Soy protein offers a number of health benefits. It’s an inexpensive source of lean protein that’s low in calories and contains all the necessary amino acids as well as nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and B-vitamins. Soy also delivers a good vegetarian supply of omega-3 fatty acids and soybean oil is the main source of this important nutrient in the American diet. Soy protein has been at the center of debate when animal studies were published proposing various harmful estrogen-like effects such as reproductive issues in men and breast cancer risk in women. The difficulty of these studies involves their translation to humans. Recent clinical studies continue to show no effect of soy protein on reproductive hormones in men (Hamilton-Reeves, 2010). Further, human clinical studies are lacking to find the connection between soy and breast cancer risk.
Soy protein is believed to have heart healthy, cholesterol lowering properties although the exact mechanisms are not quite understood. In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that 25 grams of soy protein consumed per day represents an effective amount for significant cholesterol lowering effects (DHHS, 1999). A number of follow up studies were conducted with mixed conclusions. More research is needed to fully understand the extent of soy’s heart healthy properties.
If you’re looking for some easy ways to add soy to your diet, you may want to try a few of these ideas:
• Add soy nuts to salads, soups, and even baked goods.
• Swap ground beef for tofu-based burgers
• Look for protein bars made with soy for easy snacks
• Add extra firm tofu to simple stir-fry recipes
• Use soy milk to make healthy fruit smoothies
The health benefits of soy are simply one part of an overall heart-healthy diet. Reducing saturated fat and sodium intake round out the bigger picture along with ensuring regular physical activity.
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Food and Drug Administration, Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 206, October 26, 1999, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-1999-10-26/pdf/99-27693.pdf
Hamilton-Reeves, J. et. al, Fertility and Sterility Vol. 94, Issue 3, 997-1007, August 2010.