Soy beans are a legume from which many food items are made for regular diet consumption. Soy products are popular with those eating a vegetarian diet because of the high protein content of the soybean. Soymilk and other soy products is traditional staple of Asian cuisine. It can also be used to make tofu which is like a substitute to cheese. Use of soymilk is said to have begun in China in A. D. 82. It is used extensively in other Asian countries such as Japan and Malaysia. Today is used all over the world and is easily available in various varieties across many countries.
Many choose soymilk because of its versatility and ability to be used as a milk replacement in recipes. It is available in chocolate and vanilla flavours. Some also drink salted soy milk in countries such as China and India.
Soy products replace many meat dishes and when milk is extracted from the soybean it is a nutritious replacement for those who do not consume dairy products. With the cost effectiveness of soy and increasing popularity in diets around the world, research studies are beginning to look at the many other health benefits of consuming this natural plant product.
Nutritional value of soymilk
Unfortified soymilk original and vanilla is a good source of energy, protein, sugar, dietary fiber and fat. Amongst minerals it contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. Various vitamins such as folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, B-12, D, E and vitamin K are also found in soymilk. It also contains saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. All these nutrients help in maintaining a good health.
The nutritional value of soymilk may vary as to whether or not it is fortified. Though the protein content in soymilk is comparable to that of cows.1 Other nutrients may be of less content and fortification of vitamins and minerals is a common practice in commercially produced soymilk products.1 Soymilk that is fortified is sufficient for as a nutritious milk substitute for those eating a plant based diet or with dairy allergies since it contains calcium and other vitamins. The protein content and the soy isoflavones that are in soy products are phyto nutrients that have many preventive medicine benefits and are in soymilk both fortified and non-fortified. Reviewing the nutritional label is necessary to determining the nutritional value of each soymilk product as brands may vary.
Health Benefits of soymilk
Cardiovascular health:Soymilk contains protein which is essential to human nutrition and growth.1 proteins are made of amino acids which are shown to have beneficial effect in preventing various health disorders. The amino acid and isoflavones content of soy protein also shows potential in the lowering of LDL-cholesterol.1 Other studies have shown that elderly men who consume soy isoflavones have the benefits of reduction in serum cholesterol levels.1 Amongst type 2 diabetic patients, consumption of soymilk is associated with better blood pressure. So, intake of soymilk may be effective in improving cardiovascular health. Soymilk contains less protein than milk, but for those who are lactose intolerant it may be a good source of protein. Also, many studies suggest that soy protein is a reliable and cost effective replacement protein for those who are vegan or who consume a natural plant diet.1
Soymilk provides relief from many postmenopausal health issues. Studies suggest that soy isoflavones may help in maintaining estrogen levels in the menopausal women. 2 Since post-menopausal women are known to have a decrease of estrogen, intake of soymilk may assist in preventing maladies that may occur from this natural loss of the hormone.2 The antioxidant effects of soy isoflavones may further be beneficial in reduction of certain chronic diseases especially that of the cardiovascular system in postmenopausal women.2
Soymilk is beneficial in providing relief from osteoporosis in postmenopausal woman. Osteoporosis is a risk for women in post-menopausal years of age.1 Often known as brittle bones, loss of calcium contributes the risk of developing this disease.1
Studies have found that an animal protein diet increases urinary excretion of calcium and a soy based protein diet does not.1 Since increasingly soymilk is also fortified with calcium, it could be said that soymilk both helps retaining and also providing supplement when fortified products are consumed.1Natural hormone replacement therapy with soy isoflavones may improve retention of bone mass and density reducing risk of fracture for which post-menopausal women would otherwise be at risk for due to estrogen loss.2
Consumption of soymilk is beneficial in reducing risk of prostate cancer. Results of research study suggest that men with high consumption of soymilk are at lower risk of prostate cancer.
Breast cancer is common amongst women, levels of estrogen is associated with this type of cancer. Especially,
post-menopausal women are at higher risk for breast cancer and often consume soy products such as soymilk for other health benefits of estrogenic replacement. Research study suggests that intake of soymilk may reduce serum estrogen levels and reduce risk of breast cancer.
Antioxidant properties:The antioxidant effects of soy isoflavones may be beneficial to the reduction of certain chronic diseases. Curdle soymilk or tofu has antioxidant and hepatoprotective properties which help in reducing oxidative stress and damage. Study suggests that it may be beneficial in preventing liver damage caused by oxidative stress. Findings of a research study suggest that the antioxidant properties of soymilk may further help in increasing antioxidant capacity and reduce menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women.
Obesity and Cholesterol Lowering:
Metabolic obesity which occurs most often in men as well as post-menopausal women may be beneficially affected by the consumption of soy isoflavones.2 The hormonaleffects of soy isoflavones work to inhibit adipogenesis resulting in reduced enlargement of adipose tissue.2 Since the adipogenesis effect of soy isoflavones relies on many complicated factors results may vary. 2 However, those who consume soy isoflavones, such a contained in soymilk, may not only benefit from the adipogenic effect but also the LDL- cholesterol lowering effects can work synergistically in the prevention and treatment of certain heart diseases.2 Apart from this, soymilk helps in reducing waist circumference amongst obese and overweight individuals.
In conclusion, the content of soymilk has many phyto nutrients that have preventive benefit against many different chronic diseases. 2 These phyto nutrients are proven to beneficial to health especially for the aging population. 1,2 Protein content can suffice when taken in significant quantities for those choosing a plant based diet.2 Soymilk is now often fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium. This is important for those wanting maximum preventive benefit as calcium helps the absorption of soymilk as well as provides nutritional supplement.2 Though soy isoflavones contained in soymilk have shown numerous benefits for all populations.1,2 Yet, because of the natural phyto estrogens, menopausal women seem to reap the most when consuming soymilk as part of their daily diet.2 Soy isoflavones work synergistically as a preventive for cardiovascular risk with its benefits of lowering LDL-Cholesterol, as a vasodilative improving cardiovascular blood flow, and as an adipogenesis to inhibit obesity.1,2 Research shows that though soy is over all beneficial, results may vary based on quality and nutritional fortification of the soymilk product, amount of personal consumption, and physiological absorption of the beneficial soy isoflavones.1 Supportive research shows results that soymilk can be a beneficial addition to the diet of any person and especially those choosing a plant based diet.1,2
1Singh P, Kumar R, Sabapathy SN, Bawa AS. Functional and Edible Uses of Soy Protein Products. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2008;7:14-28. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2007.00025.x/abstract