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PostSubject: Soybeans Soybeans   Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:21 am

Soybeans Soybeans

The delicious, slightly nutty flavored soybean has been cultivated in China for over 3,000 years but the good news about soy's culinary versatility and exceptional health benefits is a relatively recent phenomenon in the West. Different varieties of this truly amazing legume are available throughout the year.

The soybean is the most widely grown and utilized legume in the world and one of the most well researched, health-promoting foods available today. Like other beans, soybeans grow in pods, featuring edible seeds. While we most often think of them as being green, the seeds can also be yellow, brown or black.

Food Chart
This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Soybeans provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Soybeans can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Soybeans, featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits
How to Select and Store
How to Enjoy
Individual Concerns
Nutritional Profile

Health Benefits
The soybean is the most widely grown and utilized legume in the world, with the U.S. being responsible for more than 50% of the world's production of this important food. Soy is one the most widely researched, health-promoting foods around. Soybeans' key benefits are related to their excellent protein content, their high levels of essential fatty acids, numerous vitamins and minerals, their isoflavones, and their fiber. While a complete review of all the benefits soybeans offer could easily fill a large book, recently there has been controversy as to the extent to which soybeans are a health-promoting food; we address this issue in our Q+A Are there special concerns related to soy foods?

A Health-Promoting Meat Replacer

Soybeans are regarded as equal in protein quality to animal foods. Just one cup of soybeans provides 57.2% of the Daily Value (DV) for protein for less than 300 calories and only 2.2 grams of saturated fat. Plus, soy protein tends to lower cholesterol levels, while consuming protein from animal sources tends to raise them, since they also include saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition to healthy protein, some of soybeans' nutritional high points include a good deal of well-absorbed iron: 49.1% of the DV for iron in that same cup of soybeans; plus 37.0% of the DV for Nature's relaxant, magnesium; and 41.2% of the DV for essential omega-3 fatty acids.

Stay Lean with Soy

A study published in Endocrinology suggests active isoflavone compounds found in soy, specifically, genistein, may help us stay lean by causing us to produce fewer and smaller fat cells. In this study, laboratory animals eating diets that provided between 500-1500 ppm (parts per million) of genistein created less and smaller fat cells than the animals eating regular chow. In the animals eating soy, decreases in fat production were significant, ranging from 37% to 57% less than the amount of fat produced by mice given standard chow.

In human terms, a comparable amount of genistein to that the animals were given could easily be consumed by simply including traditional soyfoods as part of a healthy whole foods eating plan since most traditional soyfoods, such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and miso, are rich sources of isoflavones, providing about 30 to 40 milligrams per serving. Only two soy products, soy sauce and soybean oil, do not contain isoflavones. In one study, genistein concentration was found to be 93 micrograms per gram in nonzukuri miso; 193 micrograms per gram in tempeh; and 223 micrograms per gram in fermented bean curd.

Soy Lowers Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in Men

Soy��s beneficial effects have often been studied in women. Now, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has investigated the effects of soy protein and soy isoflavones on blood pressure and cholesterol levels in 61 middle-aged men, at high risk of developing coronary heart disease. For five weeks, half the men consumed diets containing at least 20 grams of soy protein and 80 milligrams of soy isoflavones each day. The effects on their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and urinary excretion of isoflavones were measured, and then compared to those of the other half of the men who were given a placebo diet containing olive oil.

The men consuming soy in their diet were found to have significant reductions in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure. Not only was their total blood cholesterol significantly lower, but their levels of HDL (good) cholesterol significantly increased. While the control group consuming the soy-free diet containing olive oil also experienced an increase in their HDL cholesterol levels, their blood pressure was not affected, nor did their levels of LDL (potentially harmful) cholesterol drop.

The researchers concluded that daily intake of at least 20 grams of soy protein including 80 mg of isoflavones for a minimum of 5 weeks would be effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in high-risk, middle-aged men.

Beneficial Effects on Cholesterol Levels and Platelets

Soy protein has been found in recent years to be excellent for a number of different conditions, one of the most important ones being heart disease. Soy protein has been shown in some studies to be able to lower total cholesterol levels by 30% and to lower LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, levels by as much as 35-40%. This is important because high levels of cholesterol, especially LDL cholesterol, tend to become deposited into the walls of blood vessels, forming hard plaques. If these plaques grow too large or break, they can cause a heart attack or stroke.

Some studies have even shown that soy protein may be able to raise HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol travels through the body collecting the cholesterol that has been deposited in the arteries, so it can be taken away and removed by the liver. One of the main goals of atherosclerosis treatment and prevention, therefore, is to lower LDL cholesterol levels while raising HDL levels. And soy is one food that may be able to do both at once.

In addition, soybeans also contain very good amounts of fiber. When eaten, the fiber in soybeans binds to fats and cholesterol in food, so less is absorbed. In addition, soybeans' fiber binds to bile salts and removes them from the body. Since the liver gets rid of cholesterol by transforming it into bile salts, their removal by fiber forces the liver to use more cholesterol to form more bile salts, leading to lower cholesterol levels overall.

Soy protein has also been shown to reduce the stickiness of platelets, possibly because soybeans are a good source of the important essential fats called the omega-3 fatty acids. When platelets get overly sticky, which happens often in atherosclerosis patients, they are more likely to clump together to form blood clots. These blood clots can in turn lead to heart attacks or stroke. Reducing the risk of these blood clots is just another way that soybeans can protect against these events.

Yet another way in which soy provides cardiovascular protection is by promoting the production of prostacyclin, a potent natural inhibitor of platelet aggregation and a powerful blood vessel wall dilator. A study published in Acta Obstetrics and Gynecology Scandavia suggests that soy's isoflavones also contribute to its beneficial cardiovascular effects. The reason behind isoflavone's beneficial dilatory action on blood vessels is that the endothelium, the lining of blood vessel walls, contains estrogen receptors, which, when triggered, boost prostacyclin production. In this study, 25 healthy postmenopausal women with mild climacteric symptoms were given 55 mg of isoflavones derived from soy and red clover daily for 6 months. After 3 months, the women's endothelial prostacyclin production had increased 70% from baseline. After 6 months, their prostacyclin production was up 110%.

Soy Protein Promotes Larger, Less Dangerous LDL

While recent research has confirmed that soy's isoflavones are not the agents responsible for its cholesterol-lowering effects, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition shows that soy protein does lower heart disease risk by increasing the size of LDL cholesterol particles. Small dense LDL is the most dangerous form of cholesterol, while large LDL, especially when accompanied by adequate supplies of HDL is considered much less risky.

In this study, conducted at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Center on Aging at Tufts University, researchers found that people who ate diets high in soy protein significantly increased their LDL particle size compared to periods when they ate diets high in animal protein.

Study participants, all of whom had high cholesterol, were given four different diets, each for a period of six weeks: soy protein with no isoflavones, soy protein enriched with isoflavones, animal protein with no added isoflavones, and animal protein with added isoflavones.

While isoflavones had no effect, soy protein consumption resulted in a decrease in the amount of small dense LDL and an increase in larger LDL particles compared to animal protein—a significantly less risky cholesterol profile.

Soy Packs a Double Punch to Knock Down High Cholesterol

A recently discovered bioactive peptide found in soybeans, lunasin is likely to be a key actor in soy's cholesterol-lowering actions. A study in which lunasin was added to human liver cells demonstrated the compound's potential to significantly lower cholesterol two ways -- by inhibiting the expression of the gene responsible for our body's internal production of cholesterol, while also increasing the expression of a gene that reduces levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.

