Soy is believed to be one of the healthiest foods for heart health. Soy in all forms has a clearer edge over other foods. Soy contains higher protein with all the essential amino acids. The current controversy says that soy may not be as effective as it should be. There is no clear evidence that can show that soy helps in the reduction of cholesterol levels in the blood. Soy helps in many ways that help us maintain the health. It is currently under discussion whether or not the positive effects have a direct link to the heart health.
What does soy contain?
Soy contains a healthy amount of the essential nutrients. A bowl full of soybeans contains 173 calories, 16-17 gm of protein, 10 gm of carbohydrates, 6 gm of fiber, a higher amount of mono and polyunsaturated fats, omega fatty acids etc. It is the ideal plant-based protein source that has a high content of proteins.
The fat content in soy is also on the healthier side. The fats present here are less of the saturated fat that is harmful to the heart. The polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for the heart as they do not contribute to the cholesterol levels.
The carbohydrates in soybean have a low glycemic index that does not trigger the blood sugar level. This makes it ideal for diabetic patients and helping them get the right nutrition.
In addition to these nutrients, soybeans are also rich in soluble and insoluble fiber that is downright healthy. It is also rich in several vitamins and minerals.
Soy and heart health
For years, soy has been the healthier choice for lowering the blood cholesterol. Not only does it helps lower the cholesterol, but also provide all the healthier nutrients for the body.
Fatty acids in soybeans are heart-healthy. It has a good quantity of the MUFA and PUFA. It is one of the rare sources that have both these healthier fats. These fats are not overbearing to the heart. It gets some relief for the heart. The risk of coronary heart diseases is reduced when you replace the saturated fats with mono or polyunsaturated fats. That is exactly what soybeans do for you. With abundant of the unsaturated fats, it lowers the risk of heart diseases.
The omega fatty acids here may not be as healthy as that comes from cold water fish. But they definitely have a positive impact on the coronary health.
Soy helps lower blood cholesterol
Soy contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fibers are well known to reduce the LDL cholesterol. The low-density lipoprotein is the notorious type of cholesterol. Studies have shown that consumption of soy beans have managed to reduce the LDL levels by 3-6%.
It also helps that by consuming soy means you are replacing many other unhealthy protein sources like the animal-based ones. This has a direct impact on the cholesterol levels. Soy contributes to the protein intake stipulated for a day. This replacement of animal fat with soy bean can bring a wider change in the cholesterol.
The reduction in LDL can improve the good cholesterol levels. The increase in HDL can further reduce the LDL levels in the blood. This effect may be indirect for the soy to take credits for. But it is an essential change in the body that leads towards better health.
The soy controversy
The soy controversy is that soy may cause more damage than the benefits it can provide. Wondering how? Soy is alleged to cause cancer, lower the thyroid functions, causing female infertility and having no clear evidence to prove that soy directly lowers the blood cholesterol levels.
- Soy and cancer link: This is the primary concern for many. The fact is that soy does not increase the risk of cancer any more than the people already are. Several studies have shown that soy can actually reduce the chances of breast cancer and gastrointestinal cancers. The high fiber contents in soy help lower the risk of colon cancer as well.
- Soy does not cause infertility: The belief that the consumption of soy can cause female infertility has now taken a U turn. The risk is only when you have too much of soy in the diet. Overconsumption of any food is not ideal. Having a limited amount of soy per day can reduce the chances of infertility. It is also evident that moderate consumption of soy can reduce the hot flashes in menopausal women.
- Soy and thyroid functions: Soy can interfere with the thyroid functions only when the thyroids are already underperforming. Soy has no direct involvement in the working of thyroids. Just make sure that the medications for thyroids and soy consumption has a gap of at least 4-5 hours. It avoids any chance of interference with soy and these medications.
- Soy protects heart: This claim is actually true. But all the claims of soy protecting heart are applicable as long as the person takes a healthy diet, reduce fatty foods and have a healthier lifestyle. Soy is just a healthy food. It cannot perform miracles. Soy can do its part and so should you!
Healthier soy products
Not all soy based products are healthy. Soy beans are healthy as long as they have no genetic modifications and are organic. Look for the organic and non-GMO labels on the pack.
You might want to limit the use of soy milk that is ready to use. It is definitely processed and does not give the same benefits as the freshly made soy milk. The same applies to the soy yogurt, soy bars etc. They might have soy protein but don’t have the whole bean benefits. On the other hand, tofu is one of the good options for healthy soy.
The best way is to make your own soy flour and add a little of it to the daily diet. You can easily add the powder to almost all the dishes, soups and sauces.
Soy is definitely healthy for the heart, no matter what the prospects are. Having soy in a moderate amount in the daily diet can provide you a good amount of the daily nutritional value. The only risk here is when you have an overdose of soy products or when you are allergic to the soy proteins. As mentioned, soy is no miracle product that can instantly change your coronary health level. But it sure can bring gradual change in the heart health. It is less risky than the animal-based protein source.