Managing Diabetes Magazine - diabetes
Beauty and the Bean
The health benefits of soy
Soy has long been considered a fashionable ‘wonder-food.’ While many health benefits appear to be linked to soy, not all claims are rooted in science. Doing your homework is necessary to make an informed decision.
Evidence suggests soy may help prevent heart disease. However, the facts are less clear when it comes to osteoporosis, menopause and hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer.
Did You Know?
One serving of cooked soybeans (½ cup or 125 mL) contains:
- 14 grams protein
- 88 milligrams calcium
- 1.8 grams fibre
- 4.4 milligrams iron
- It also contains folacin and other B vitamins.
- All of these nutrients are particularly important in women’s diets.
Soy does not just refer to soybeans or edamame beans. It comes in many different forms, including soy milk, soy flour, textured soy protein, miso, tofu and tempeh. Sorry, soy sauce does not count! For the vegetarians in the crowd, soy is used as a meat substitute in many products.
Here is the scoop on soy . . .
- Miso is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking. This paste is made from fermented soybeans. Miso is salty, so use sparingly.
- Soy nuts are roasted soybeans which come in a variety of flavours. Toss soy nuts into your favourite trail mix for an extra kick of protein.
- Tofu is a byproduct of curdled soy milk that is pressed into blocks. It can be soft or hard, depending on how it is processed. Soft blocks are good for soups, while hard blocks may be more appropriate for stir-fries and other dishes. Tofu takes on the flavour of the foods with which it cooks.
- Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans. Usually tasting stronger than tofu, it has a rich flavour often associated with mushrooms. It must be cooked before being eaten. Tempeh is common in Indonesian diets.
- Soy milk is a beverage made from soybeans. If you are replacing cow’s milk with soy milk, be sure that it is fortified with both calcium and vitamin D. Read product labels. Choose products that use calcium carbonate, not tricalcium phosphate, as their calcium source. Calcium carbonate may improve the amount of calcium available to levels similar to that of cow’s milk.
Are the health claims true?
Cooking with soy
Want to cook with soybeans, but not sure how to make them? Here are the basics. Dry soybeans can be purchased at bulk food stores and some supermarkets. They must be soaked, then cooked or roasted before use in various recipes. For extra convenience, canned soybeans are also available.
- Preparing dried soybeans
- Use 3 cups (750 mL) of water to every
1 cup (250 mL) of soybeans.
- Soak beans in water overnight OR bring water and beans to a boil in a large saucepan for two minutes. Let stand for an hour and then drain.
- After soaking, put soybeans in a deep saucepan with enough fresh water to cover them. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of oil. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer for three to four hours or until tender. Cool.
- Add to a favourite recipe.
- Ideas for using soybeans
- Add a cup of beans to your favourite soup, stew or chili.
- Try roasted soynuts as an afternoon snack.
- Use soybeans to replace other beans in recipes.
Puree the beans. Replace half of the oil or margarine in your favourite recipe with the bean puree to increase nutrition and decrease fat.
A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from Canada’s Food Guide. The new food guide, released in February 2007, emphasizes a plant-based diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat milk and alternatives, and lean meats and alternatives. Specifically, diets should be low in saturated fats, low in sodium, and high in fibre. Soybeans are all of these, as well as being an excellent source of protein. In fact, soy is the only bean that is a complete protein.
Compounds in soybeans called phytochemicals may be responsible for soy’s protective effects on the heart. According to recent editions of Current Issues from Dietitians of Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supported a claim linking soy protein to a reduced risk of heart disease. In the United States, labels on products containing 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving can advise that 25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The United Kingdom’s Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI) approved a similar health claim in 2002. Canada has not made similar approvals.
As for other health claims about soy, evidence is uncertain. Better research must be done. Including soy-based foods in your diet poses little risk and may add variety to your routine. However, talk with your doctor before using soy supplements in pill or powder form.
While effort is made to reflect accepted medical knowledge and practice, articles in Family Health Online should not be relied upon for the treatment or management of any specified medical problem or concern and Family Health accepts no liability for reliance on the articles. For proper diagnosis and care, you should always consult your family physician promptly. © Copyright 2015, Family Health Magazine, a special publication of the Edmonton Journal, a division of Postmedia Network Inc., 10006 - 101 Street, Edmonton, AB T5J 2S6 [DI_MDa08]