Soy is one of the most versatile foods in restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores worldwide. For breakfast, you can substitute soy milk for milk, stir-fry with tofu for dinner, grill a veggie burger or eat edamame while waiting for sushi. Since scientific research has recognized soy’s potential health benefits, more consumers have demanded a more plant-based diet over the last several decades.
Because of these, more and more people are consuming soy foods and products. For instance, did you know that global soy production has exploded over the last 50 years, with 77% of it fed to livestock? Furthermore, in 2021, China was the world’s largest soybean food consumer. So why is soy food consumption high nowadays? This post aims to unravel this with seven reasons below. Let’s dive in.
Cancer diagnosis cases keep rising every year.. Therefore, more people are looking into ways of relieving and treating it. Soy has phytoestrogens — plant estrogens — and high estrogen levels are associated with breast cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, soy food sources and the plant estrogens in soy do not increase cancer risk. Studies have found that soy consumption may reduce breast cancer risk, thus driving global soy use for pre-and post-menopausal women.
The consumption of soy could also help prevent other types of cancer. According to research, its consumption may reduce the risk of stomach cancer and is protective against prostate cancer. The consumption of soy products like edamame and tempeh has plenty of roughage, which also has links to lower colon cancer rates.
- Possibly Boost Fertility and Hot Flashes
Soy food consumption is also high because it benefits fertility in women. In vitro fertilization patients exposed to BPA and eating soy has a higher chance of becoming pregnant. Researchers say that’s likely because soy’s isoflavones counteract BPA’s endocrine-disrupting effects. Just don’t go overboard. Journal of Nutrition review suggests that over 100mg may decrease ovarian function. Moderate soy consumption, however, did not cause any problems.
Menopause hot flashes can also be disruptive and annoying, but soy food might help here. Despite producing soy metabolites like equol, women who ate the most soy experienced significantly fewer night sweats and hot flashes, according to a Menopause study. Make soy part of your diet for four to six weeks and see how you feel.
In early studies, researchers believed soy to lower harmful cholesterol levels, but recent studies suggest that may not be the case. There was not enough evidence to prove that soy reduced heart disease risk. Despite this, some new research suggests that fermented soy products such as natto could benefit heart disease and cancer prevention.
Soy is beneficial to your heart because it replaces animal-based foods on your plate with plant-based foods like soy. A switch to plant-based foods lowers saturated fat intake and increases fiber intake. Therefore, cooking tempeh or tofu instead of steak is a wise decision.
- May Lower the Risk of Silent Killers
Consuming more soy may also reduce high blood pressure, which may develop heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes that affect many people nowadays. Poor diet, smoking, drinking, and other lifestyle factors can result in chronic low-grade inflammation. A covert assault like this may cause tissue damage, such as damage to artery linings, which may result in high blood pressure, another silent killer.
As a consequence of both inflammation and high blood pressure, plaque can form in arteries and break off, triggering blood clots which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Soy protein supplementation may lower hypertension and chronic inflammation.
- Possibly Reduces Weight Gain and Cholesterol Levels
Animal and human studies have proven that soy protein reduces body weight and fat mass. Soybeans may lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Over three weeks, researchers fed obese rats with soy protein or casein isolate with other components. Casein-fed rats had a higher body weight than soy protein-fed rats. Besides having low plasma and liver triglycerides, they also had low cholesterol levels.
It appears that soybean supplementation positively affects body weight based on meta-analyses of human studies. It’s believed that isoflavones are responsible for this effect. Both obese and normal-weight individuals (with BMIs) may lose weight by eating soybeans.
- May Help Control Diabetes
Patients with type 2 diabetes might improve their blood glucose control by supplementing their diet with soybeans. Various carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, and minerals may be responsible for this effect. Additionally, phytoestrogens and soy peptides may assist in this process. These legumes are low in glycemic value and are beneficial to people with diabetes.
Soybeans contain solid antioxidant phytochemicals. The consumption of these products can help people with diabetes prevent oxidative damage, which can worsen the condition. In addition to treating impaired glucose tolerance, hyperlipidemia, and insulin resistance, these beans may also help treat other diabetes-related diseases.
Interestingly, fermented soybean has a better anti-diabetic effect. Researchers think isoflavonoids and other active biomolecules undergo chemical changes during fermentation. Fermented products are more effective than non-fermented ones, although few human trials support this.
7. Might Help With Insomnia And Depression
A study in Japan found that increased intake of isoflavones from soy food consumption was associated with improved sleep quality and duration. Isoflavones may play an essential role in this regard. The hormone estrogen affects the brain and regulates sleep. Studies have proven that estrogen can relieve insomnia, restlessness, and depression.
In 2015, 1717 participants ages 65 and older took part in a survey in rural Northeast China. They found that people who rarely consume soybeans or soybean products are more likely to experience depression symptoms. In addition, research suggests that soybean isoflavone supplementation may be associated with improved depression symptoms. There is, however, a limited amount of data, and I need more research to verify these findings.
Many consumers are increasingly interested in soy food consumption, which has been integral to Asian cuisine for centuries. Aside from its versatility and culinary attributes, soy has health benefits, is convenient, and is affordable, leading to a rise in consumption. Additionally, soy foods provide several potential health benefits. Therefore, more people, health institutions, and governments must continue to inform the public about soy’s benefits that drive its demand. Other Information