When added to a cell culture of HepG2 liver cells, lunasin slashed HMG-CoA reducstase expression by 50%. HMG-CoA is the gene that directs production of HMG-CoA reductase, the enzyme responsible for cholesterol biosynthesis. (Statin drugs also lower cholesterol by blocking HMG-CoA reductase.)

At the same time, lunasin increased by 60% the expression of the gene which produces LDL cholesterol receptors that help clear plasma cholesterol.To learn more about lunasin, visit

Increased Nitric Oxide Production

A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that soy protein also protects against atherosclerosis by increasing blood levels of nitric oxide, a small molecule known to improve blood vessel dilation and to inhibit oxidative (free radical) damage of cholesterol and the adhesion of white cells to the vascular wall (two important steps in the development of atherosclerotic plaques).

In this study, when researchers gave laboratory animals bred to be apoliprotein-E deficient a purified diet containing either casein, the principal protein in dairy products, soy protein or rice protein, the mice given casein developed the largest atherosclerotic lesions. (In humans as well as animals, apolipoprotein E plays an important role in cholesterol transport, so a deficiency of this protein increases risk for the development of atherosclerosis.) Animals given soy or rice protein fared much better.

In trying to understand why, the researchers evaluated blood levels of nitric oxide. Mice fed either soy or rice protein diets were found to have increased blood levels of L-arginine (the amino acid that the body uses to produce nitric oxide) and nitric oxide metabolites when compared to those given casein-based feed. However, the L-arginine content of the soy and rice diets was not high enough to explain the amount of protective benefit they conferred, so the researchers concluded that these foods must also contain other protective compounds.

Whole Soyfood, But Not Isolated Isoflavones, Found Cardioprotective

Research published in Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology suggests that while a diet rich in soy foods may be cardioprotective, soy isoflavones by themselves will not produce much effect. At the conclusion of this animal study, those eating the soy protein had 50% less damaged LDL (bad cholesterol) in their coronary arteries compared to those given either the milk-based diet or the milk-based diet supplemented with isoflavones. Researchers noted that the reduced LDL cholesterol seen in the carotid arteries with soy was due to decreased delivery of LDL to the arteries, which could partly explain the soy's cardioprotective effects. Once again, it appears that the combination of nutrients Mother Nature supplies in whole foods is better calibrated to promote health than are components of whole foods extracted from the matrix in which they function as part of a comprehensive whole.

Whole Soyfoods, But Not Isolated Isoflavones, Significantly Lower Cholesterol

Once again, studies show that eating whole foods, which naturally provide their own unique combination of nutrients, does more for your health than using supplements.

A meta-analysis of 23 studies published from 1995 to 2002, which appeared in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, shows that consumption of soy protein—with its isoflavones intact as it is supplied in soyfoods—results in significant decreases in total cholesterol(by 0.22 mmol/L, or 3.77%), LDL (bad) cholesterol (by 0.21 mmol/L, or 5.25%), and triglycerides (by 0.10 mmol/L, or 7.27%), plus significant increases in HDL (good) cholesterol (by 0.04 mmol/L, or 3.03%).

Reductions in total and LDL cholesterol were even larger in men than women, and subjects with high cholesterol benefited the most. Studies in which particpants consumed more than 80 mg of soy protein containing isoflavones daily resulted in better effects on the lipid profile (a person's LDL, HDL and triglycerides).

The strongest lowering effects of soy protein containing isoflavones on total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides occurred within the first few weeks, while improvements in HDL cholesterol were only seen in studies lasting more than 12 weeks.

In contrast, tablets containing extracted soy isoflavones did not produce a significant effect on total cholesterol reduction.

Special Benefits for Women's Hearts and Bones

Soy foods may offer special benefits for the hearts and bones of premenopausal women, suggest two studies conducted at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and presented at the 2004 annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society, Washington, D.C. The results of these studies indicate a beneficial synergy between isoflavones, the weakly estrogenic compounds in soy, and the body's own estrogen in decreasing cholesterol and increasing bone mass.

In the first study, cholesterol levels in laboratory animals fed a soy-based diet were improved compared to those of monkeys given a diet of milk and animal protein—and the most improvement occurred in those animals at highest risk for heart vessel disease. A low ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol is considered healthier. In animals at highest risk for heart disease, the cholesterol ratio decreased by 48% in those given soy compared to those receiving milk and animal protein. Even in the animals at low risk for atherosclerosis that ate soy, the cholesterol ratio dropped 33%.

Lead researcher in this study, Jay Kaplan, PhD, noted that a 48% drop in the cholesterol ratio would likely equate to a 50% reduction in the size of plaques in the arteries, which can rupture causing heart attacks and strokes.

In the second study, animals eating soy were found to have an increase in bone mass compared to those not given soy. According to lead researcher in this study, Cynthia Lees, D.V.M., Ph.D., "The increase was small, but this suggests the possibility that if women consumed soy on a regular basis before menopause, it could benefit their health after menopause." Kaplan also noted that because the soy-estrogen combination caused improvements in both cholesterol and bone, it might also positively impact other areas of the body affected by estrogen, including the brain.

Next on the researchers' agenda will be a study using lower levels of isoflavones over a longer period of time to see if this will be as effective—an outcome that appears to already be supported in a human trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In this study, which included over 1000 pre- and postmenopausal women (meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans), eating moderate amounts of soy foods as part of a regular diet was associated with a lower ratio of total to LDL cholesterol, but not with a lowering in the level of beneficial HDL cholesterol. In those women eating 6 or more grams of soy protein daily, blood levels of LDL cholesterol were 12.4% lower than those in women who ate less than 0.5 grams of soy protein daily.

Soy Protects Menopausal Women's Bones

Two meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials, one considering 9 studies involving a total of 432 subjects, and the other reviewing 10 studies with a total of 608 subjects, have shown that consuming isoflavone-containing soy foods significantly inhibits bone loss and stimulates bone formation in menopausal women.

The first meta-analysis, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women whose daily diets provided soy isoflavones had much lower amounts of deoxypyridinoline (Dpyr, a bone resorption marker) in their urine, and much higher amounts of bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (BAP, a bone formation marker) in their blood. And these bone-protective effects occurred even if the women were consuming less than 90 mg of soy isoflavones per day or if the intervention lasted less than 12 weeks. (Ma DF, Qin LQ, et al.)

The second meta-analysis, published in Clinical Nutrition found that bone mineral density increased significantly (+27 mg/cm) in the spine of women whose diets provided soy isoflavones, even in amounts less than 90 mg/day, compared to those who did not. When more than 90 mg/day of isoflavones from soy foods was consumed for at least 6 months, improvements in spine bone mineral density became even more significant, increasing 28.5mg/cm. (Ma DF, Qin LQ, et al.)

Practical Tip: Enjoying soy foods daily for just 6 months can be enough to exert beneficial effects on bone in menopausal women. All the traditional soyfoods (tofu, soy milk, tempeh and miso) provide 30 to 40 mg per serving. Roasted soybeans are an especially good source; just one-half cup contains 167 mg of isoflavones. However, neither soy sauce nor soy oil contain isoflavones.

Soy Foods Protect Post-Menopausal Women against Cardiovascular Disease

Women's risk for cardiovascular disease increases after menopause, in part because levels of risk factors including homocysteine and excess body iron, tend to rise.

In this study (Hanson L, Engleman H, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition), researchers looked at the effect of soy protein, specifically soy's isoflavones and phytate, on CVD risk factors in 55 postmenopausal women. To do so, they randomly assigned the women to 1 of 4 soy protein (40 grams per day) groups: soy containing both its native phytate and native isoflavones, native phytate but low isoflavone, low phytate and native isoflavone, or low phytate and low isoflavone.

After just 6 weeks, women in the groups given soy protein with its native phytate had significant reductions in homocysteine and excess iron concentrations. Soy protein with native isoflavones had no effect.

