HEALTHY FOODS — By Mini Padikkal — Rich in minerals and disease-preventing plant chemicals soyabeans are a complete source of protein containing all eight essential amino acids needed in our diet. They are cultivated for their high protein content and to produce a wide range of products like oil, soya milk, soya sauce, tofu, yoghurt, flour, etc.
Soyabeans are also excellent sources of calcium, B vitamins, potassium, zinc and magnesium. It is a very rich source of iron, although this iron can only be absorbed by the body if consumed with vitamin C rich foods. Soya beans are rich in phytochemicals known as isoflavones which may help prevent certain types of cancer, fight heart disease and improve bone density. Most animal studies have shown that soya isoflavones inhibit prostate tumour development. Although soya foods are high in both oxalates and phytate, two compounds that can inhibit calcium absorption, the calcium in soy foods is very well absorbed.
The bulk of literature suggest that including soya in the diet may have a protective effect against breast cancer, attributed in part to soyabean’s isoflavone content. However, the role of soya for those diagnosed with breast cancer remains controversial because data from in vitro and animal studies suggest that isoflavones found in soy, especially genistein, may stimulate the growth of estrogen–sensitive tumours. Unfortunately there is limited human data that directly confirm this concern.
• Soya is rich in plant chemicals that offer protection from diseases including breast and prostate cancers and heart disease.
• Complete source of low saturated fat protein.
• Rich in plant compounds, which may help protect against hormone based cancers.
• Helps lower ‘bad’ cholesterol and protect against heart disease.
• Can reduce symptoms of the menopause, including hot flushes.
These nutritious beans are often regarded as an ideal food for those trying to build muscles or body builders. They can be of immense help for preventing a number of health problems, including atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries and complications related to the heart. Even people suffering from diabetes can benefit from them. Oil obtained from soya beans is very rich in essential fatty acids like linoleic and linolenic acids. Both are very important for human health, as they help regulate blood pressure and facilitate the absorption of vital nutrients.
Although soya is nutritious, it can disrupt thyroid function in some people. If your thyroid gland is underactive due to hypothyroidism, it may not be able to produce additional hormones after eating soya or other goitrogenic foods. In this case, soya can further impair thyroid function. The goitrogens in soya may also interfere with thyroid medications. To avoid thyroid complications, limit soya to one serving per day, which is equal to 8 oz. of soya milk, 2 tsp. of soya sauce or 4 oz. of tofu.
One cup or 256 g of raw soyabeans usually contains about 376 calories, 33.2gm protein, 28.3gm carbohydrates, 17.4gm fats, 74.2mg vitamin C, 1.1mg thiamine, 504mg calcium, 166mg magnesium, 1587mg potassium and 9.1mg iron. On the other hand, 172gm of dry and roasted mature seeds contain almost 776 calories. Soya nuts are a type of snacks, that are actually roasted soyabeans. Calories in roasted soyabeans or soy nuts can also be very high( 30gm of soya nuts can contain about 140 calories).
• Increase the protein content of your baked goods by replacing some of the flour with soyabean flour.
• Use whipped tofu as a base for creamy soups, mousses and puddings.
• Grill tempeh as a great meat alternative. Fermented soya foods like miso and tempeh have healthy bacteria like that found in yoghurt.
— The writer is a dietician at Atlas star Medical Centre, Al Khuwair, Muscat.