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Soy & Health

Soybeans are members of the pea (legume) family of vegetables. In recent years, the soybean has come under the spotlight as a possible 'superfood' that can reduce the risk of a range of health problems, including coronary heart disease. More research is needed, but the evidence so far suggests that it would be wise to include whole soy foods in the daily diet.
Soybeans also contain hormone-like substances called phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. The health benefits of soy for menopausal women could include fewer hot flushes, protection from coronary heart disease, and lowered risk of osteoporosis1.

Nutrition profile

Soy protein is a complete protein. It is the only plant protein that is equivalent to animal protein2. It is one of only two known plant foods to contain all the essential amino acids, similar to those found in meat (the other plant food is amaranth seed, a wild green).

Some soy products can be a source of calcium and iron, such as Chinese tofu or tempeh (made with a calcium coagulant) and calcium fortified soy drinks1.

The soybean is:
High in protein
High in fibre
Low in saturated fat
Cholesterol-free
Lactose-free
A good source of omega-3 fatty acids
High in phytoestrogens

If you want to increase your intake of phytoestrogens, you could:
- Choose whole soy foods like soymilk, soy yoghurt, soy bread and tofu.
- Check the ingredient list to make sure that the soy foods you buy are made from whole soybeans.
- Ensure that products such as cereals contain soy protein and not just added isoflavone.

References:
1. Better Health Channel www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
2. 2003 Soyfoods Guide accessed at www.soyfoods.com, February 2004.
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