Most interesting about this study is the fact that the phytate in soy, a compound which, because of its mineral-binding effects, has sometimes been considered problematic, that is responsible for some of the CVD-protective effects soy offers postmenopausal women. Once again, Mother Nature appears to have good reason for all the compounds found in whole foods.

Soy Nuts Lower Blood Pressure and LDL Cholesterol, plus Decrease Menopausal Symptoms in Postmenopausal Women

Soy nuts have a lot to offer postmenopausal women, suggest two studies conducted by Francine Welty and her team from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston.

Enjoying a half-cup of soy nuts as one source of protein in a healthy diet can reduce blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women by as much as 10% in just 8 weeks, discovered Welty's team in research they published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (Welty FK, Lee KS, et al.)

High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as having blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg, and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, a leading cause of death in postmenopausal women.

In this 16-week study, 60 postmenopausal women (average age 56), 12 of whom had high blood pressure, followed two different diets, each for 8 weeks: a Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet or a TLC diet in which soy nuts (roasted, unsalted soybeans) were used as one source of protein. Blood samples and blood pressure measurements were taken at the beginning and end of each 8-week diet.

The TLC diet derived 30% of its calories from fat (with 7% or less from saturated fat), 15% from protein and 55% from carbohydrates. The diet delivered 1,200 mg of calcium and less than 200 mg of cholesterol daily. Two meals of fatty fish, such as salmon or tuna, were included weekly.

The TLC with soy diet contained the same calorie, fat and protein, calcium and cholesterol content, but 25 grams of its protein were delivered in the form of one-half cup of unsalted soy nuts.

When eating the soy nuts as part of their TLC diet, the women with high blood pressure experienced systolic and diastolic blood pressure reductions of 9.9% and 6.8%, respectively, and even those with normal blood pressure experienced reductions and 5.2% and 2.9%, respectively.

Not only was blood pressure lowered in all the women, but in those who began the study with high blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and apoB levels also dropped, 11% and 8% respectively, compared with the TLC diet without soy. (LDL, sometimes called "bad" cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and apoB is a carrier for LDL, so lower levels mean that less LDL is being carried in the bloodstream.)

"A 12-millimeter of mercury decrease in systolic blood pressure for 10 years has been estimated to prevent one death for every 11 patients with stage one hypertension treated; therefore, the average reduction of 9.9 milligrams of mercury in systolic blood pressure in hypertensive women in the present study could have significant implications for reducing cardiovascular risk and death on a population basis," wrote Welty.

Triglyceride levels also dropped in all the women when eating soy nuts, 7% in those with normal and 11% in those with high blood pressure. (High triglycerides, a form in which fat is carried in the bloodstream, are another cardiovascular disease risk factor.)

"Although these reductions were not statistically significant, their magnitude is similar to reductions in triglyceride levels observed in other soy studies and may have clinical relevance, especially since triglyceride levels are stronger predictors of cardiovascular risk in women than in men," noted Welty.

The researchers speculate that soy isoflavones work synergistically with other compounds in soy nuts, which are roasted whole soy beans, to produce the blood pressure lowering effects. In other studies, in which isoflavones were given in isolation in the form of supplements, no such benefits were observed.

"This study was performed in the free-living state; therefore, dietary soy may be a practical, safe and inexpensive modality to reduce blood pressure. If the findings are repeated in a larger group they may have important implications for reducing cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women on a population basis," concluded the researchers.

In a similar 16-week diet crossover study, this one looking at menopausal symptoms, Welty's team again gave 60 healthy postmenopausal women two 8-week diets, the TLC diet and a TLC diet with similar calorie, fat, and protein content in which one-half cup soy nuts divided into three or four portions spaced throughout the day (containing 25 g soy protein and 101 mg isoflavones) replaced 25 grms of non-soy protein.(Welty FK, Lee KS, et al, J Women's Health).

Once again, compared with the TLC diet alone, women did much better on the TLC diet with soy nuts. While eating soy nuts, hot flashes dropped 45% in women beginning the study with at an average of at least 4.5 hot flashes a day, and 41% in those who began the study with an average of less than 4.5 hot flashes daily.

Eating soy nuts also resulted in significant improvements in the women's scores on the menopausal symptom quality of life questionnaire: a 19% average decrease in vasomotor symptoms score, 12.9% reduction in psychosocial symptoms score, 9.7% decrease in physical symptoms score, and a 17.7% reduction in sexual symptoms score.

Practical Tip: If you're postmenopausal or heading towards menopause, including a half-cup of unsalted soy nuts in your healthy way of eating is an easy, delicious way to lower your blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, while greatly reducing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Divide your soy nuts into 3 or 4 handfuls and use as a snack or a crunchy topping for soups, salads and steamed vegetables.

Soy Foods Do Not Increase Breast Cancer Risk in Postmenopausal Women

Eating soy foods does not increase risk of breast or endometrial cancer in postmenopausal women, and may even be protective, suggests a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Despite the fact that the isoflavones found in soy have only 1/1,000th the potency of human estrogens, and epidemiological studies indicate that populations the consume diets high in soy have lower rates of breast cancer, the safety of consuming soy has been questioned because hormone replacement therapy has been found to increase breast cancer risk.

(We'd like to point out that the debate has not taken into consideration the fact that conventional hormone replacement therapy has meant the use of estrogens derived from pregnant mares, which are not only different from, but much more potent than human estrogens, and progestin, drug compounds similar but not identical to human progesterone. So, in our opinion, comparing the potency and possible side effects of conventional HRT to that of soy foods is like contrasting Godzilla with Bambi.)

Now, a animal study conducted at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, has found that consuming the amount of soy phytoestrogens that would be ingested when soyfoods are included in the diet (in women, about 129 mg/day of isoflavones) does not increase risk of breast or uterine cancer, and appears to be protective.

In this study, laboratory animals with healthy breast tissue whose ovaries had been removed (to resemble postmenopausal women), were randomly assigned to receive one of three diets for 3 years:

Group One was given soy protein isolate from which the isoflavones had been removed.
Group Two received soy protein isolate containing soy isoflavones in a dose comparable to 129 mg/day, more than most people would get on a soyfoods-rich diet.
Group Three was given soy protein concentrate from which the isoflavones had been removed and replaced with conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin, the equine estrogen commonly used in HRT) in an amount comparable to the usual dose given women, 0.625 mg/day.

The researchers measured a number of markers of cancer risk: breast density, numbers of dividing breast and uterine cells, sex steroid receptor expression, and blood levels of estrogen. In the monkeys receiving Premarin, levels of all cancer markers increased significantly. In contrast, the monkeys given soy with or without its isoflavones had no increase in any of the cancer markers. And animals receiving soy with isoflavones actually had significantly lower levels of estrogen than the animals given soy from which the isoflavones had been removed.

The researchers concluded that the high dietary levels of soy isoflavones did not increase markers related to uterine and breast cancer risk in the laboratory animals studied.

Lead researcher Charles Wood noted that the research addressed the effects of plant estrogens on normal breast tissue, and not in breast cancer. Whether soy is safe for breast cancer survivors remains "a big unanswered question," according to Wood.

Wood's research team has now begun investigating whether soy isoflavones can be used to block breast cell proliferation triggered by estrogen replacement therapy. The theory is that since soy isoflavones, but not estrogens, are similar enough in structure that they can bind to estrogen receptors, they can prevent the much more powerful human estrogen from doing so, thus reducing its effects in the body.

Until this research provides more answers, it looks like soyfoods may, at the very least, reduce cancer risk in postmenopausal women with healthy breast tissue.

