If you are a breakfast shake or post-workout shake lover, then you are probably familiar with soy protein. Besides being low in fat, cholesterol and lactose, soy protein is ranked high regarding PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score). Because of its natural content, soy protein is a great option for those who are lactose intolerant as well as vegans who look to get their protein source outside of the animal family. What’s more, soy protein powder can actually be used as a flour substitute to make foods higher in protein and lower in fat and refined carbs. Although soy can be found as a supplement, there is a difference between soy protein and the supplement. The supplement tends to be a concentrated version of soy isoflavones, which have their own isolated health properties.
Soy was originally grown in China and then later spread to other parts of Asia by the seventeenth century. By the twentieth century, the bean had made its way to Europe and America, where it was originally used by farmers as feed for animals and for crop rotation. After numerous studies found the soy to have various health benefits, it became popular for consumption and the United States is now one of the largest soybean producers.
Soy protein is an athlete’s best friend as it is a great for high protein diets and muscle growth. Not to fear, this muscle growth is great for those with both weight gain and weight loss goals. Soy also contains something called isoflavones. This component is an antioxidant which helps fight against cell damage. This can help repair damaged cell tissue after vigorous muscle training. It is beneficial for balancing cholesterol levels as it contains agents that block LDL (bad cholesterol) absorption. Soy has also been shown to lower the risk of heart disease and certain cancers (breast and prostate cancer) and helps to support an overall healthy immune system.
Because the isoflavones in soy can lower LDLs by 10%, it is a great way to lower the risk of heart disease and keep your ticker nice and strong. These isoflavones are phytoestrogens, which help dilate coronary arteries and thus further protect your heart. Because phytoestrogens alter hormone levels, there has been mixed messaging regarding postmenopausal women and an increased risk of breast cancer. For men attempting to lower their cholesterol, they do not need to be as cautious. There continues to be ongoing studies regarding any risk in women.
Soy protein can enhance the muscle repair cycle which can lead to bulkier muscle appearance for those looking to body build. It can reduce inflammation in those who train vigorously, allowing them to work harder and more consistently to see efficient changes in their body.
Because of the muscle growth effects, metabolism is increased and along with a sensible diet and exercise plan, soy protein can help aid weight loss efforts. It can help you feel full longer and suppress appetite so that you do not overindulge in food.
Reduce Hot Flashes
For those currently experiencing the big life change (menopause), consuming soy protein as a shake or supplement can potentially ward off those pestering hot flashes. Rather than suffering through them, trying soy protein may be worth a try for many middle-aged women.
When discussing side effects, it is important to note that most side effects that do occur from soy consumption occur in those who have some allergy to soy in the first place. There have been few adverse side effects from soy protein demonstrated to date, however if you are on medications, you may want to consult your physician before adding it to your diet. Some of the risks associated, although rare, are increased thyroid conditions, risk of cancer (due to isoflavones), memory loss, reduced testosterone, and sperm reduction.
There also are myths out there, as with any other health craze. Whenever a healthy habit becomes popular, come critics quickly attempt to call it a fad or even claim that it is dangerous for our health. The same has unfortunately happened to the history of soy. The “Soy Alert” is a fictional article that was widely distributed, claiming that soy was dangerous and even deadly to humans and other mammals. Many studies thereafter have shown the opposite and further support the idea that soy protein is a health benefit.
Overall, the pros of consuming soy protein far outweighs the potential risks. If you are in an at-risk population (e.g., postmenopausal women, people on medications), be sure to consult with your physician. There may be a safer, less risky option for you to try to reap the benefits that soy has to offer.