Soybeans are part of the pea family and there has been much controversy around it. There are reports that it helps manage certain medical conditions and symptoms; that it is harmful in high doses; while other reports say it has no effect at all. In general soy consumed through food has not been shown to cause any negative health effects. However, if trying to manage a specific condition, the best bet is to speak to a health care provider, who can decide if eating soy products would help based on personal health.
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Reduces Cholesterol Levels
Soy products are often consumed by vegetarians because they are a good source of protein and they are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition, many soy products are high in the good kind of fat or polyunsaturated fats. Given this, consuming soy-based foods to meet protein needs in place of other protein sources that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, may help to slightly lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels, reports the American Heart Association. Consuming about 50 g of soy each day may lower LDL cholesterol by up to 3 percent, especially when other healthy lifestyle changes are made as well.
Lowers Blood Pressure
A diet that is high in saturated fats and cholesterol can lead to plaque build up along blood vessel walls. This causes the blood vessels to become hard and narrow, which restricts blood flow. As the blood vessels narrow, blood pressure can increase. However, according to the Cleveland Clinic consuming plant based sources of protein such as soy products which are low in fat and cholesterol, can help to lower blood pressure. In addition, soy products can be high in fiber. Soluble fiber inhibits the body's ability to absorb cholesterol, so a high fiber diet can also help to lower blood pressure as well. The goal is to substitute animal sources of protein such as dairy products and meats with soy alternatives a few times a week.
Decreases Hot Flashes
Another common use for soy is to control hot flashes that occur due to menopause. Much more research is needed to determine the effectiveness of soy, however some patients do experience relief from hot flashes after taking soy supplements, states the MayoClinic.com. The isoflavones found in soy such as genistein, may have an estrogen like effect in the body that may cause this effect.
Less Risk of Certain Cancers
While most studies have been on animals, the America Cancer Society suggests that consumption of soy products may help to reduce the risk of breast, ovarian, uterine and prostate cancer. Since human studies have been limited there is no definite recommendations yet on how much helps. As with hot flashes, it is the estrogen like substances in soy products that appear to lower the risk of cancer.
Adding soy into the diet through foods has not been linked to any health problems. It can cause reactions in those who are allergic to soy. Some patients experience stomach pain, loose stools and diarrhea from too much soy. Soy supplements have not been tested for safety or interactions with other medications. In addition, soy content varies greatly in different products and since research is limited, there is no set amount to consume for health benefits. However, it is a healthier source of protein and some soy products are low in calories, which can help with weight loss.