Stabilize Blood Sugar at Healthy Levels

Another condition for which soybeans can be very beneficial is diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes. The protein in soybeans, and also in other legumes, is excellent for diabetic patients, who tend to have problems with animal sources of protein. The protein and fiber in soybeans can also prevent high blood sugar levels and help in keeping blood sugar levels under control. Some diabetics even find that the effects of soybeans and other legumes on blood sugar are so profound that they need to monitor their new blood sugar levels and adjust their medications accordingly. Of course, all of this should only be done under the supervision of a doctor. Diabetes patients are especially susceptible to atherosclerosis and heart disease, which is the number one killer of persons with diabetes. Keeping cholesterol levels low with soybeans may be useful for preventing these heart problems. In addition, soybeans have been shown to lower high triglyceride levels. Triglyceride levels tend to be high in diabetic patients, and high triglyceride levels are another factor of diabetics' increased risk for heart disease.

Several Types of Legumes, and Especially Soybeans, Lower Diabetes Risk

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Cancer Institute recruited 64,227 middle-aged Chinese women with no previous history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease or cancer, and followed them an average of 4.6 years.

Food-frequency questionnaires revealed an inverse association between eating legumes and incidence of type-2 diabetes. A high intake of all legumes resulted in a 38% reduction in risk, while a high intake of soybeans, specifically, was associated with a 47% risk reduction. (Villegas R, Gao YT, et al. Am J Clin Nutr)

Research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst also suggests soy, in the form of soy yogurt, could play an important role in the management of type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. (Shetty K., UMass Amherst)

Type 2 diabetes can often be accompanied by an abnormal rise in blood sugar right after a meal. Medications to prevent this often target enzymes responsible for modifying carbohydrates before they can be absorbed by the small intestine. Since carbs are the major source of blood sugar, inhibiting carb-altering enzymes α-amylase and β-glucosidase slow the body's absorption of sugars.

High blood pressure is another problem for which diabetics are at increased risk, so the U Mass researchers also took a look at soy yogurt's effects on the activity of angiotensin-I converting enzyme (ACE-I), which plays a role in the constriction of blood vessels and is a target of blood pressure-lowering medications (ACE-inhibitors).

Buying peach, strawberry, blueberry and plain yogurts made by four different brands, including a soy brand, at the local grocery, the researchers took samples of each yogurt and tested its ability to inhibit the three enzymes.

The soy yogurt enriched with blueberries inhibited the activity of all three enzymes. The blueberry (non-soy) yogurts were also best at blocking the action of β-glucosidase. Peach and strawberry enriched yogurts inhibited both carb-altering enzymes, α-amylase and β-glucosidase.

The researchers also tested the yogurts for their phenol content (phenols are potent anti-oxidants and are sometimes even more potent than vitamin antioxidants) and levels of antioxidant activity. Blueberry yogurts had the second-highest concentrations of phenols and the most antioxidant activity, surpassed only by soy (even plain soy yogurt had higher phenol content than any regular yogurt with fruit). Soy yogurts had the highest phenol content overall, and were best at inhibiting ACE-I, lessening its activity by 92%.

The findings provide a strong rationale for further clinical studies, and for incorporating "healthy diet design" into disease management strategies. "What one eats should be part of an overall approach to therapy," said lead researcher Kalidas Shetty.

Practical Tip: Give soy yogurt a try. Instead of buying fruit-flavored yogurt, though, we recommend adding your own fresh blueberries, strawberries or peaches to plain yogurt. You'll get far more fruit and along with it, we expect you'll also get more more carb- and ACE-1-enzyme-inhibiting activity as well.

Protect Against Diabetes-related Kidney and Heart Disease

A small clinical trial conducted on type 2 diabetes patients with nephropathy (diabetes-related kidney damage) suggests that soy protein can help protect diabetics—hearts and kidneys from damage caused by the disease. The study, a randomized crossover clinical trial, was conducted on 14 type 2 diabetes male and female patients receiving medical care at an educational university hospital and private kidney disease clinic. For the first seven weeks, patients followed a diet typically recommended to control nephropathy, which included 0.8 grams/kilogram of protein, based on 70% animal and 30% vegetable protein. After a washout period during which study subjects ate their pre-study diet, they were readmitted for another 7-week cycle, this time consuming a diet containing 35% soy protein and 30% vegetable protein.

Following the soy diet, all patients experienced significant reductions in total cholesterol, triglyceride and LDL-cholesterol, while levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol remained stable and renal function improved. Specifically, the patients' urinary urea nitrogen (a protein component that is not normally leaked into the urine) and proteinuria (protein in the urine, another indicator that the kidneys are beginning to fail) were both much lower on the soy protein diet. Researchers concluded, "Soy inclusion in the diet can modify the risk factors of heart disease and improve kidney function in these patients."

Another study, this one conducted at the University of Illinois and published in the Journal of Nutrition, provides more evidence that soy protein helps persons with diabetes prevent kidney disease and improve their cholesterol profile. This study, a seven month crossover trial, involved 14 men with type 2 diabetes and kidney disease. After the first month, during which baseline measurements were established for each man, they were divided into two groups, one of which received a daily serving of vanilla flavored protein powder made from soy protein while the other group was given protein powder containing casein (the primary protein in cow's milk). After eight weeks, the men were given no protein powder for four weeks and then switched over to the other protein powder for eight weeks. Serving size of both types of protein was 0.5g/kg/day.

While on the soy protein, the men's urinary albumin concentrations decreased by 9.5% but increased by 11.1% while on the casein diet. Higher amounts of albumin in the urine are a marker for deterioration in kidney function.

In addition, blood levels of beneficial HDL-cholesterol increased by 4.3% after the soy protein diet but tended to be lower after casein consumption.

Why were these beneficial effects seen with soy? The authors suggest that soy's isoflavones may be responsible for the improvement in cholesterol profile, while soy's higher levels of the amino acid arginine, a chemical precursor to a molecule called nitric oxide that dilates arteries, are responsible for improving blood flow in the kidney and thus kidney function.

Their conclusion: a simple dietary modification—adding soy protein foods to the diet—could help persons with diabetes prevent kidney disease and improve their cholesterol profile.

Soybeans' Choline Lessens Chronic Inflammation

People whose diets supplied the highest average intake of choline (found in egg yolk and soybeans), and its metabolite betaine (found naturally in vegetables such as beets and spinach), have levels of inflammatory markers at least 20% lower than subjects with the lowest average intakes, report Greek researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Detopoulou P, Panagiotakos DB, et al.)

Compared to those whose diets contained <250 mg/day of choline, subjects whose diets supplied >310 mg of choline daily had, on average:

22% lower concentrations of C-reactive protein
26% lower concentrations of interleukin-6
6% lower concentrations of tumor necrosis factor alpha

Compared to those consuming <260 mg/day of betaine, subjects whose diets provided >360 mg per day of betaine had, on average:
10% lower concentrations of homocysteine
19% lower concentrations of C-reactive protein
12% lower concentrations of tumor necrosis factor alpha

Each of these markers of chronic inflammation has been linked to a wide range of conditions including heart disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, and type-2 diabetes.

In an accompanying editorial in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition entitled, "Is there a new component of the Mediterranean diet that reduces inflammation?," Steven Zeisel from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill noted that choline and betaine work together in the cellular process of methylation, which is not only responsible for the removal of homocysteine, but is involved in turning off the promoter regions of genes involved in inflammation.

"Exposure to oxidative stress is a potent trigger for inflammation. Betaine is formed from choline within the mitochondria , and this oxidation contributes to mitochondrial redox status ," Zeisel continued.

"If the association between choline and betaine and inflammation can be confirmed in studies of other populations, an interesting new dietary approach may be available for reducing chronic diseases associated with inflammation," he concluded.

