Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Super soy: The special protein food

  • Nutrition fact No. 1: Food from animals has complete proteins.
  • Nutrition fact No. 2: Vegetables, fruits, and grains have incomplete proteins.
  • Nutrition fact No. 3: Nobody told the soybean.
Unlike other vegetables, including other beans, soybeans have complete proteins with sufficient amounts of all the amino acids essential to human health. In fact, food experts rank soy proteins on par with egg whites and casein (the protein in milk), the two proteins easiest for your body to absorb and use. Some nutritionists think soy proteins are even better than the proteins in eggs and milk, because the proteins in soy come with no cholesterol and very little of the saturated fat known to clog your arteries and raise your risk of heart attack.

Better yet, more than 20 recent studies suggest that adding soy foods to your diet can actually lower your cholesterol levels. One-half cup of cooked soybeans has 14 grams of protein; 4 ounces of tofu has 13. Either serving gives you approximately twice the protein you get from one large egg or one 8-ounce glass of skim milk, or two-thirds the protein in 3 ounces of lean ground beef. Eight ounces of fatfree soy milk has 7 milligrams protein — a mere 1 milligram less than a similar serving of skim milk — and no cholesterol. Soybeans are also jam-packed with dietary fiber, which helps move food through your digestive tract. In fact, soybeans are such a good source of food fiber that I feel obligated to add a cautionary note here. One day after I’d read through a bunch of studies about soy’s effect on cholesterol levels, I decided to lower my cholesterol level right away.

So I had a soy burger for lunch, a half cup of soybeans and no-fat cheese for an afternoon snack, and another half cup with tomato sauce at dinner. Delicacy prohibits me from explaining in detail how irritated and upset all that fiber made my digestive tract, but I’m sure you get the picture.
If you choose to use soybeans (or any other dry beans for that matter), take it slow — a little today, a little more tomorrow, and a little bit more the day after that.

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