The Joy of Soy

Soy products have become vastly popular in the United States, especially because soy is the only plant-based complete protein, which makes it a good alternative to meats and a vegetarian staple. The array of soy products in the grocery store can be dizzying, and many Americans who aren’t yet very familiar with soy aren’t quite sure how to best incorporate this super food into their diets. Here’s a little soy crash course to get you started.

Soy: The Basics

The soybean is a small legume rich in protein: it contains all of the essential amino acids needed to fulfill daily protein requirements for humans. A small green bean, soy can be made into a number of different forms. Because the flavor of soy is very mild, soy tends to take on the flavor of the foods that it is added to or cooked with.

Soy for Your Health

A soy-based diet can offer a number of powerful health benefits. Studies on animals and on humans have shown that a chemical found in soybeans, genestein, can block the enzymes that are key to tumor growth. In areas where soy is highly consumed, researchers have found a decreased incidence of colon, prostate, and breast cancers, among others.

Soy can also be helpful for women who are experiencing menopause. Some studies have found that the plant hormones (phytoestrogens) in soy can be used as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy. Soy has also been shown to decrease the likelihood of hot flashes and to generally improve vaginal health in menopausal women.

Soy is a great staple for people who have strict dietary requirements. For example, soy can be very helpful for diabetics, as the low glycemic index of soy works to promote blood sugar control and may also help with sugar absorption. Soy is also lactose- and dairy-free, so soy milk and cheeses are a great choice for lactose intolerant individuals.