Recommended daily intakes of choline were set in 1998 at 550 milligrams per day for men and 425 milligrams a day for women. No RDI has been set for betaine, which, since it is a metabolite of choline, is not considered an essential nutrient.

Practical Tip: Egg yolks are the richest source of choline, followed by soybeans. Spinach, beets and whole wheat products are primary sources of betaine. (Olthof MR, van Vliet T, et al. J Nutr)

Promote Gastrointestinal Health

A substance found in soybeans may reduce colon cancer risk, suggests animal research conducted by Alfred Merrill at Emory University and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

The cancer-protective substance is a sphingolipid (a type of lipid or fat that, in the body, is primarily used as a constituent of nerve tissue) called soy glucosylceramide. Sphingolipids found in milk have already been shown to inhibit the formation of tumors in laboratory animals exposed to carcinogens known to cause colon cancer. While the sphingolipids found in soy differ structurally from those found in milk, the soy compounds had comparable effects.

When laboratory animals exposed to a carcinogen were given a diet containing 1% soy glucosylceramide, the proliferation of colon cancer cells dropped by 56%. When the same diet was given to a strain of animals bred to spontaneously develop colon cancer, the rate at which tumors formed dropped 37%.

Soy sphingolipids provided this protection by affecting the expression of 96 different genes in the cells that form the lining of the intestines, increasing 32 and decreasing 64. Soy's effects on these genes resulted in a decrease in the production of two factors associated with cancer initiation and promotion: hypoxia-induced factor 1 alpha and transcription factor 4.

While other plants also contain sphingolipids, soy contains relatively high amounts of glucosylceramide, which researchers think may be one reason for the cancer-preventive effects of eating soy foods.

Protection against Prostate Cancer

The incidence of prostate cancer is much lower in Asian than Western populations, and soy foods may be one important reason why, suggests research published in Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers and Prevention (Kurahashi N, Iwasaki M, et al.)

A 9-year Japanese study involving 43,509 men ranging in age from 45 to 74 years found that those eating the most soy food and miso (and therefore consuming more genistein and daidzein, the isoflavones found in soybeans) had a significantly lower risk of localized prostate cancer.

Among the men who were older than 60, the protective effect was strongest. Men whose diets provided the most genistein had a 48% reduced risk of localized prostate cancer compared to men food delivered the least of this isoflavone. Similarly, men consuming the most daidzein and soy foods showed 50% and 48% reduced risks of localized prostate cancer, respectively, compared to men consuming the least daidzein and soy foods.

Research suggests that isoflavone phytonutrients found in soybeans may protectively alter men's metabolism of estrogen, lowering men's ratio of 2 hydroxy estrogens to 16 hydroxyestrone (2:16 OH-E1). (Yes, real men produce some estrogen, and in men, the prostate is the primary locus of estrogen production.) Since the 2 hydroxy metabolites of estrogen are less likely to initiate hormone-related cancers than estrogen's 16 hydroxyestrone metabolites, soy's effect of increasing the amount of 2 hydroxy estrogen produced in relation to the amount of 16 hydroxyestrone made in the prostate may help prevent prostate cancer. (Hamilton-Reeves JM, Rebello SA, et al., J Nutr.)

Earlier research linking soy to protection against prostate cancer has suggested that the weak estrogenic activity of soy's isoflavones, which may act to reduce testosterone levels and inhibit 5-alpha-reductase (an enzyme involved in converting testosterone to its most potent form, DHT, which has been linked to prostate growth and male baldness), might also be protective. (Kurahashi N, Iwasaki M, et al., Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.)

Practical Tips: Protect your prostate health by making soy foods a staple part of your healthy way of eating. Not a fan of tofu? Soy milk is now an available option, even at most espresso stands. You can take packets of miso to work with you, just as you would any dehydrated soup mix. Miso not only makes a delicious broth on its own, but can be sprinkled like seasoning over brown rice or any grain, any soup, or sautéed vegetable to add great flavor. Try a tofu burger for lunch. Experiment with a few brands till you find one you really enjoy; some (we like BocaBurgers) now do a pretty reasonable job of mimicking the taste and texture of beef. Soy nuts can also go with you to the office for a quick snack.

Promote Optimal Health

The fiber in soybeans also provides preventative therapy for several other conditions. Fiber is able to bind to cancer-causing toxins and remove them from the body, so they can't damage colon cells. High-fiber soybeans may be able to help reduce the risk of colon cancer. As a matter of fact, in areas of the world where soybeans are eaten regularly, rates of colon cancer, as well as some other cancers, including breast cancer, tend to be low.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that colon cancer may be a hormone-responsive cancer, and that soy protein can not only help prevent its occurrence but can have a very positive effect on the number and size of tumors that do occur. In this study, female laboratory animals whose ovaries had been removed to limit their sources of estrogen were exposed to an agent that causes colon tumors, then fed five different diets designed to compare the effects of specific ingredients, and followed for a year.

Diet One contained milk protein, and Diet Two, soy protein with no isoflavones; both these diets were free of any kind of estrogen. The remaining three diets contain soy protein plus an estrogenic component. Diet Three contained soy protein and the isoflavone, genistein, a phytoestrogen found in soy. Diet Four contained soy plus a mixture of soy-derived isoflavones including genistein, and Diet Five contain estrone, a naturally occurring human estrogen.

While the diet containing estrone was the most effective in preventing colon cancer, all the soy/estrogen diets were also protective and even those animals given soy protein with no estrogen-like factors that did develop colon cancer had fewer and smaller tumors compared to mice given milk protein.

Lead researcher, Ruth MacDonald, professor of food science at the University of Missouri, is now trying to determine how soy compounds protect against colon cancer. Until this work is done, however, she notes that not only is soy protein thought to also be helpful in the prevention of heart disease, but "the good news is that there are many ways to add soy to your diet now, and we know of no harmful side-effects to eating soy protein."

In addition to its fiber, soy's isoflavones also contribute to its protective effect against breast and prostate cancer. Research involving nearly 22,000 Japanese women—the Japan Public Health Center-Based Prospective Study on Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases—shows that a diet high in isoflavone-rich soy foods, particularly miso, is linked to a significantly lower risk of breast cancer. The women, who ranged in age from 40 to 59 years, filled out a dietary questionnaire that included questions about soy consumption and were followed for 10 years. Whether pre- or postmenopausal, women who reported eating three or more cups of miso soup per day had a 40% lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who reported consuming less than one cup per day. Women with the highest intakes of isoflavones—compounds in soyfoods that can bind to estrogen receptors in the body and block out human estrogen, thus lessening its effects—had a 54% lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those whose intake of isoflavones was lowest.

A variety of soyfoods commonly eaten in the Asian diet contain isoflavones including tofu, miso, soymilk, soy sauce, soy flour, green or dried soybeans, soybean sprouts and a fermented soy food called natto. Almost 75% of the women reported eating miso soup daily, and of these 34% ate three or more cups of miso soup per day. More than 45% reported eating soy foods other than miso daily. The average intake of isoflavones among participants in this study was calculated to be about 700 times higher than that of Caucasians in the United States.

In epidemiological studies, genistein, a naturally occuring isoflavone found chiefly in soybeans, has been consistently linked to lower incidence of prostate cancer. A recent study of human prostate cancer cells demonstrated some of the mechanisms behind genistein's anti-prostate cancer effects. Genistein not only induced chemicals that block cell cycling, thus preventing the proliferation of cancerous cells in the prostate, but at high concentrations actually induced apoptosis, the self-destruct sequence the body uses to eliminate worn out or abnormal cells.

