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The Healing Power Of Soy's Isoflavones by Monique N. Gilbert (Guest Author)
Isoflavones show tremendous potential to fight disease on several fronts.
Eating soy foods, natural sources of isoflavones, can protect and enhance your
overall health. Isoflavones work together with soy protein in fighting disease.
Numerous reports indicate that, because soy is high in isoflavones, it can
prevent illness and promote good health. Isoflavones are a class of
phytochemicals, which are compounds found only in plants (phyto means plant).
They are also a type of phytoestrogen, or plant hormone, that resembles human
estrogen in chemical structure yet are weaker. By mimicking human estrogen at
certain sites in the body, isoflavones provide many health benefits that help
you to avoid disease.
Isoflavones are found in soybeans, chick peas and other legumes. However,
soybeans are unique because they have the highest concentration of these
powerful compounds. Soy contains many individual isoflavones, but the most
beneficial are genistein and daidzein. Isoflavones show tremendous potential to
fight disease on several fronts. They have been shown to help prevent the
buildup of arterial plaque, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and
stroke. Isoflavones may help reduce breast cancer by blocking the cancer-causing
effects of human estrogen. They may also prevent prostate cancer by hindering
Isoflavones can fight osteoporosis by stimulating bone formation and
inhibiting bone resorption. They may even relieve some menopausal symptoms as
well. Soy isoflavones have antioxidant properties which protect the
cardiovascular system from oxidation of LDL (the bad) cholesterol. Oxidized LDL
cholesterol accumulates in the arteries as patches of fatty buildup which blocks
the flow of blood, resulting in atherosclerosis. Genistein inhibits the growth
of cells that form this artery clogging plaque. Arteries damaged by
atherosclerosis usually form blood clots. This can lead to a heart attack if the
clot goes to the heart, or a stroke if it goes to the brain.
Being a weak form of estrogen, isoflavones can compete at estrogen receptor
sites, blocking the stronger version naturally produced by the body from
exerting its full effect. Since high blood levels of estrogen are an established
risk factor for breast cancer; weaker forms of estrogen may provide protection
against this disease. Genistein has been found to hinder breast cancer as well
as prostate cancer. Results from a new University of California study show that
genistein slowed prostate cancer growth and caused prostate cancer cells to die.
It acts against cancer cells in a way similar to many common cancer-treating
Isoflavones also play an important role in protecting and maintaining strong
and healthy bones. Evidence shows that genistein and daidzein prevent bones from
breaking down. Independent studies conducted at the University of Illinois and
the University of Hong Kong concluded that consuming soy isoflavones can
increase bone mineral content and bone density. Another study at the University
of Texas suggested that isoflavones may also stimulate bone formation. By
preserving bone health, increasing bone mass and inducing bone turnover,
researchers noted the potential role of soy isoflavones in preventing, and
possibly even reversing, the effects of osteoporosis.
The North American Menopause Society suggests that soy isoflavones can also
be a natural alternative to estrogen replacement therapy for relief of mild
menopausal symptoms. It may help offset the drop in estrogen and regulate its
fluctuations that occur at menopause. Many women have reported a reduction in
their hot flashes and night sweats when they regularly consume soy foods, like
tempeh or tofu.
All these findings suggest eating soy foods, natural sources of isoflavones,
can protect and enhance your overall health. Isoflavones work together with soy
protein in fighting disease. Studies show that isoflavones account for
approximately three-fourths of soy's protection, while its protein is
responsible for about one-fourth. The best way to consume isoflavones is in food
form, so that you can benefit from all of soy's nutrients and beneficial
compounds. The highest amounts of isoflavones and soy protein are found in
tempeh, whole soybeans (like edamame), textured soy protein, soynuts, tofu and
soymilk. Researchers recommend consuming at least one to two servings a day. A
serving is equal to 1 ounce of soynuts; 4 ounces of tempeh, textured soy protein
cooked), or edamame; or 8 ounces of soymilk.
For those new to soy, I recommend slowly adding it to your diet, until you
develop a taste for it. In spaghetti sauces, replace ground beef with textured
soy protein. Use tofu instead ricotta cheese in lasagna, or make herb dips with
it in a food processor. Use soymilk to cream soups or make smoothies. People on
the run can always eat soynuts. Tempeh is one of the easiest soy foods prepare.
To make a grilled tempeh sandwich, just cut it into slices, sprinkle on some soy
sauce, saute with sliced onions and pile it on some bread. Remember, you will
only continue to eat healthy foods if they taste good. So, experiment and have
fun trying out new ways to enjoy soy. For more information about soy, visit the
Virtues of Soy website at http://www.geocities.com/virtuesofsoy/
Monique N. Gilbert is a Health Advocate, Recipe Developer, Soy Food
Connoisseur and the author of "Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and
Cookbook" (Universal Publishers, $19.95, available at most online booksellers).
E-mail: email@example.com - http://www.geocities.com/virtuesofsoy/
Monique N. Gilbert has a Bachelor of Science degree, is a Certified Personal
Trainer/Fitness Counselor and health advocate. She began a low-fat, whole grain,
vegetable-rich diet in the mid-1970's. This introduced her to a healthier way of
eating and became the foundation of her dietary choices as an adult. She became
a full-fledged vegetarian on Earth Day 1990. Over the years she has increased
her knowledge and understanding about health and fitness, and the important role
diet plays in a person's strength, vitality and longevity. Monique has a Q&A
column at Veggies Unite! (www.vegweb.com/guestqa/) where she
gives advice about health, fitness and vegetarian/vegan diets. Monique feels it
is her mission to educate and enlighten everyone about the benefits of healthy
eating and living.
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