Everything You Need To Know About Soy

With all the fad diets out there, it can be difficult to determine what foods you should be eating to get all the nutrition you need to live a happy and healthy life. From vegan to paleo, sometimes it feels like all we’re being told is what not to eat. The reality iswe all have to make food choices that fit our individual nutritional needs.

What about soy? Once hailed as a superfood, there has been much debate over the years about the nutritional value and potential negative effects of consuming soy. Here’s everything you need to know about the versatile food:

What is soy?

While many of us have heard of soy products like soymilk and tofu, you may not be aware of where these foods come from. The answersoy beans. Soy beans are a type of legume, and have tons of uses in an array of different kinds of foods. Young, green soybeans are known as edamame, and can be eaten as a snack, side or used in dishes such as salads, soups and stir-fry. Mature soybeans are yellow, and are used to make soymilk, tofu, tempeh, tamari, miso, soy flour and vegetable-based meat alternatives. Soybeans can also be used to make soy oil, with the leftovers used to make animal feed. As versatile as soy is, products containing whole soy are a much better choice than highly processed soy products.

Why soy?

So why should people eat soy? While some people may find soy delicious, the primary reason so many people choose to consume soy products is that they offer a plant-based alternative to animal or animal-derived products. Soymilk offers a healthy, protein-rich alternative for people who are lactose intolerant or have strict plant-based diets. Tofu and tempeh can be substituted for meat in a variety of soups and other dishes. The reason why these are such effective alternatives? Soy is a complete protein, and often an important source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.

Any health benefits from consuming soy?

In addition to being high in protein, soybeans are a good source of fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and thiamin. For people eating plant-based diets, these nutrients can be hard to come by without additional supplements. Consuming soy also promotes heart health. This is especially true for lowering cholesterol levels. Increased soy consumption significantly reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (known as bad cholesterol). That’s because they are rich in HDL cholesterol (known as good cholesterol), which helps remove bad cholesterol from the arteries. Soy consumption can also help lower your risk of developing both breast and colon cancers. Research indicates that the isoflavones found in soy even improves survival rates and decreases chance of relapse in breast cancer patients.

Any health concerns from consuming soy?

The number one concern about soy consumption in America boils down to its sourceabout 94 percent of soy grown in the United States is genetically modified. GMO soy has significantly less cancer-fighting isoflavones, heart-healthy HDL cholesterol and other valuable nutrients that have been stripped from its genetics. Other GMO concerns, such as antibiotic resistance and allergen formation, also apply to genetically modified soy. Many genetically modified soybeans end up in highly processed soy products, further decimating the soy’s health benefits. Look for organic soy products or those labeled non-GMO to ensure you’re getting the most nutritional value out of your soy products. People with hypothyroidism should also use caution when consuming soy. Soy is high in thyroid-stimulating hormones, and may affect thyroid function in those with hypothyroidism, if consumed in excess.

So… should I eat soy?

Yesif it’s organic, whole soy. Soy is high in nutritional value and supports heart health while filling you up on cancer-fighting isoflavones. Just make sure your soy products are GMO free and unprocessed, and minimize consumption if you have underlying thyroid issues.

For more information on maintaining a healthy diet, GMC’s Nutrition & Weight Management experts can help. With knowledgeable dietitians who can customize a nutrition plan to meet your unique needs, you’ll enjoy all the great benefits that a healthy diet can provide. Start feeling your best today by setting up a nutrition consultation.

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