What is Soya?
By: Alison Solomon and Jenifer baker

It's What's for Dinner

Dietary Sources:
Soya comes from the soya bean pods that are located in the soya plant. The scientific name is Glycin Max and it is from the Pea family (Fabaceae). Soya bean pods were first cultivated in China over 4000 years ago. Today, they are mostly cultivated in North and South America inaddition to China.

Beneficial effects:
A. Soya beans contain antioxidants. These compounds protect cells from damage that is caused by free radicals. These free radicals are believed to be responsible for many cancers and premature aging.

B. Soya beans have cholesterol- lowering properties. They lower LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) and raise HDL (High-density lipoprotein).

C. Soya beans can increase bone mineral density and decrease calcium loss in aging women.

D. Soya beans contain natural plant hormones known as isoflavones. These isoflavones are also called phytoestrogens. The phytoestrogens are similar to the estrogens that our bodies produce naturally. During menopause, the body produces less estrogen.

However, phytoestrogens located within the soya bean can be absorbed by the body, and thus mimic estrogen.

Principal Uses:

A. Protection against cancer. Studies have shown that populations that eat a diet rich in soya products suffer less breast, colon endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer. This is due to the antioxidant effects of genistein, one active component of soya beans.

B. Protection against risk of heart disease. There is less incidence of coronary heart disease in communities that eat a diet rich in soya beans. This is due to its lowering of the LDL cholesterol level.

C. Protection against bone disease. There is less incidence of osteoporosis in populations that eat a soya-rich diet. This is due to soya's ability to decrease calcium loss and increase bone mineral density.

D. Nature's hormone replacement therapy. Due to the action of the phytoestrogens that are located within the soya bean, there is a lower incidence of menopausal symptoms in women. In Japan, hot flashes are so uncommon that they do not even have a word that describes them.

Available Forms:
There are a wide variety of products made from soya bean. Some examples are:

A. Tofu- soya bean curd made from coagulated soya milk. It is sometimes known as soya cheese. Can be purchased as silken tofu or firm tofu.

B. Textured Vegetable protein- defatted soya flour which has been processed and dried to give a sponge-like texture. It can be flavored to resemble meat. It is usually incorporated into vegetarian burgers, sausages, and canned foods.

C. Tempeh- fermented soya bean paste. It has a chewy texture and can be used as a meat substitute in recipes.

D. Miso- fermented condiment made from soya bean, grain, salt, and water. Used to give flavor to soups, stews, casseroles, and sauces.

E. Soya sauces- fermented soya beans with cracked roasted wheat, salt and water.

F. Soya milk- used as a substitute for dairy milk. It provides a large amount of protein. Most brands add calcium, Vitamin-D2, Vitamine-Bl2, and VitaminB2.

Dosage Ranges:
Western diets usually get 5mg of phytoestrogens a day while the Japanese diet provides 5-20 times that amount. Experts recommend that 40-60mg of soya a day is needed for optimal nutritional therapy. This is equivalent to 120g tofu, 1.3 liters of soymilk, or 35g of soy flour.

There are two principal drug-interactions with soya. The first one is monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Soya products contain tyramine, which can cause a hypertensive reaction in patients currently taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Soya foods to avoid are fermented soya bean and soya bean pastes that contain a significant amount of tyramine. Soya products that should be used with caution are soy sauces. The second drug interaction involves L-thyroxine. Soya products decrease the absorption of Lthyroxine in infants with congenital hypothyroidism. This becomes a problem if the infant is receiving soy-based formula. The L-thyroxine dose should be increased if an infant with congenital hypothyroidism is fed soy-formula. After the soy-formula is discontinued, the L-thyroxine dose should be decreased.

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