Soy: General Info

Soy is a name for foods derived from the soy plant, referring either to soybeans themselves or processed products, such as soy sauce. Though originally native to southeast Asia, nearly half of all the cash-crop soy plants in the world today are found in the United States. Soybeans can be boiled and eaten whole, fermented into soy sauce, dissolved into soy milk, or coagulated (from soy milk) into tofu.

Is soy healthy?

Soy products have become extremely popular in recent years due to the widespread perception that they possess a variety of health-promoting properties, among these a reduced risk of breast cancer, increased memory and mental ability, and a reduction of symptoms such as hot flashes associated with menopause. Studies of these benefits have shown contradictory results and, to some extent, research on soy’s properties is still in its infancy. Soy has been conclusively proven to help prevent heart disease, but the precise degree of its effectiveness remains ambiguous (studies show anywhere from 3 to 20 percent reduction). One drawback to a soy diet is that many of these perceived benefits require individuals to consume extremely large daily dosages of soy products -- as much as a pound and a half of tofu or eight glasses of soy milk.

For more information on the soy as an alternative to HRT see the following article from The DietChannel: Soy & Menopause: Women Are Eating Soy to Combat Menopause.

Soy: A great protein supplement for vegetarians

One proven use for soy is as a protein supplement. Soybeans are themselves complete proteins, a term referring to sources of protein that provide all of the nine essential amino acids that cannot be independently manufactured by the human body. A diet of soy can provide all of an individual’s protein needs. Because the most common food sources for amino acids are meat and dairy products, soy is a popular choice of nutriment for vegetarians who refuse to use any product derived from an animal. Soybeans are also fiber-rich and provide high amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin C. Soy is thus less a miracle health food than it is an all-around health supplement. Because of its wide range of benefits and relative ease of cultivation, soybeans have become a popular staple food for much of the developing world, which often faces a chronic lack of protein-rich nourishment.