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The Soyfoods Council
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New Research Suggests Four More Reasons to Enjoy Soyfoods
Ankeny, Iowa, September 27, 2019 —Recently published research is good news for fans of soyfoods like tofu and tempeh, and may also inspire others to add soyfoods to their diet. After all, soyfoods are quintessential sources of plant protein. The soybean is higher in protein than other beans (~35% vs. ~27%). Soy also is a complete plant protein, which means that it contains all the essential amino acids in amounts needed by the body.
1. Your liver and your heart may benefit when you incorporate soyfoods into your diet. Most Americans now recognize the value of reducing their intake of saturated fat, the predominant type of fat in many animal-derived foods. Saturated fat increases blood cholesterol levels and, as a result, increases the risk of heart disease. For this reason, health professionals recommend replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat which decreases blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated fats are the predominant type of fat in vegetable oils such as soybean oil, as well as in soyfoods.
According to recent work by Swedish researchers published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, there may be another equally important reason to lower your intake of saturated fat. When compared to polyunsaturated fat, saturated fat increases the amount of fat in your liver. Too much fat in your liver—unrelated to alcohol consumption—is referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This disease is increasingly common, especially in Western nations, and can progress to cirrhosis of the liver and even liver failure.
One of the easiest ways to reduce intake of saturated fat is to replace some of the protein-rich animal foods in your diet with soyfoods. When soyfoods such as edamame and tofu replace common animal protein sources, estimates are that the direct effect of the protein in soyfoods when combined with the favorable change in the fatty acid content of the diet will reduce cholesterol levels by 7% to 8%. Making that simple switch just might benefit both your liver and heart.
2. Consuming soybean isoflavones may have a positive effect on your bone mineral density. Bone mineral density, also called bone density, refers to the amount of calcium, phosphorous and other minerals found in a segment of bone. A recent analysis of clinical studies published in the journal Nutrition Research concluded that isoflavones improve bone mineral density. Soybeans are the richest source of isoflavones. Soybean isoflavones are commonly referred to as plant estrogens or phytoestrogens, and for more 25 years they have been studied for their possible skeletal benefits.
Now, new research from the University of Texas Medical Branch has identified another way in which isoflavones may affect the bones. Researchers postulated that isoflavones help regulate blood calcium levels. Maintaining blood calcium levels within a tight range is critically important, and the body has several mechanisms designed specifically for that purpose. This new research indicates that when calcium levels are normal, isoflavones will stimulate calcium’s deposition into the bones, thereby increasing bone mineral density and decreasing risk of having a fracture. Conversely, when blood calcium levels are too low, isoflavones will draw calcium from the bones, helping to normalize blood calcium levels. Good sources of isoflavones include tofu, soynuts, edamame, soymilk and tempeh.
3. Your spine may thank you for consuming tofu and increasing your bone mineral density. Each year an estimated 1.5 million Americans suffer a fracture due to bone disease. Osteoporosis is one of the diseases associated with the postmenopausal syndrome. As women enter menopause, estrogen levels decrease, which accelerates the rate of bone breakdown and decreases the rate of bone formation. Rapid loss of bone mass leads to an increased susceptibility to bone fractures. One of the most common sites of fracture is the spine. This knowledge makes a recent report from the Chinese researchers especially relevant.
Investigators from Xiamen University in Fujian, China, found that tofu consumption increased spinal bone mineral density. For this study, 300 postmenopausal women were assigned to one of two groups. The first received 100 grams of dried tofu daily for two years—equivalent to the amount of isoflavones provided by about two servings of traditional soyfoods. The other group received rice cake.
After two years of supplementation, spinal bone mineral density increased by about 4% in the tofu group but decreased in the group consuming rice cake. The difference between the two groups was highly statistically significant, indicating that the effect was unlikely to have occurred by chance. Findings from this study, published in Calcified Tissue International, suggest that tofu increases bone mineral density by decreasing the rate of bone breakdown. Tofu offers a natural and economical intervention for preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis.
4. Soyfoods can improve the health outlook for those with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome—a group of conditions that occur together—increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride (a type of blood fat) levels. Research from Iran, published in Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome journal, shows that adding soyfoods to the diet of those who have metabolic syndrome can markedly improve their health. The three groups of participants in the study consumed roasted soybeans that provided 25 grams of protein, textured soy protein (textured soy flour) that provided 18 grams of protein, or were part of a control group that maintained their usual diet.
After 12 weeks, those in the soynuts-consuming group experienced a decrease in total- and LDL-cholesterol, in fasting blood glucose levels, fasting insulin levels, insulin resistance and an improvement in antioxidant status. Those who consumed textured soy protein also showed improvements, although the soynuts were a bit more beneficial. Several components of soybeans likely account for the observed benefits, including the protein, isoflavones and fat. The fat in soybeans is predominantly polyunsaturated fat, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity. Lowering cholesterol, improving glucose control and increasing antioxidant status substantially reduces the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
For more information about the studies mentioned, as well as tempting soyfoods recipes from The Soyfoods Council, visit www.thesoyfoodscouncil.com. You’ll also find nutrition information, cooking tips, and other recent research concerning soyfoods and your health.
About the Soyfoods Council: The Soyfoods Council is a non-profit organization, created and funded by Iowa soybean farmers, providing a complete resource to increase awareness of soyfoods, educate and inform media, healthcare professionals, consumers and the retail and foodservice market about the many benefits of soyfoods. Iowa is the country’s number one grower of soybeans and is the Soyfoods Capital of the world.
About the Role of Soyfoods in a Healthful Diet: Soyfoods have played an important role in Asian cuisines for centuries. In recent years they have become popular in Western countries because of their nutrition and health properties. Soyfoods are excellent sources of high-quality protein and provide a healthy mix of polyunsaturated fat. In addition, independent of their nutrient content, there is very intriguing evidence indicating soyfoods reduce risk of several chronic diseases including coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer. All individuals are well advised to eat a couple of servings of soyfoods every day.