Reaping the Benefits of Soy
Native to Asia, soy is a popular type of legume that has been a part of traditional plant-based diets for thousands of years. Historically, there has been some controversy over what health benefits soy actually offers. In this brief article, Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, the best cardiologist in Tampa, explores the known health benefits of soy and how you can incorporate soy foods into your diet.
What Are the Health Benefits of Soy?
To get started, let’s review what aspects of soy lend themselves to significant health benefits. Soy protein, unlike other plant proteins, is considered a complete protein, meaning that it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body is not capable of producing on its own. Similarly, soy foods are rich in nutrients, such as fiber, potassium, protein, magnesium, and B vitamins. As little as half a cup of boiled, mature soybeans can contain up to fifteen grams of protein.
As for health benefits, soy protein and a high concentration of isoflavones (a type of plant estrogen found in soy) have gained attention in the past for their role in reducing risk factors for cardiovascular disease. While soy protein only slightly lowers harmful levels of cholesterol directly, it generally supplies the body with minerals, fiber, vitamins, and polyunsaturated fat. This is significant because the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that when people with diets rich in plant-based protein were compared with those with diets rich in red meat, those with diets rich in red meat were found to have triple the levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), a chemical linked to heart disease.
How Can You Incorporate Soy Foods Into Your Diet?
One of the best ways to reap the health benefits of soy is to start by substituting meat products or other plant-based proteins with soy foods. Instead of dairy milk, opt for soy milk, which contains a similar amount of protein and significantly lower calories and carbohydrates. Instead of substituting meat with vegetables, opt for texturized vegetable protein (dehydrated soy) or tempeh (fermented soybeans).
For snacks, soy nuts made from mature soybeans are a valuable source of fiber and protein. They can be added to yogurt, salads, oatmeal, and stir-fries and may assist in weight loss due to their capacity to boost fullness and metabolism. Other foods rich in soy include everything from edamame to tofu.
Fully transitioning to a whole food, plant-based diet that incorporates foods rich in soy can help control, reduce, or even reverse chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For more information on how you can begin to transition to a whole food, plant-based diet, contact Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, a top cardiologist in Tampa.
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