Another study looked at the antioxidant effects of these isoflavones in soy, and found that genistein protected cells in healthy men from an increase in free radical production by inhibiting the activation of an important inflammatory agent called NF-kappaB and by decreasing levels of DNA adducts (a marker of DNA damage).

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PostSubject: Re: Soybeans Soybeans   Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:21 am

In addition to genistein, another isoflavone found in soybeans called daidzen has also demonstrated protective action against prostate cancer. A study published in Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers that evaluated 398 Chinese men (men with prostate cancer as well as residential community matched controls) found that those consuming the most tofu had a 42% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to those consuming the least. When researchers checked the relationship between the soy isoflavones, genistein and daidzen, which are found not only in tofu, but in soy beans and other foods made from them, those consuming the most genistein were found to have a 47% lower risk for prostate cancer, while those consuming the most daidzen had a 44% lower risk.

Soy foods may also reduce risk of endometrial cancer. Research conducted in Shanghai and published in the British Medical Journal suggests that eating soy foods may be one reason Asian women have the lowest incidence in the world of endometrial cancer (cancer affecting the lining of the uterus).

The study included over 800 women with endometrial cancer, aged 30-69 years, and a disease-free, matched control group of over 800 women. For five years, all subjects answered food frequency questionnaires. When the data was evaluated, a significant inverse association was found between frequency of eating soy foods and endometrial cancer risk. Compared to women who ate the least soy foods, endometrial cancer risk was reduced from 7% to 15% to 33% as soy food intake increased.

Two reasons soy may help prevent endometrial cancer:

Soybeans contain the isoflavones genistein and daidzein, which, although about 1,000 times less potent than human estrogen, can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, blocking out human estrogens and providing a much more gentle estrogenic effect.

Plus, minimally processed soy foods are rich in dietary fiber, which has also been shown to lower estrogen levels.

For Optimal Health, Eat Whole Soy Foods, Not Purified Soy Products

A study published in Carcinogenesis suggests that not only is the cancer-preventive ability of soy foods markedly reduced in highly purified soy products and supplements, but that such processed foods can stimulate the growth of pre-existing estrogen-dependent breast tumors.

Soy foods contain complex mixtures of bioactive compounds that interact with one another to promote health, while the partially purified isoflavone-containing products consumed in the U.S. may have lost many of the biologically active components in whole soy foods. "These partially purified isoflavone-containing products may not have the same health benefits as whole soy foods," noted William G. Helferich, professor of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and one of the study's primary authors.

In the study, laboratory animals were divided into four groups, one of which received no soy and served as the control group, while the others were given either whole soy flour, soy extract, a mixture of isoflavones, or genistein in pure form. Despite the fact that all groups, except the control group, received an equal amount of the soy isoflavone genistein, "as bioactive compounds were removed, we observed an increase in estrogen-dependent tumor growth," said Helferich.

In the animals given minimally processed soy flour, a form of soy comparable to the whole soy foods consumed in the Asian diet, tumors neither grew nor regressed. But in the animals given dietary soy products containing isoflavones in more purified forms, the tumors grew. "These products are similar to the materials used in isoflavone-containing dietary supplements, which is how many Americans consume these compounds," Helferich noted.

The take-home message for women, especially postmenopausal women with estrogen-responsive breast cancers, who are looking for alternatives to HRT:

Avoid processed soy products and supplements that contain isoflavones in more purified forms. Choose minimally processed whole soy foods such as endamame, whole soy flour, tofu or tempeh.

A Healthy Transition through Menopause

One of the more popular uses of soybeans lately has been in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Soybeans contain active compounds called isoflavones that act like very weak estrogens in the body. These phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors and may provide enough stimulation to help eliminate some of the uncomfortable symptoms that occur when natural estrogen levels decline. Studies have shown that women who consume soy foods report a significant reduction in the amount of hot flashes that they experience. There is also some evidence that soy foods may even be able to help reduce the bone loss that typically occurs after menopause. And as women's risk for heart disease significantly increases at menopause, soybeans numerous beneficial cardiovascular effects make it a particularly excellent food to consume frequently as menopause approaches.
Soyfoods' beneficial effects on menopausal symptoms have recently been studied by Australian researchers at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), who have attempted to translate the dietary and lifestyle patterns of Japanese women, one of which is regularly consuming soyfoods, to their Western menopausal counterparts. The very beneficial results of this research, called The Women's Wellness Program Study, were summarized at the 2003 Australasian Menopause Conference held in Hobart, Australia.

According to Senior Lecturer in Women's Health at QUT, Dr. Debra Anderson, "Japanese women are regarded as the healthiest women in the world, averaging a life span at least five years longer than Western women." The Women's Wellness Program, a 12-week lifestyle intervention program QUT researchers developed, involved a Westernized Japanese diet rich in calcium and foods high in phytoestrogens, e.g., soyfoods, along with walking and strength exercises.

Study participants, 120 women ranging in age from 50 to 65, were provided a book with lifestyle tips and exercises published by study authors Allen and Unwin, The Menopause Made Simple Program, and encouraged to increase dietary phytoestrogens to 40 mg per day through eating more soy-based foods and grains, raise calcium intake to 1500 mg per day and drink eight glasses of water daily. Participants were also asked to record their daily diet and exercises in a journal.

Virtually all study subjects experienced significant reductions not only in menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and palpitations, feelings of depression, fatigue and lack of motivation, but also in body fat, particularly abdominal fat, and blood pressure. Benefits were so significant that, Anderson reported, "Some of the women have ceased hormone replacement therapy, or are considering doing so, and we have encouraged them to discuss this with their GP."

Next on the research team's agenda is further studies testing the use of nutrition only and exercise only to see which has the biggest impact. Anderson's hunch is "that the combination of dietary phytoestrogens is allowing the body to convert the abdominal fat (that women get postmenopausally due to change of hormones) into muscle and the combination of exercise with phytoestrogens is accelerating this very quickly. This is good news for women as abdominal fat is linked very closely to heart disease and is often very hard for women to shift."

Prevent Hip Fractures in Postmenopause Years

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving over 200 postmenopausal Chinese women suggests that soy isoflavones can help women with low bone mineral content prevent hip fractures in postmenopause years. The trial, reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, randomly divided women into three treatment groups which received daily either a placebo, a medium dose of isoflavones (40 mg isoflavones) or a high isoflavone dose (80 mg isoflavones). All three groups were also given 500 mg of calcium and 125 IU vitamin D daily. At the beginning of the study and one year later, researchers measured bone mineral density (BMD) and bone mineral content (BMC) of the whole body, spine and hip.

Women receiving the high dose of isoflavones had mild, but a significantly higher improvement in BMC at the total hip and trochanter compared to those in the placebo and mid-dose groups, even after adjustments for potential confounding factors. Further analyses revealed that soy isoflavone supplementation was only beneficial among women who started out with average or lower bone mineral content measurements. The researchers concluded, "soy isoflavones have a mild, but significant, independent effect on the maintenance of hip BMC in postmenopausal women with low initial bone mass." In other words, soy isoflavones improve bone density in women who need it, while having little effect on the bones of those whose bone density is already adequate.

The results of this study provide additional support for the findings of a review study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In their review, Drs. Kenneth Setchell, one of the foremost researchers in soy's effects on health, and Eva Lydeking-Olsen examined 17 in vitro studies of cultured bone cells, 24 in vivo animal models for postmenopausal osteoporosis, 15 human observational/epidemiologic studies, and 17 dietary intervention studies. Their conclusions: "the collective data suggest that diets rich in phytoestrogens have bone-sparing effects in the long term, although the magnitude of the effect and the exact mechanism(s) of action are presently elusive or speculative."

A Review of the Research Confirms Whole Soybeans Provide Maximum Health Benefits

A review study, published in Nutrition Reviews discusses numerous mechanisms through which soybeans exert their protective effects against heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.

