Principal Proposed Uses
The soybean has been prized for centuries in Asia as a nutritious, high-protein food with a myriad of uses, and today it's popular in the United States not only in Asian food, but also as a cholesterol-free meat and dairy substitute in traditional American foods. Soy burgers, soy yogurt, tofu hot dogs, and tofu cheese can be found in a growing number of grocery stores alongside the traditional white blocks of tofu, and soy is increasingly used as a protein filler in many prepared foods, including fast-food “hamburger.”
Soy appears to reduce blood cholesterol levels, and the US Food and Drug Administration has authorized allowing foods containing soy to carry a "heart-healthy" label.
Soybeans contain isoflavones, chemicals that are similar to estrogen. These are widely thought to be the active ingredients in soy, although, as discussed below, there is substantial evidence that other constituents may be equally or more important. Much of the information in this article overlaps with that in the Isoflavone article.
If you like Japanese, Chinese, Thai, or Vietnamese food, it's easy to get a healthy dose of soy. Tofu is one of the world's most versatile foods. It can be stir-fried, steamed, or added to soup. You can also mash a cake of tofu and use it in place of ricotta cheese in your lasagna. If you don't like tofu, there are many other soy products to try: plain soybeans, soy cheese, soy burgers, soy milk, or tempeh. Or, you can use a soy supplement instead.
The FDA allows soy foods containing 6-½ grams of soy to carry a heart-healthy label. Evidence suggests that a daily intake of 25 g of soy protein is adequate to noticeably reduce cholesterol. This amount is typically found in about 2-½ cups of soy milk or ½ pound of tofu.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Soy?
There are other theories, as well. For more information, see the Isoflavone article.
Menopausal Symptoms ("Hot Flashes")
The high rate of the placebo effect seen in many studies of menopausal symptoms may account for these discrepancies. In addition, it is possible that certain formulations of soy contain as yet unidentified ingredients beyond isoflavones that play an important role.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking:
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 09/2014 -
- Update Date: 09/18/2014 -