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The benefits of soy - in perspective

The many benefits of soy have to be viewed in perspective.

These benefits range from protection against degenerative diseases like heart disease and cancer, to improved digestion, enhanced immunity and so on.

However, the benefits of soy WILL NOT come from eating the vast array of modern soy foods like soy burgers, soy steak, soy snacks, soy crackers, soy desserts, soy ice-cream, etc. These foods are more likely to bring on the dangers of soy rather than the benefits.

Soy beans and soy products are good - even excellent - for health only if several conditions are met:

These many IFs can actually be summarised into one: IF you eat soy products the traditional Asian way. Only then will you enjoy the many benefits of soy.

Benefits of Soy - a summary

Much has already been written about the benefits of soy. Rather than reproduce the full details - complete with Greek-sounding chemical terms - I will just summarise the key benefits:

Benefits of Soy - controversies

The benefits of soy, however, are not without controversies.

For example, while soy products are largely recognised for helping prevent cancer, some studies suggest they might also promote certain types of cancer.

In particular, one study found that soy promotes pancreatic cancer in rats. But the situation is not that straightforward. Only raw soy flour caused the cancer, but not cooked flour. Also, no similar studies have been done on humans and the rats were given a disproportionately large amount of soy compared to what a human might eat.

Another of the benefits of soy pertains to its possible role in helping prevent memory loss. In this case, a study of elderly persons in Indonesia found that high tofu intake was associated with greater memory loss, whereas high intake of tempeh was associated with better memory.

Making sense of soy controversies

What to make of these controversies and apparent contradictions over the benefits of soy?

First, it is meaningless to study the health effects of products such as raw soy flour, since nobody eats raw soy flour anyway. Even cooked soy flour is not widely eaten, except by the Japanese as kinako, a roasted soybean flour used as a coating for desserts and snacks.

Second, many of the studies that found soy to be harmful were done using regular soy products, or just extracts of soy (like soy protein) rather than fermented soy products. When fermented soy products are studied, they are mostly found to be beneficial.

Third, in the case of the Indonesian study, it is not clear what type of tofu was eaten. Traditional tofu is made with nigari, a natural coagulating agent derived from sea salt. Moden tofu is made with calcium carbonate, lactone and various other chemical coagulants. Were the Indonesians who suffered memory loss eating modern or traditional tofu? We don't know. They researchers probably never bothered to find out, since they probably don't know the difference anyway.

Meanwhile, an appreciation of the macrobiotic principles of yin and yang could she further light on the issue.

There are major and important differences between fermented and non fermented soy products. There are also diffences between products like tofu and soymilk made the traditional way versus those made the modern way. If scientists were to appreciate these differences, perhaps they would make better sense of the benefits of soy versus the apparent dangers.

Click the following links to learn more about the benefits of soy products lile miso, natto, soy sauce and tempeh.

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