by Catherine Misener
Why is Soy considered the miracle legume? How can adding soy to your diet lower your risks for heart disease, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis and other conditions? Find out in this first part of a series of short articles on Soy – The Miracle Bean
Miracle Bean – The Nutritional Benefits of Including Soy in Your Dietary
Why is the soybean considered a miracle legume?
Researchers have tried to ascertain why certain populations, such as
those in Asia, have lower incidences of various forms of cancer and
heart disease, as well as fewer reports of menopausal symptoms. Such
populations are known to regularly consume foods made from the
What is it that sets apart this bean from other foods?
Most importantly, soybeans are loaded with isoflavones. Phytochemicals
are plant compounds that, when consumed, have biological effects on
animals or humans. One type of phytochemical is the isoflavone, which
exerts physiological effects that seem to help reduce the risk for certain
diseases – such as heart disease and some forms of cancer. While
isoflavones are found in varying amounts in legumes, soybeans provide
the only significant source in the human diet. The amount of isoflavones
found in a particular soyfood depend on how that food was processed.
Tofu, soynuts and soy milk have higher levels of isoflavones (from 37 –
108 mg per ounce), while foods made from a combination of soy and
grains have less (soy sauce, soybean oil). The various positive effects
of the isoflavones found in soyfoods will be briefly discussed in the next
How Does Soy Make Your Heart Happy, Happy, Happy?
It is a well-researched fact that high blood cholesterol levels are a
primary contributor to cardiovascular disease. Most doctors would
suggest following a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Not only is
soy cholesterol-free, but it contains genistein (an isoflavone) which
inhibits the oxidation of cholesterol already in your body. Oxidized
cholesterol, which has been exposed to air and undergone structural
changes, is the only type of cholesterol that can damage arteries.
Clinical trials have shown that people who comsumed 17 – 25 grams of
soy protein per day reduced their LDL (bad cholesterol) by 13%, while
their levels of HDL (good cholesterol) were unaffected .* Soy also
contains linoleic acid – one of the Omega-3 fatty acids linked to the
reduction of cardiovascular disease. How does this equate to a Happy
Heart? Studies have concluded that consuming 25 grams of soy per day
can reduce the chances of heart disease by 20 – 30 percent!
How Do You Know Which Soyfoods Can Most Benefit Your Health?
In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that foods
containing soy protein may reduce the risk of heart disease. The FDA
recommends consuming at least 25 grams of soy protein daily and
maintaining a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat. They have
allowed companies to label food products as heart healthy if they meet
the following criteria: Contain 6.25 grams or more of soy protein Contain
less than 3 grams of fat and less than 1 gram of saturated fat Contain
less than 20 mg. of cholesterol
Additionally, foods made with the whole soybean (such as tofu, soymilk,
soynuts, tempeh, soy-based meat alternatives) may make this health
claim if there is no additional fat other than what is naturally found in