of legume, mainly found in East Asia. They are mainly classified as oilseed. It is considered as a complete protein because of the presence of significant amounts of essential amino acids. This seemingly simple legume comes with some extraordinary qualities. It is considered as a nutritional powerhouse. It has been found that soy-food consuming countries like China and Japan have lower incidences of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancers of the breast and the prostate gland.
What are the Health Benefits of Soy?

   1. Shows Antioxidant Properties: Soy contains health enhancing compounds called Isoflavones. These compounds are found in plants which have strong antioxidant properties. These compounds are responsible for repairing cells and for preventing damages to the cells caused by pollution, sunlight and the normal body processes.

   2. Reduces the Risk of Heart Diseases: The proteins and Isoflavones present in Soy, help in reducing the LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) apart from decreasing the possibilities of blood clotting. This in turn, reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke. In a study, it has been found that the consumption of milk shakes containing 25 grams soy protein for nine weeks has resulted in a 5% decrease in LDL cholesterol on an average.

   3. Protects Against Cancer: Isoflavones act as anti-cancer agents against the cancer cells. It protects the body from many hormone related cancers like that of the breast, uterus and the prostate.

   4. Reverses the Effect of Endometriosis: Soy foods help in delaying the action of the body's natural estrogen, which is responsible for instigating the pain during the periods, heavy bleeding and other symptoms in women.

   5. Prevents the Onset of Osteoporosis: Soy protein helps in the better absorption of calcium in the bones. Isoflavones present in soy foods, slow down bone loss and inhibit bone breakdown which in turn, prevents osteoporosis

   6. Helps to Overcome Menopausal Symptoms: Isoflavones present in soy, help to regulate estrogen. Research has found that soy Isoflavones can reduce hot flushes in menopausal women.

   7. Shows Good Effects for Diabetes and Kidney Diseases: Soy protein and the soluble fiber present in soybeans, regulate blood glucose levels and kidney filtration, thereby controlling diabetes and kidney diseases.

   8. Promotes Weight Loss: The high fiber content of soybean makes it a tool for weight management. It is a low glycemic index (GI) food which regulates blood sugar and insulin fluctuation. A feeling of fullness or satisfaction for a longer period of time, can help you to control your hunger. This aids in your weight loss process.

Different Soy Products

There is no need for you to stick to the same type of soy food! Treat your taste buds with a variety of soy based products available in the market. Here is what the market brings for you:

    * Miso: It is made by the fermentation of soy meal or grains such as rice or wheat. It is a salty, strong flavored paste used in many Asian dishes. It acts as an enhancer and a thickener in various Asian recipes. The colors range from light yellow to dark orange.
    * Soy Flour: It is made from whole soy bean or soy meal. This flour can be used in many dishes.
    * Soy Nuts: Roasted soy nuts can be eaten as snacks.
    * Soy Sauce: These are made from fermented soybeans. It is then mixed with ground wheat and kept for fermentation for nearly one to three months. It is considered as one of the most important cooking ingredients in Asian cuisine.

    * Soybean Sprouts: Germinated soybean is used as salads and for garnishing purposes.

    * Soybean Oil: Soy bean oil can be used in various purposes.
    * Soybean Milk: It is obtained when soybeans are soaked, ground, heated and then filtered.It is generally used as a substitute for many infant formulae. It acts as a food for babies who are lactose intolerant. It can be taken as beverages. Dried soy milk is added in ice creams.

    * Tempeh: It is a meat substitute made from soybeans that are soaked, dehulled, cooked and then fermented. It is one of the essential components in Indonesian cooking.

    * Tofu: It is made by coagulating the protein from soy beans. It is spongy in texture. It can be used in a variety of forms such as dips, dressings and shakes.

    * Yuba: It is a product found on the top of the soymilk. When soymilk is heated, a chewy and stingy texture is formed and this is called ‘Yuba". It has high protein content.

You can also prepare a vegetable dish as per your tradition and culture. In all your attempts, you should note that soybeans form an inexpensive way to add protein to your diet. And remember, it is a low fat option in comparison to meat and meat products.

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