August 10, 1999 | By: Ellen Brightwell

Soybeans and foods made from these legumes are an important part of a healthful diet. They are nutritious and appear to reduce risks of some serious diseases and health problems.

"We receive high-quality protein from eating soybeans or soy foods. Soybeans also supply us with high levels of important nutrients such as calcium, iron and several B-vitamins as well as fiber," said Sandra Bastin, Extension food and nutrition specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Plus, scientists have identified some compounds in soybeans that apparently reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and help control some potentially serious health problems, according to Bastin.

People who eat soy foods regularly have lower rates of several types of cancer including breast, colon, lung and prostrate. "Making soy foods a regular part of your diet also helps lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk for heart disease, help control diabetes and kidney disease, and possibly decrease the threat of osteoporosis," she said.

Scientific research has identified several compounds in soybeans that could reduce people's risk of cancer. They contain isoflavones that keep estrogen from entering cells. These compounds could reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Protease inhibitors in soybeans suppress the growth of cells made of protein. These inhibitors could slow tumor growth. Phytoesterols, which hinder cell production in the intestines, could reduce our risk of colon cancer.

Saponins interfere with the replication of certain genetic information, thus reducing information cancer cells need to reproduce. In addition to dried or fresh green soybeans, consumers can choose from a variety of soy foods, Bastin said. These foods include: Soy milk, a rich, creamy milk made by pressing the liquid from ground soybeans. It is lactose- and casein-free and is available in many flavors.

Tofu, a cheese-like food made by curdling fresh soy milk in a process much like cottage cheese is made from cow's milk. Tofu often is called "bean curd." Although tofu has no flavor of its own, it does assume the flavors of foods with which it is combined.

Soy flour is made from ground roasted soybeans.Textured soy protein is made from soy flour that has had the fat removed and then is compressed and processed into granules or chunks. It has a texture similar to ground beef when moisture is added.

Soy grits are made from toasted, cracked soybeans. They range in size from tiny flakes to particles as big as pieces of cracked wheat. Tempeh is made through a process of controlled fermentation of whole soybeans. It has a mushroom-like flavor and is a staple food in Indonesia.

Miso, used extensively in Japanese cooking, is a salty, fermented condiment made of ground soybeans, sometimes with rice or barley added.

Soy meat analogs are products that mimic the taste, texture and appearance of meat and can replace meat in some recipes.


Writer: Ellen Brightwell 606-257-1376

Source: Sandra Bastin 606-257-1812