If you don't normally eat healthy soy-based foods, including tofu, tempeh, miso, edamame, and even veggie burgers and soy milk, this month, National Soy Foods Month, is a good time to start. Soy foods are cholesterol-free, low in saturated fat, and packed with protein and essential amino acids.
Unlike meat, eggs, and dairy products, which are known to cause heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers, soy foods have been shown to help protect against cardiovascular problems, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. According to a study conducted by UCLA, people who consume soy may even have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
Research also shows that soy consumption can help prevent strokes, that menopausal women who eat soy may have fewer hot flashes, and that soy consumption can protect against osteoporosis. A study from Clinical and Experimental Allergy suggests that the antioxidants in soy may also benefit asthma sufferers.
As John Robbins has written, "in 1997, the American Institute for Cancer Research, in collaboration with its international affiliate, the World Cancer Research Fund, issued a major international report, Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. This report analyzed more than 4,500 research studies, and its production involved the participation of more than 120 contributors and peer reviewers, including participants from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Agency on Research in Cancer, and the U.S. National Cancer Institute. In 2000, Riva Bitrum, the President of Research for the American Institute for Cancer Research, said that 'Studies showing consistently that just one serving a day of soyfoods contributes to a reduction in cancer risk are encouraging. Consuming one serving of soyfoods is a step most individuals would not find too difficult to take.'"
Numerous studies have shown that women who eat soy are less likely to develop breast cancer. Just recently, in fact, the National Cancer Institute released the results of a new study suggesting that young girls who eat soy foods are less likely to develop breast cancer as they get older. Another National Cancer Institute study conducted in 2006 found that women who ate the most soy-based foods early in life reduced their chances of breast cancer by 58 percent. Several other studies show a similar correlation between soy intake and breast cancer rates. Many health experts believe that women who eat a typical Western diet--high in meat, fat, and sugar--have a much higher risk of breast cancer compared to women who eat a typical Asian diet--high in soy and vegetables.
More from Robbins: "In 2000, the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association published a major statement in the peer-reviewed journal Circulation, officially recommending the inclusion of 25 grams or more of soy protein, with its associated phytochemicals intact (i.e., not in the form of an isolated soy protein supplement), in the daily diet as a means of promoting heart health. This recommendation is consistent with the FDA's recent ruling allowing soy protein products to carry the health claim: '25 grams/day of soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.'"
Soy foods are not only nutritious, they're delicious and versatile. Soy products can be used in everything from stir fries and smoothies to cheeseburgers and cheesecakes. While a healthy diet should consist of a variety of vegan foods, including lentils, beans, fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains, it's also wise to enjoy wholesome soy foods on a regular basis.
For vegetarian recipes, product suggestions, and tips on preparing soy, see www.VegCooking.com.
Have a happy National Soy Foods Month!