Soybeans: Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts

Health Benefits and Nutrition Facts

The soybeans plant is considered a member of the pea family of vegetables. The soybean plant is known as a legume and has a variety of health benefits.

Soybeans are nutritionally dense foods as they are an excellent source of plant-based protein  but also contain fats and complex carbohydrates.

Also, soybeans contain a fair amount of fiber, both soluble and non-soluble, which helps feed your gut bacteria and keeps your digestive system healthy.

Research on soybeans links consumption to a reduced risk for a variety of health problems, including heart disease, high cholesterol, and several forms of cancer.

Read on to learn about the different types of soybean products available as well as the health benefits reaped from incorporating soybeans into your diet.

 

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil is extracted not from the plant itself but from the seeds. The production of soybean oil skyrocketed in popularity in 2018.

During this time, production reached 62 million tons around the world. Soybean oil can be used across a wide variety of cooking techniques, including baking, frying, and roasting.

Soybean oil has a high smoke point meaning it can withstand hot temperatures without breaking down. The smoke point of any oil is the temperature at which fats start to break down and oxidize.

This oxidization can form “free radicals,” which are disease-causing compounds that get released into the body. Because soybean oil has such a high smoke point, it can withstand high temperatures when cooking without breaking down and releasing these dangerous chemicals.

Soybean oil has a high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids. When an individual incorporates polyunsaturated fats into their diet rather than saturated fats, studies show a decreased risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in soybean oil.

These fatty acids are known to reduce inflammation within the body and fight against heart disease.

 

Soybean Protein

For vegetarians or vegans, soybean protein, regularly found in a powder form, can be an excellent way to make sure they are getting a healthy amount of protein in their daily diet.

Producers make soybeans oil using defatted soybean flakes that have been washed in alcohol or water to remove dietary fiber and sugars. This process removes the fat and cholesterol from the soybean product.

Soy protein is a complete protein meaning it contains all the amino acids your body needs and cannot make on its own.

soybeans
soybeans

Low GI Index

Foods with a low GI index or Glycemic Index provide a variety of health benefits, specifically to individuals who suffer or are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The Glycemic Index ranks how carbohydrate-containing foods affect an individual’s blood sugar levels.

When an individual eats carbohydrates, their body breaks down the sugars in these foods into glucose, the primary source of energy for cells in your body.

Complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat foods, take time to break down and therefore give your body a prolonged period of increased energy. Simple carbohydrates such as sugar break down quickly within your body and may give you a quick boost of energy but will inevitably lead to a crash.

Complex carbohydrates typically have a low GI Index because these foods do not lead to spikes in an individual’s blood sugar levels as simple carbohydrates do. Foods with a low GI index include green vegetables, beans, legumes (including soybeans) lentils, etc. Because soybeans have a low GI index, they are suitable for people who are looking to decrease their carbohydrate consumption.

 

Vitamins and Minerals

Soybeans can be an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals that are essential for regulating many of our body’s functions.

These vitamins and minerals include Molybdenum, which helps rid our body of toxins, Vitamin K1, which plays a vital role in our blood’s ability to clot, and Folate, a vitamin that is very important during pregnancy.

Other essential minerals found in soybeans include Copper, Maganese, Phosphorous, and Thiamine.

soybeans
soybeans

Cancer Prevention

Scientific research correlates soybean consumption with a reduced risk of breast cancer in women as well as a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men.

The soybean plant contains high levels of isoflavones, a phytonutrient that resembles the female sex hormone, estrogen. Research has shown a correlation between isoflavones and cancer prevention.

Therefore, those at risk of developing specific kinds of cancers are encouraged to incorporate this phytonutrient into their diet.

 

Menopause

The consumption of soybean products has been linked to a reduction in the symptoms of menopause in women over the age of 50. Women who eat soybean protein experience fewer hot flashes and mood swings-symptoms commonly experienced by women going through menopause.

However, it is important to note, relief from menopausal symptoms is only present in individuals who are equol producers or those who have specific gut bacteria that can convert isoflavones into equol.

The equol hormone is thought to be responsible for many of the health benefits related to soybean consumption.

 

Bone Health

Incorporating soybeans into one’s diet has been known to decrease an individual’s risk for developing osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women. The female hormone, estrogen, is known to help strengthen bones.

Because soybeans contain isoflavones, which are closely linked to estrogen, scientific research shows a correlation between soybean consumption and increased bone density.

 

Concerns

Because the consumption of soy and other soybean-based products has skyrocketed in the past couple of years, health advocates have raised concerns about the adverse health effects possibly related to its consumption. Some research has raised concerns about soy limiting thyroid function and hormone production.

Some researchers believe the production of isoflavones can restrict the body’s natural hormone levels and lead to a hormonal imbalance. However, soy protein is made by rinsing the soybeans in water or alcohol, which removes many of the isoflavones.

Therefore, consuming soybean protein should eliminate these risks. Some men also worry about soy leading to a decrease in their testosterone levels, although no research supports this claim.

Whether you are looking to improve your nutrition, decrease your risks of cancer, or find relief from menopausal symptoms, incorporating soybeans in any form can be a great way to meet these goals and improve your overall health.

 

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