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Getting serious with soy

It seems like every week we read about some new, miraculous treatment or amazing new properties discovered in an age-old remedy. The most recent "health trend" involves the wonderful world of Soy protein. Can Soy really live up to its new found reputation?

Tofu and other soy products have been staples in vegetarian diets forever. There can be no argument that a diet rich in soy has many health benefits such as decreasing cholesterol and improving overall cardiovascular health, but these benefits are primarily achieved as a result of replacing animal protein with plant protein. It is only recently that the medical community and nutritionists have linked soy with a myriad of other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of breast and colon cancers, preventing osteoporosis, and controlling hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of menopause.

Does This Mean I Have To Eat TOFU??

Apparently there are a lot of people out there who enjoy tofu -- I just don’t happen to know any. Stir-fry it, dice it, douse it with soy sauce or stuff it into a manicotti shell, it is still tofu. There is no question that soy bean curd has a high concentration of soy protein, but it is not the only option. Soy contains isoflavonoids that have cholestrol lowering properties. Get atleast 25 grams of soy products in your meals. Just mix couple of table spoons of soy flour in your chapati dough.

Soya chunks were introduced in Indian market some 15-20 years back. People liked its chunky and meaty texture and it goes great with simple vegetarian curries. A much healthier alternative to eating ground meat is to completely or at least partially substitute it with TVP (textured vegetable protein). TVP is also known as soy granules and is available by brand name "Meal maker" and "Nutrela" etc. Actually any kind of meat cooked on high heat produces HCA, a kind of dangerous chemical that could generate nasty toxins in your body. Mixing TVP with such meats reduces the release of this chemical to a large extent. Use TVP to make garden burgers and your kids will not make out the difference.

Health food stores everywhere carry soy protein in powder form which can be added to homemade fruit smoothies, soups and even baked goods without appreciably changing the taste. These protein powders also usually lists the isoflavone content. Additionaly you can buy soy flour from health food market and mix quarter part of your normal chapati dough with soy flour. The difference in taste of chapatis and paranthas is negligible and you get your dose of isoflavones.

Soy milk requires some getting used to -- but to start with you can easily replace half of the regular milk with flavored soy milk in smothies and fruit shakes and nobody will notice the difference. I have not found soy milk to be a great source of soy protein but it does serve up a sizeable dose of isoflavones.

Although the health benefits of a diet containing different kinds of soy products are well documented, there are not yet any definitive guidelines as to how much is needed to make a difference.

Japanese intake of isoflavones is about 200 milligrams a day. So don't worry about overdose on soy. Unless you are Japenese, I am sure you can't beat that mark.

Article by Rajiv Anand