Soy Products and a Healthy Cancer Prevention Diet

Soybeans have a unique composition which consists of 42% protein, 33% carbohydrates and 20% fat. This is a very high percentage of protein and it has led to soy bean products being a staple in Asian diets and a meat substitute for vegetarians. Many health benefits have been attributed to soy including: decreased cholesterol levels and decreased risk of heart disease but recent research has shown that soy products may actually have a major impact on cancer prevention. These cancer fighting foods seem to have the ability to interfere with the development of cancerous tumors.

Cancer fighting foods like soy all contain large amounts of certain phytochemicals. The principal phytochemicals in soy protein are a class of polyphenols known as isoflavones – particularly genistein and daidzein. Phytochemicals were developed by nature to protect plants against damage caused by insects, disease and environmental stress. These phytochemical molecules are the ones that give fruits and vegetables their brilliant colors, provide the smell to garlic and the astringent taste to tea. It is very likely that these phytochemicals, not the vitamins and minerals, that are the source of the cancer prevention capabilities of these healthy foods.

It is strange that soybeans and their products have long been a dietary staple in Japan, China, Korea and Indonesia but not in the United States. Strange because soybeans are the number two cash crop in the US and the US produces almost 50% of all the soybeans in the world. Almost one third of the soybean crop is exported to Asia – primarily Japan where soybeans and soy products are extremely popular. Recently health conscious Americans are including many soy products in their diets. The list of soy products in order of their isoflavone phytochemical content are:

1. Soybean flour is very high in isoflavones and proteins and is made from roasted soybeans that have been ground into a fine powder. It is used in making a variety of products including baked goods and breads.

2. Soybeans are a popular snack in Japan when dry roasted and also after they have been lightly boiled they can be eaten directly out of the pod. Frozen pods are available in North American grocery stores.

3. Miso is a fermented paste made from soybeans and a rice-based fermenting agent, which has been used in Japanese soups for many hundreds of years.

4. Tofu is another major staple of Asian cuisines which is made from soybeans. Although bland in taste it readily absorbs the flavor of other foods and its taste can be easily modified by adding other ingredients and spices.

5. Soy milk is a 20th century creation which is usually sold as a flavored drink to disguise the strong-smelling compounds released during the processing of the soybeans.

6. Soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans mixed with other ingredients and is the most common Japanese seasoning. Since soy sauce has been fermented only a small amount of the isoflavones remain.

7. Soybean oil which is the most heavily used vegetable oil in the US and in its unrefined state is an extremely good source of lecithin, omega 3 linolenic acid and omega 6 linoleic acid. However most commercial soybean oils have been highly refined and hydrogenated and contain no isoflavones. It can be used for cooking because of its high boiling point.

Soy isoflavones, which include genistein and daidzein, seem to be able to block the proliferation of tumor cells and stop tumor growth. However there is some controversy about the safety of soy products for menopausal women and women who have had breast cancer. Apparently the isoflavones have a similar structure to estrogen and there is concern that they may act like hormone replacements and increase the probability of breast cancer. These women should avoid taking nutritional supplements containing isoflavones. Despite this controversy, the potential health benefits of soy have been demonstrated by epidemiological studies showing that Asian women had a much lower risk of breast cancer.

Eating a healthy balanced diet can provide our bodies with many thousands of different phytochemicals. Much of the available research on cancer prevention foods still comes from laboratory cell studies, animal studies and epidemiologic observational studies comparing populations. Clinical trials on humans are being conducted but it takes many years for results to be validated. However not all fruits, vegetables and other plant products provide the best anti-cancer phytochemicals. The ten best groups of anti-cancer foods are discussed in our website . They include: berries and citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions, green tea, omega-3 essential fatty acids, olive oil, tomatoes, soy products, red wine and dark chocolate.

Mark Ransome is a contributing editor and writer for the popular new website Benefits of Antioxidants []. Visitors will have access to a new free diet and weight loss program: The Psychiatrist’s Weight Loss Program. []

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Author: Uzumaki Naruto

"I want to see this market as a sharing market. Where merchants and customers sincerely support one another."

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