Soy is one of a handful of complete vegetarian proteins, with products like edamame, tofu, and tempeh containing all nine essential amino acids.
The body is unable to produce these amino acids, meaning they must come from food sources.
“Soy is nutrient-packed,” says Pamela Fergusson, RD, PhD, a dietitian in British Columbia. “And it has no cholesterol and is low in saturated fats.”
What does that all do your body though?
A solid plant-based substitute
“Because soy has an amino acid profile containing all the essential amino acids our bodies need, it substitutes nicely for animal protein—such as eggs, meat, fish, seafood, and dairy,” like these other plant-based proteins, explains Cathy Leman, RD, a dietitian and personal trainer in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.
Soy can help manage your cholesterol
“Regular intake of soy may help with reducing high blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein, aka ‘bad’ cholesterol,” says Fergusson. A recent study in The Journal of Nutrition suggests soy protein can markedly help decrease LDL cholesterol.
“We believe that soy protein foods are useful, even though their effects on serum cholesterol are small,” adds David Jenkins, MD, PhD, study co-author of The Journal of Nutrition study and professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto.
“If you eat a number of heart-health-claim-approved foods, such as soy, nuts, oats, barley, and plant sterols as found in plant-sterol-enriched margarines, you can get a drug-like cholesterol reduction. So just because the effect on serum cholesterol is small, don’t dismiss these foods. Use a number of them in combination in your diet.”
Soy is good for your heart
“Soyfoods boast a nutritional profile that makes them especially appealing to folks interested in eating a heart-healthy diet,” says Leman. “Whole soy foods have fiber, contain no cholesterol, and are low in saturated fat. Soy foods can replace less heart-healthy choices, like red and processed meats. Even though the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has cited inconsistent findings in the research supporting the link between soy foods and heart health, soy foods are still considered good for heart health.”
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