Most of the research on soybeans' benefits has focused on the role isoflavones play in disease prevention or treatment, but studies show that soy proteins also contribute to soyfoods' protective actions against cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Soy isoflavones have been shown to increase the resistance of LDL cholesterol to oxidation, improve blood vessel flexibility (arterial compliance) in menopausal and peri-menopausal women, and help lower post-menopausal women's risk of developing osteoporosis by helping to maintain a better balance between bone resorption and formation.

Isolated soy protein and soy peptides (amino acid components) have also been shown to help prevent cardiovascular disease by stimulating the expression of LDL-receptors and the break down of LDL in cultured liver cells. Studies, however, indicate that isoflavone-rich soy proteins are much more effective at lowering LDL-cholesterol than isoflavone-depleted proteins.

A diet high in soy foods has been associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer, such as breast, endometrial and prostate. Soy isoflavones' antioxidant properties likely contribute to soy foods' anti-cancer effects by reducing free radical damage to fats (lipid peroxidation) and DNA. Soy isoflavones may also induce Phase II liver enzymes (such as glutathione-s-transferase and quinone reductase), which help the body eliminate the toxic byproducts (aromatic hydrocarbons) produced when meats are charbroiled.

Soy peptides and protein isolates also have antioxidant properties that can contribute to soyfoods' anti-cancer effects. In addition, a soy protein isolate has been shown to interfere with the circulation of bile acids, which are known to play a critical role in colon and liver tumor development.

Scientists may need to isolate soy's isoflavones and protein components to better study how this amazing legume provides its many benefits, but our goal is to receive them all. Fortunately, it's easy to do so—just enjoy foods made from whole soybeans.


The Chinese name for soybeans means "greater bean" and this amazing legume could not deserve a more fitting title. After all, what could be greater than a bean that offers such a wealth of nutritional value in addition to its culinary versatility?

Like other beans, soybeans grow in pods, featuring edible seeds. While we most often think of them as being green, the seeds can also be yellow, brown or black.

The texture of soybeans is so adaptable that they can be processed in a host of different ways making it easy for you to enjoy them in your daily diet. There are fresh soybeans (also known as edamame), dried soybean seeds, soymilk, soynuts, tofu, tempeh, soy flour, natto, miso...the list goes on and on. And with their delicious, slightly nutty flavor and wonderful nutritional profile, this legume known scientifically as Glycine max can offer you max-imum enjoyment and health.


Soybeans originated in China over 13,000 years ago where they were considered one of the most important crops in the area. They were introduced into Japan in the 8th century and many centuries later into other regions of Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and Vietnam.

Soybeans made their first appearance in the United States in the 18th century, planted by an American who brought them back from China. American farmers began planting soybeans in the 19th century; yet, it was not until the early 20th century, when nutrition pioneers such as George Washington Carver and John Harvey Kellogg began discovering and promoting the health benefits of soybeans, that the "greater bean" began to receive greater public attention. While interest in the nutritional benefits of soybeans has steadily increased since then, in the past few years, a true groundswell of interest has occured. This has come about in response to the recent scientific research that is supporting the numerous ways that soybeans can promote health.

Today, the United States is the world's leading commercial producer of soybeans.

How to Select and Store

Dried soybeans are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins. Just as with any other food that you may purchase in the bulk section, make sure that the bins containing the soybeans are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Whether purchasing soybeans in bulk or in a packaged container, make sure that there is no evidence of moisture or insect damage, and that the beans are whole and not cracked.

Canned soybeans can be found in many markets. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value of canned soybeans and those you cook yourself. Canning lowers vegetables' nutritional value since they are best lightly cooked for a short period of time, while their canning process requires a long cooking time at high temperatures. On the other hand, beans require a long time to cook whether they are canned or you cook them yourself. Therefore, if enjoying canned beans is more convenient for you, by all means go ahead and enjoy them. We would suggest looking for those that do not contain extra salt or additives. (One concern about canned foods is the potential for the can to include a liner made from bisphenol A/BPA. To learn more about reducing your exposure to this compound, please read our write-up on the subject). Edamame(fresh soybeans) should be deep green in color with firm, unbruised pods. Edamame can be found in many supermarkets as well as in natural foods stores and Asian markets. It is usually available in the frozen food section, although during its peak season you can find it the produce aisle of many natural food stores and Asian markets. Some stores offer precooked edamame in their refrigerated display cases.

Store dried soybeans in an airtight container in a cool, dry and dark place where they will keep for up to 12 months. If you purchase soybeans at different times, store them separately since they may feature varying stages of dryness and therefore will require different cooking times. Cooked soybeans will keep fresh in the refrigerator for about three days if placed in a covered container.

Fresh edamame should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within two days. Frozen edamame will keep fresh for a few months.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Preparing Soybeans:

Before washing dried soybeans, spread them out on a dark colored plate or cooking surface to check for and remove small stones, debris or damaged beans. After this process, place the beans in a strainer and rinse them thoroughly under cool running water.

To shorten their cooking time and make them easier to digest, dried soybeans should be presoaked. There are two basic methods for presoaking. For each, start by placing the beans in a saucepan and adding two to three cups of water per cup of beans.

The first method is to boil the beans for two minutes, take pan off the heat, cover and allow to stand for two hours. The alternative method is to simply soak the beans in water for eight hours or overnight, placing pan in the refrigerator so that the beans will not ferment. Before cooking the beans, regardless of method, drain the soaking liquid and rinse the beans with clean water.

To cook soybeans, you can either cook them on the stovetop or use a pressure cooker. For the stovetop method, add three cups of fresh water or broth for each cup of dried beans. The liquid should be about one to two inches above the top of the beans. Bring the beans to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, partially covering the pot. If any foam develops, simply skim it off during the simmering process. Soybeans generally take about one to one and one-half hours to become tender using this method. They can also be cooked in a pressure cooker where they take about 40 minutes to prepare. Regardless of cooking method, do not add any seasonings that are salty or acidic until after the beans have been cooked since adding them earlier will make the beans tough and greatly increase the cooking time.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Replace some of the wheat flour in your favorite baked goods recipe with soybean flour and increase the protein content of your cookies, cakes, muffins and breads.

Mix sprouted soybeans into salads or use as toppings for sandwiches.

Frozen edamame is simple to prepare and makes a great snack or appetizer. Just add the soybean pods to slightly salted water and boil for approximately 10 minutes.

Add soybeans to vegetable stews and soups.

Use soymilk in place of cow's milk as a beverage and cereal topper.

Individual Concerns

Allergic Reactions to Soybeans

Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, research studies on food allergy consistently report more problems with some foods than with others. It's important to realize that the frequency of problems varies from country to country and can change significantly along with changes in the food supply or with other manufacturing practices. For example, in several part of the world, including Canada, Japan, and Israel, sesame seed allergy has risen to a level of major concern over the past 10 years.

In the United States, beginning in 2004 with the passage of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), food labels have been required to identify the presence of any major food allergens. Since 90% of food allergies in the U.S. have been associated with 8 food types as reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, it is these 8 food types that are considered to be major food allergens in the U.S. and require identification on food labels. The 8 food types classified as major allergens are as follows: (1) wheat, (2) cow's milk, (3) hen's eggs, (4) fish, (5) crustacean shellfish (including shrimp, prawns, lobster and crab); (6) tree nuts (including cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and chestnuts); (7) peanuts; and (Cool soy foods.

Some of the most common symptoms for food allergies include eczema, hives, skin rash, headache, runny nose, itchy eyes, wheezing, gastrointestinal disturbances, depression, hyperactivity and insomnia. Individuals who suspect food allergy to be an underlying factor in their health problems may want to avoid commonly allergenic foods.

