Without question: soy is a food cure. It deserves that status, due to its ingredients and its effects in the human body. Here I start a short series on soy, beginning with a look at cholesterol.
Some quick history first. Did you know that tofu was invented in China around 200 A.D.? Well, before then even, the Chinese had discovered fermentation methods that allowed the creation of soy sauce. Europe greeted soy in the 1700s and then the U.S. did in the next century. It was during World War II when the U.S. began large-scale soybean cultivation. In fact, the U.S. produces approximately half of the world’s supply of soybeans, primarily in the midwestern states.
Lately, there’s been a great deal of interest in soy products
— in particular its “isoflavones” in view of growing evidence of many health benefits. Isoflavones are only a few of the main invisible ingredients that combine to make soy such a beneficial food to choose. Soy has:
— Isoflavones: Antihypertensive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer
— Saponins: Binds cholesterol in the gut, antioxidant, antiviral
— Phytates: Antioxidant, antibacterial
— Coumestant: Both estrogen-like and anti-estrogen effects
— Phytosterols: Binds cholesterol in the gut
— Lignans: Anti-cancer, antiviral, estrogen-like and anti-estrogen effects
— Protease inhibitors: anti-cancer
Researchers analyzed the findings of 38 clinical studies on the effects of soy protein intake on blood cholesterol. The average soy protein intake was 47 grams per day. These were the major findings:
— In 38 studies, the total cholesterol levels of 730 patients fell an average of 9.3%
— In 31 studies, LDL cholesterol (the bad one) levels in 564 patients fell 13%
— In 30 studies, HDL levels (good) in 551 patients rose 2.4%
— In 30 studies, triglyceride levels in 628 patients fell an average of 10.5%
RECOMMENDED: Soy Intake Can Help Prevent Prostate Cancer
They concluded that eating soy protein rather than animal protein significantly reduced serum levels of total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. This study and other studies demonstrated these facts:
— The greatest effects were seen in people with high cholesterol levels to begin with
— Completely replacing dietary animal proteins with soy protein yields the best results
— Patients already on low cholesterol diets experience further decreases in their cholesterol levels with the addition of soy products
Despite the lipid-lowering effects of soy products in individuals with high cholesterol levels, there is no evidence that soy products can in fact prevent heart attack or stroke.