What is soy?
With all the hype on new age diets, you’re sure to have heard of soy protein in place of real meats. If you go to the store and visit the frozen section, there is a plethora of meat alternatives, and they are all made from a soy product. So, what is soy?
Soy is a common replacement for meat products consumed by vegans and vegetarians around the world because of its high amount of protein. Soy is made from soy beans, a popular legume from Asian origins. A reason why soy products are such common meat alternatives is because it contains all nine amino acids, classifying it as a complete protein! To people practicing a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is an obvious choice of protein.
Soy beans also contain hormone-like substances. There is evidence that consumption of soy, especially in greater amounts, can affect estrogen levels which may cause weakened estrogen activity. However, research has noted that soy proteins are known to decrease cholesterol levels and lower risks of cardiovascular disease. It should be noted that whole soy products provide these health benefits moreover the processed soy products. Examples of whole soy products are as follows: soy milk, soybeans, and soy nuts.
Which foods have soy?
Foods which contain soybeans or soy milk contain soy. Common foods one may consume are listed below.
- Soy milk
- Soy Sauce
- Morning Star meat alternative products * read ingredients to find soy products *
- Soy flour
- Soybean sprout
How much soy is too much?
The FDA recommendation for whole soy products is 25 grams to reap the benefits of lowering cholesterol and getting the adequate amount of complete proteins in one’s diet. Recent clinical studies are showing that consumption of up to 50 grams of soy products are beneficial to one’s health, reducing risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lowering cholesterol levels.
That being said, it would be beneficial to shy away from as many GMO soy products as one can. This includes any soy products which contain GMOs. In other words, it has yet to be proven that ‘too much’ soy is bad for you. Of course, it is more favorable to consume whole soy products.
Some have argued that it affects fertility, triggers puberty at a faster rate, thyroid health, and may affect estrogen levels. The pros far outweigh the cons, especially when soy products without GMOs are consumed. From what has been proven, the only major two cautions are as follows:
- Consumption of soy products containing large amounts of GMOs
- Consumption of large quantities of GMO soy products during pregnancy
Because soy proteins contain phytic acid which acts as an anti-nutrient, affecting how some essential vitamins and minerals are absorbed. Iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium in particular are affected by phytic acid. During pregnancy, it is essential to consult with your doctor and nutritionist about the appropriate diet and amounts of certain foods that are right for you and your baby.
Benefits of soy products
- High-quality protein, complete protein (contains all nine essential amino acids)
- Lowers cholesterol levels (soy products are naturally cholesterol free)
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases
- High fiber
- Helps reduce risk of osteoporosis
Much like everything else in this world, soy products are best consumed in moderation. Too much (over 60 grams per day) may offer negative health consequences affecting the thyroid and hormones. However, just enough (between 25-50 grams per day) provide many benefits to individuals consuming non-GMO soy products. Benefits far outweigh the cons as they serve as a complete protein, reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, lower cholesterol levels, and contain many other vitamins and minerals the human body needs to stay healthy.
Be smart about which soy products you consume.
Always consult with your nutritionist and/or doctor for your dietary specifications.