Outsourcing osteoporosis, obesity, and heart disease? Use your bean. Specifically, use your soybean. A lot of us are. Soy is the number two crop grown in the United States. Roughly 30 percent of us use soy products once a week or more, up from half that amount a decade ago. Soy (which means “wonder bean” in Chinese) has been considered a sacred grain in the Asian diet for centuries.
In any one of its dozens of forms, it boosts immunity to dozens of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, kidney disease, osteoporosis, and premature aging.
The best thing about soybeans, says the Vegetarian Resource Group, is that they count as both a vegetable and a protein. Indeed, soy is a complete protein and the only vegetable that contains more protein than carbohydrates. But that’s not all that’s surprising about soy. Soy foods command a shelf of their own: miso (the fermented soybean paste), tofu and tempeh (fermented soybeans), young green soybeans called edamame, soy milk, soy nuts, soy flour and soy protein powder, soy sauce, soy cheese, soy ice cream and cream, soy yogurt, soy oil and soy margarine, and soy lecithin.
What can 25 grams of soy a day (the therapeutic amount) do for your immunity? Here are eight good deeds.
Build Bones and Teeth. A serving of tofu is a better source of calcium than figs, cottage cheese, or mozzarella, without the saturated fat.
Lower Cholesterol. Soybeans provide isoflavones, which are similar to the female hormone estrogen, but weaker and safer. Isoflavones are also antioxidants. h~e two primary isoflavones in soy, daidzein and genistein, prevent bone loss, help reduce cholesterol, and guard against various cancers. A 2006 study from the Nutrition Research Center found that eating 1/2 cup of cooked beans daily significantly lowers total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Reduce Heart Disease. Soy contains the essential fat, linoleic acid, one of the omega-3 fatty acids, which is one reason researchers believe that eating 25 grams of soy a day can reduce your risk of becoming a victim of the number one killer, heart disease, by almost one-third.
Protect Against Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer. hT e plant-based estrogens in soy prevent human estrogens from binding to receptor sites in breast tissue and causing destructive changes. Similarly, a diet rich in low-fat, high-soy foods protects against prostate cancer.
Improve Digestion. Both tofu and tempeh provide 6 grams of fiber per cup of cooked beans and are alkalizing, easy-to-digest proteins. (To be healthy, your diet should contain 80 percent alkaline foods.) This combination builds your immunity to the discomforts of constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.
Help with Weight Loss. In a study by the Metabolic Research Group at the University of Kentucky, soy-milk meal-replacement products were more effective at triggering weight loss than dairy milk products. According to the study’s author, using three meal replacements a day along with plenty of fruits and vegetables can prompt a weight loss of 30 to 50 pounds over a year.
Dial Down Diabetes. A tofu burger and a soy shake should be on the menu if you are diabetic or prediabetic. Soy is low on the glycemic index (it doesn’t cause rapid hikes in insulin levels) and high in fat-free fiber (versus none for a burger), which slows down the absorption of nutrients and keeps glucose levels stable, says the National Soybean Research Laboratory.
Improve Memory, Feed the Liver. Soy lecithin—1 to 3 tablespoons a day of these sprinkle-on granules—helps cognitive function, improves liver function, and improves athletic performance, according to the Institute of Medicine of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.