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People across the world have enjoyed the benefits of soy for thousands of years. Soy provides a high quality protein, and it is the only plant source protein with all 8 essential amino acids. Additionally, soy contains many beneficial compounds, such as isoflavones, which may provide several health benefits.
According to research, a healthy diet that includes soy may lower blood cholesterol levels, effectively reducing the risk for arteriosclerosis and heart disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Heart Association recommend consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol for heart health. In addition, research shows that Asian populations who regularly consume soy foods have a lower occurrence of heart disease as compared to populations that consume the typical "Western" diet.
Preliminary studies are researching the possible preventative properties soy may have with hormone-related cancers, including breast and prostate cancer. More research is necessary.
Soy may also help reduce the discomfort associated with the symptoms of menopause, in part due to the isoflavones found in soy. Isoflavones, or phytoestrogens, are plant compounds that gently replicate the actions of estrogen in humans. Basically, the phytoestrogens fill in open estrogen receptors, effectively reducing estrogen effects in those with too much estrogen, and balancing estrogen levels in those deficient of the hormone.
Soy supplements such as soy protein powder and soy protein bars are an excellent way to add soy protein to the diet, especially for those who do not care for the taste of whole soybean-based foods.
Soy protein is widely available in a variety of foods and supplements. Foods such as edamame (whole soybeans), tofu, soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, soy nuts/nut butters and miso are excellent sources of soy protein.
Because protein is a necessary component of the human diet, there are generally no negative side effects to consuming it. However, excessive consumption of protein may cause stress to the kidneys in some individuals.