by Monique N. Gilbert
Read about the amazing properties of soy isoflavones and how they can help you in your quest for a happy, healthy life!
Numerous reports indicate that, because soy is high in isoflavones, it
can prevent illness and promote good health. Isoflavones are a class
of phytochemicals, which are compounds found only in plants (phyto
means plant). They are also a type of phytoestrogen, or plant
hormone, that resembles human estrogen in chemical structure yet
are weaker. By mimicking human estrogen at certain sites in the
body, isoflavones provide many health benefits that help you to avoid
disease. Isoflavones are found in soybeans, chick peas and other
legumes. However, soybeans are unique because they have the
highest concentration of these powerful compounds. Soy contains
many individual isoflavones, but the most beneficial are genistein and
Isoflavones show tremendous potential to fight disease on several
fronts. They have been shown to help prevent the buildup of arterial
plaque, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Isoflavones may help reduce breast cancer by blocking the
cancer-causing effects of human estrogen. They may also prevent
prostate cancer by hindering cell growth. Isoflavones can fight
osteoporosis by stimulating bone formation and inhibiting bone
resorption. They may even relieve some menopausal symptoms as
Soy isoflavones have antioxidant properties which protect the
cardiovascular system from oxidation of LDL (the bad) cholesterol.
Oxidized LDL cholesterol accumulates in the arteries as patches of
fatty buildup which blocks the flow of blood, resulting in
atherosclerosis. Genistein inhibits the growth of cells that form this
artery clogging plaque. Arteries damaged by atherosclerosis usually
form blood clots. This can lead to a heart attack if the clot goes to
the heart, or a stroke if it goes to the brain.
Being a weak form of estrogen, isoflavones can compete at estrogen
receptor sites, blocking the stronger version naturally produced by
the body from exerting its full effect. Since high blood levels of
estrogen are an established risk factor for breast cancer; weaker
forms of estrogen may provide protection against this disease.
Genistein has been found to hinder breast cancer as well as prostate
cancer. Results from a new University of California study show that
genistein slowed prostate cancer growth and caused prostate cancer
cells to die. It acts against cancer cells in a way similar to many
common cancer-treating drugs.
Isoflavones also play an important role in protecting and maintaining
strong and healthy bones. Evidence shows that genistein and
daidzein prevent bones from breaking down. Independent studies
conducted at the University of Illinois and the University of Hong
Kong concluded that consuming soy isoflavones can increase bone
mineral content and bone density. Another study at the University of
Texas suggested that isoflavones may also stimulate bone formation.
By preserving bone health, increasing bone mass and inducing bone
turnover, researchers noted the potential role of soy isoflavones in
preventing, and possibly even reversing, the effects of osteoporosis.
The North American Menopause Society suggests that soy
isoflavones can also be a natural alternative to estrogen replacement
therapy for relief of mild menopausal symptoms. It may help offset
the drop in estrogen and regulate its fluctuations that occur at
menopause. Many women have reported a reduction in their hot
flashes and night sweats when they regularly consume soy foods, like
tempeh or tofu.
All these findings suggest eating soy foods, natural sources of
isoflavones, can protect and enhance your overall health. Isoflavones
work together with soy protein in fighting disease. Studies show that
isoflavones account for approximately three-fourths of soy’s
protection, while its protein is responsible for about one-fourth. The
best way to consume isoflavones is in food form, so that you can
benefit from all of soy’s nutrients and beneficial compounds. The
highest amounts of isoflavones and soy protein are found in tempeh,
whole soybeans (like edamame), textured soy protein, soynuts, tofu
and soymilk. Researchers recommend consuming at least one to two
servings a day. A serving is equal to 1 ounce of soynuts; 4 ounces of
tempeh, textured soy protein (cooked), or edamame; or 8 ounces of
For those new to soy, I recommend slowly adding it to your diet, until
you develop a taste for it. In spaghetti sauces, replace ground beef
with textured soy protein. Use tofu instead ricotta cheese in lasagna,
or make herb dips with it in a food processor. Use soymilk to cream
soups or make smoothies. People on the run can always eat soynuts.
Tempeh is one of the easiest soy foods prepare. To make a grilled
tempeh sandwich, just cut it into slices, sprinkle on some soy sauce,
saute with sliced onions and pile it on some bread. Remember, you will
only continue to eat healthy foods if they taste good. So, experiment
and have fun trying out new ways to enjoy soy. For more information
about soy, visit the Virtues of Soy website at www.virtuesofsoy.com.
Copyright © Monique N. Gilbert – All Rights Reserved.
Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc., is a Health Advocate, Certified Personal
Trainer/Fitness Counselor, Recipe Developer, Soy Food Connoisseur
and author of “Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook”
(Universal Publishers, $19.95, available at most Internet booksellers).
For more on this author and her book, please visit Virtues of Soy