Some say po-ta-to, some say po-tat-o. Whatever anyone calls a potato – or is it potatoe? – they may agree to disagree on whether soy is harmful or beneficial to our health.
The answer you get depends upon whom you ask.
Critics of soy products tend to paint soy with a broad brush, believing any type of soy can contribute to significant health issues like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Proponents of soy foods point to studies showing it helps lower cholesterol, prevents cancer, increases bone density and is good for the heart.
Both sides agree that processed soy products like soy milk, cheese and meat contain unhealthy fats and compounds that do harm. The disagreement comes from whether or not consuming traditional forms of whole and fermented soy like edamame and tofu is good for you.
Unlike the rights cited in the Declaration of Independence, not all soy products are created equal.
As previously reported in Dental Wire, commercialized soy products lose their nutrients during processing. Health experts have warned consumers to avoid soy food labels that read “soy protein” or “soy isolate” because they also contain fats, sugars and refined flours.
The soy that gives nutritionists joy is whole soy (organic) or fermented soy. Consider this: Okinawans have eaten whole and fermented soy for generations and they enjoy the longest longevity of any people in the world.
Edamame, or young soybeans, can boost your metabolism because it’s a great source of protein. One-half cup serving of edamame includes 8 grams of protein, or three times the amount of most vegetables.
Tofu is whole soymilk compressed into soft blocks like cream cheese. Tofu is bursting with calcium and omega-3 fats that lower the risk of dementia and help with normal brain function. Tofu has little taste by itself, but absorbs the flavor of whatever it is served with.
Miso is a fermented food paste made of soybeans, salt and sometimes grains like rice or barley. One teaspoon of miso contains 200-300 milligrams of sodium but research has shown it doesn’t affect our cardiovascular system like table salt and foods high in sodium do. Miso is an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin B12 that help metabolize fats and carbohydrates.
Natto is a sticky paste made from fermented soybeans. A traditional Japanese food often eaten at breakfast, natto has lower sodium content than other forms of soy. Natto is a source of the enzyme nattokinase, which reportedly reduces the risk of blood clots and the brain plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Natto contains no cholesterol, and is full of teeth-friendly minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins E, B6, B2 and K2.
Tempeh is an Indonesian food, and like natto, is made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh is less processed than tofu and contains more protein and fiber. Where tofu is white, smooth and wet, tempeh is dry and brownish in color with a slightly sweet taste. Tempeh is a good source of tooth-friendly calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber, folate and vitamin K.
Another health benefit found in soy is it contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. As previously reported in Be a Pumpkin Eater Like Peter Peter, omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential for good health.
Nutritionists suggest eating a serving or two of soy a day for a couple of reasons: first, our bodies don’t produce any ALA, and second, the heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acid must be ingested to preserve the recommended level of 2 grams a day.
Bottom Line: More nutritional studies on soy are needed, but available studies so far indicate that whole soy foods are a good source of quality protein and plant compounds that may help prevent cancer, lower cholesterol and increase bone density.
Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet. Pending that, as long as you avoid processed soy products and eat organic soy, it’s okay to jump for joy and enjoy your soy!
Sources: doctoroz.com, WebMD, whfoods.com, popsugar.com, Wikipedia.com, news.psu.edu, nutri/facts.org
Photo source: drhagmeyer.com
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