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Soy Milk: Benefits and Problems

August 15th, 2010

soy-milk.jpgSoy has made quite an impact on the market with soy products such as soy milk, soy tofu, edamame, and tempeh. The reason is the richness of soy, with high protein and significant amounts of all the essential amino acids. Soy beans also abound with calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber among other things. Soy milk is considered beneficial for the heart, the bones, for reducing menopausal symptoms, and cancer prevention. Soy has been used in Asia for hundreds of years as a nitrogen-fixing legume in the rotational crop process.

Soy milk has a lowering effect on cholesterol levels, which is why it is good for heart health. The soluble fiber in soy prevents the body from absorbing and metabolizing cholesterol. The high amount of calcium, magnesium, and boron in soy contribute to healthy and strong bones in adults and children. At the same time, isoflavones in soy prevent bone breakage and fracture. The result is an increase in the bone mineral density.

Soy also helps considerably in reducing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and irritability. Also, soy helps in the prevention of cancer, especially prostate cancer with the high amount of phytic acid it has. Phytic acid can also act as an antioxidant, minimize diabetes, and reduce inflammation. (Maybe after acai berry, soy is going to be used in anti-aging formulae and health supplements.) The inverse relation between soy and testosterone may be involved in preventing prostate cancer.

Soy milk is free of milk sugar or lactose, and so may be good for people with lactose intolerance. Soy-based infant formula, SBIF, is given to infants with lactose intolerance.

Soy problems and some truths

Contrary to as claimed in the 1990s, soy has only a minimal effect on cholesterol levels, and is not recommended by the American Heart Association anymore. The FDA is also reviewing its soy health claim policies.

Recent studies have shown that the reduction in menopausal symptoms due to soy consumption works only in some women.

Recent studies have shown that soy may affect breast cancer either way. It can act as a protective shield, or produce harmful effects very similar to estrogen on women with breast cancer. In other words, soy can act as anti-estrogen in women with high estrogen levels, and as pro-estrogen in those with lower levels.

Most soy milk sold in the market is fortified with extra calcium or vitamins, thickeners, stabilizers, oils and other chemicals, and does not have the wholesomeness of real soy milk. Mostly, these are sold under the label of soy drink rather than soy milk.

Soy needs to be cooked with water or steamed. The Trypsin inhibitors in raw soy beans, like edamame, are toxic to humans and farm animals.

This article was supplied by Nidhi Varma.

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