Alternate Names : Soy, Soyfoods, Phytochemicals, Isoflavones, Plant Estrogens
Phytoestrogens are estrogens contained in plants. They have a chemical
structure similar to the human hormone estrogen. They have a weak estrogen
effect when eaten. The most commonly studied are the isoflavones, found in
soybeans and other legumes. The word soyfood refers to any food products made from soybeans. Soyfoods provide significant amounts of isoflavones.
In addition to the possible health benefits, soyfoods are very nutritious.
They are low in saturated fat, free of cholesterol, high in fiber, and rich in many vitamins and
minerals. Soyfoods are high in protein.
Soy protein is the only plant protein that is considered complete. In fact,
it is equivalent in quality to animal protein. Soy protein causes less calcium to be excreted from the body
animal protein does. This may protect kidney function. Soyfoods are also a good
source of calcium, helping to protect the bones Soyfoods are also high in
The benefits of adding phytoestrogens to the diet appear very promising. But
researchers caution against adding large amounts. Too much of them may cause
problems with development and fertility. No one suggests that they replace
regular treatment for osteoporosis,
heart disease, or high cholesterol. Plant estrogens should be avoided by
people who take certain medications. These include tamoxifen, which is used to
treat breast cancer.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a food label
health claim for foods that contain soy. The health claim states that soy
protein may reduce the risk of coronary
artery disease. For a food to qualify for the health claim, each serving
must contain 6.25 grams of soy protein. It must also meet other criteria for
fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. The FDA has based this on studies that
show 25 grams of soy protein per day have a cholesterol-lowering effect.
Making soyfoods part of a healthy diet can be easy, nutritious, and delicious.
The following foods are excellent sources of isoflavones. They provide from 30
to 50 mg per serving:
roasted soy nuts (1 ounce)
soy flour (1/2 cup)
soy grits (1/4 cup)
textured soy protein (1/2 cup, cooked)
soybeans (1/2 cup, cooked)
regular soymilk (1 cup)
tempeh (1/2 cup)
tofu (1/2 cup)
The only two soy products that do not contain isoflavones are soy oil and soy
Here are some tips for adding soy to a healthy diet:
Soy milk can be used instead of regular cow's milk.
Soymilk can be blended with a banana or other fruit to make a quick
Tofu can be used in salads, soups, chili, stir-fries, or sauces. It can be
a substitute for eggs, yogurt, or meat. Tofu soaks up the flavor of whatever it
is cooked with.
Soy yogurt can be mixed with fresh fruit.
Textured vegetable protein (TVP) can be substituted for part or all of the
beef in ground beef recipes.
Veggie burgers are great on the grill.
Roasted soynuts can be kept around as a crunchy snack. They can be
sprinkled on cereal, yogurt, or salads.
Soynut butter can take the place of peanut butter on bagels, bread, or
Here's how to replace ingredients in favorite recipes with soy products:
1 cup dairy milk = 1 cup fortified soy milk
1 egg = 1 Tbsp. soy flour + 1 Tbsp. water or 2 oz. silken tofu
1 egg = 1/4 cup tofu (blend with liquid ingredients until smooth, then add
to dry ingredients)
1 cup buttermilk = 1 cup soymilk + 1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 cup fruited yogurt = 1 cup soft silken tofu + blended fruit
1 cup ricotta cheese = 1 cup firm tofu, mashed
replace 1/2 the cream in soup or sauces with silken tofu
replace 1/2 the cream cheese in cheesecakes with silken tofu
replace up to 1/4 of the flour in homemade breads with soy flour
replace up to 1/3 of the flour in muffins with soy flour