Soybean, the misunderstood plant..
Soybean has a plethora of benefits. Not only is it low in saturated fat, it is cholesterol-free and high in fiber. It also contains 36-56% protein and is one of the most abundant sources of plant protein. It has twice as much protein as meat, three times as much as chicken eggs and 12x as much as cow’s milk! The polypeptides in soy help weight loss by increasing fat decomposition process while the isoflavones help lower cholesterol levels hence the risk of heart disease and it also help prevent osteoporosis. However, it also has its fair share of misconceptions such as claims that “it is not suitable for men due to its estrogen content” and “it causes gout” etc.
What are phytoestrogens?
The “estrogen” content in soybean refers to phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are a type of phytochemical found only in plants while estrogens are found in animals. Phytoestrogens are weaker than normal estrogen hormones found in human and animal or the synthetic estrogens found in pills. Soy isoflavones (a type of phytoestrogen) exert both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects.
Misconception #1 – Not suitable for men
This misconception is untrue as phytoestrogens are weaker than normal estrogens found in human and animals. This means that if we consume ~150g (e.g. weight of iPhone 7) of soybean, the “estrogenic” effect will be much less than had we consume same quantity of meat. Unless you are a vegetarian, the likelihood is that we are consuming more meat than soybean. If one is truly concern about the impact of estrogen causing hormonal imbalance/related diseases, shouldn’t one cut down on meat/animal milk consumption to reduce the more potent estrogenic effect from meat?
Misconception #2 – May cause hormone-related cancer
Once again, this misconception is invalid as phytoestrogens in fact help to prevent cancer!
In each cell, there is an estrogen receptor which receives the estrogen and turn into a cancerous cell. It is like a lock and key concept. The receptor is the lock, while estrogen is the key that activates it. When phytoestrogen comes along, it is too received by the same estrogen receptor. However, the cell does not turn cancerous as phytoestrogen is too weak to activate it. As such, the phytoestrogen remains in the receptor and prevents other cancer causing estrogen from being received.
According to a study by the National University of Singapore, the University of Southern California, and the University of Minnesota, Singapore Chinese women who regularly consumed soy products such as soy milk had a significant 18% reduction in breast cancer risk. This study tracked about 35,000 Chinese women over 10 years.
Misconception #3 – It causes gout
This misconception is unfounded as the amount of purine in soy is moderate and typically removed along with excess water during the manufacturing process of many soy products. 500g of soybeans can produce 2,500ml of soy milk hence the amount of purines in 500ml of soy milk is insignificant. A 12-year study involving more than 45,000 men found that higher levels of meat and seafood consumption are associated with an increased risk of gout whereas moderate intake of purine-rich vegetables is not associated with an increased risk of gout.
Hope this helps to clarify misconceptions on soybean and you can start benefiting from consuming more soy in daily diet. Do feel free to reach out to me if you would like to know more about NI.
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