Soybeans and Oxalates

Soybeans are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates, naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings. When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems. For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating soybeans. Laboratory studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Yet, in every peer-reviewed research study we've seen, the ability of oxalates to lower calcium absorption is relatively small and definitely does not outweigh the ability of oxalate-containing foods to contribute calcium to the meal plan. If your digestive tract is healthy, and you do a good job of chewing and relaxing while you enjoy your meals, you will get significant benefits—including absorption of calcium—from calcium-rich foods plant foods that also contain oxalic acid. Ordinarily, a healthcare practitioner would not discourage a person focused on ensuring that they are meeting their calcium requirements from eating these nutrient-rich foods because of their oxalate content. For more on this subject, please see "Can you tell me what oxalates are and in which foods they can be found?"

Soybeans and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

A large percentage of the conventionally grown soybeans in the United States come from genetically modified (GM) seeds. If you are looking your exposure to GM foods, choose organically grown soybeans (and foods such as tofu, tempeh and miso made from it), since the current USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of GM seeds for growing foods to be labeled as organically grown. A wide assortment of processed food contain soy-based ingredients (such as soy protein and hydrolyzed vegetable protein); look for the organic version of these items in your foods and/or look for foods that note that they do not contain any genetically modified ingredients (sometimes this is noted on the packaged as "GMO-free"). For more on this subject, see this Q+A.

Other Questions about Soybeans

If you are looking to learn more about other questions related to soybeans, the following articles may be of interest:

Can you tell me more about the goitrogens, soybean agglutinin (SBA), and phytates found in soy products?
Is it true that the traditional methods of preparing and consuming soy are greatly disregarded today?
I have heard that most of the soy products now on the market are far removed from the whole soybean from which they are made. How does this affect their nutritional value?
Is it true that most soy crops are now genetically engineered?

Nutritional Profile

Soybeans are an excellent source of molybdenum. They are also a very good source of protein and manganese. In addition, soybeans are a good source of iron, phosphorus, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, copper, vitamin B2, and potassium.

For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Soybeans.

In-Depth Nutritional Profile
In addition to the nutrients highlighted in our ratings chart, an in-depth nutritional profile for Soybeans is also available. This profile includes information on a full array of nutrients, including carbohydrates, sugar, soluble and insoluble fiber, sodium, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more.

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart
In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good, or good source (below the chart you will find a table that explains these qualifications). If a nutrient is not listed in the chart, it does not necessarily mean that the food doesn't contain it. It simply means that the nutrient is not provided in a sufficient amount or concentration to meet our rating criteria. (To view this food's in-depth nutritional profile that includes values for dozens of nutrients - not just the ones rated as excellent, very good, or good - please use the link below the chart.) To read this chart accurately, you'll need to glance up in the top left corner where you will find the name of the food and the serving size we used to calculate the food's nutrient composition. This serving size will tell you how much of the food you need to eat to obtain the amount of nutrients found in the chart. Now, returning to the chart itself, you can look next to the nutrient name in order to find the nutrient amount it offers, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's "Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling." Read more background information and details of our rating system.

Soybeans, cooked
1.00 cup
172.00 grams
297.56 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%) Nutrient
Density World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
molybdenum 129.00 mcg 172.0 10.4 excellent
tryptophan 0.37 g 115.6 7.0 excellent
manganese 1.42 mg 71.0 4.3 very good
protein 28.62 g 57.2 3.5 very good
iron 8.84 mg 49.1 3.0 good
omega 3 fatty acids 1.03 g 42.9 2.6 good
phosphorus 421.40 mg 42.1 2.5 good
dietary fiber 10.32 g 41.3 2.5 good
vitamin K 33.02 mcg 41.3 2.5 good
magnesium 147.92 mg 37.0 2.2 good
copper 0.70 mg 35.0 2.1 good
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 0.49 mg 28.8 1.7 good
potassium 885.80 mg 25.3 1.5 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Soybeans


Allred CD, Allred KF, Ju YH, Goeppinger TS, Doerge DR, Helferich WG. Soy processing influences growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer tumors in mice. Carcinogenesis. 2004 May 6 [Epub ahead of print] 2004. PMID:15131010.
Anderson D. Research done as part of The Women's Wellness Program Study: 6th Australasian Menopause Conference, October 24-26, 2003, Sydney, Australia 2003.
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PostSubject: Re: Soybeans Soybeans   Sat Aug 27, 2011 7:55 pm

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Cumin seeds Cumin seeds
Cloves Cloves - health
Cinnamon, ground Cinnamon, ground
Cilantro/Coriander seeds Cilantro/Coriander seeds
Chili pepper, dried Chili pepper, dried
Cayenne pepper Cayenne pepper
Black pepper Black pepper
Basil Basil - health
Whole wheat Whole wheat
Spelt Spelt
Rye Rye - health care
Quinoa Quinoa
Oats Oats - health care
Millet Millet
Corn Corn - health care
Buckwheat Buckwheat
Brown rice Brown rice
Barley Barley
Walnuts Walnuts
Sunflower seeds Sunflower seeds
Sesame seeds Sesame seeds
Pumpkin seeds Pumpkin seeds
Peanuts Peanuts
Olive oil, extra virgin Olive oil, extra virgin
Flaxseeds FlaxseedsCashews Cashews
Almonds Almonds
Venison Venison
Lamb Lamb - health care
Chicken Chicken
Calf's liver Calf's liver
Beef, lean organic Beef, lean organic
Tofu Tofu - health care
Tempeh Tempeh
Soybeans Soybeans
Pinto beans Pinto beans
Navy beans Navy beans
Miso Miso - health
Lima beans Lima beans
Lentils Lentils
Kidney beans Kidney beans
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Dried peas Dried peas
Black beans Black beans
Yogurt Yogurt
Milk, goat Milk, goat
Milk, 2%, cow's Milk, 2%, cow's
Eggs Eggs - health care
Cheese, low-fat Cheese, low-fat

Cheese, low-fat Cheese, low-fat
Watermelon Watermelon
Strawberries Strawberries
Raspberries Raspberries
Raisins Raisins
Prunes Prunes
Plums Plums
Pineapple Pineapple
Pears Pears
Papaya Papaya
Oranges Oranges
Lemon/Limes Lemon/Limes
Kiwifruit Kiwifruit
Grapes Grapes
Grapefruit Grapefruit
Figs Figs - health
Cranberries Cranberries
Cantaloupe Cantaloupe
Blueberries Blueberries
Bananas Bananas
Apricots Apricots
Tuna Tuna - health
Shrimp Shrimp
Scallops Scallops
Sardines health
Salmon Salmon
Halibut Halibut
Cod Cod health
Yams Yams Yams Yams
Turnip greens
Tomatoes Tomatoes
Swiss chard Swiss chard
Sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes
Squash, winter Squash, winter
Squash, summer Squash, summer
Spinach Spinach
Sea vegetables Sea vegetables
Romaine lettuce Romaine lettuce
Potatoes Potatoes
Onions Onions
Olives Olives
Mustard greens Mustard greens
Mushrooms, shiitake Mushrooms, shiitake
Mushrooms, crimini Mushrooms, crimini
Leeks Leeks
Kale Kale Kale
Green peas Green peas
Green beans Green beans
Garlic Garlic
Fennel Fennel

Eggplant Eggplant
Cucumbers Cucumbers
Collard greens Collard greens
Celery Celery
Cauliflower Cauliflower
Carrots Carrots
Cabbage Cabbage
Brussels sprouts
Broccoli Broccoli
Bell peppers Bell peppers
Beets Beets
Avocados Avocados
Asparagus Asparagus
Apples Apples
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