With a growing global population looking to add more protein to diets, the world is going to need all high-quality sources of protein available. This includes animal protein and plant-based protein. The good news is U.S. Soy can help our planet meet its protein needs both as nutritious food for people and feed for animals. In fact, soy protein is the only plant protein comparable in quality to animal protein.
Soy is also the only plant protein that carries the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) heart health claim confirming it may be able to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. For those who want a plant-based protein option, soy is a source of folate, potassium and fiber. In fact, the 2020-2025 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which focus on encouraging healthy eating and meeting nutritional needs throughout all stages of life, recommends soy as part of a healthy diet across the categories of dairy, oils, vegetables and protein foods.
Soy in Women’s Health
Postmenopausal women especially may benefit from adding soyfoods to their diet as soyfoods are uniquely rich sources of isoflavones. Isoflavones are one type of phytoestrogen that may offer heart health benefits and help alleviate hot flashes during menopause.
Isoflavones have also been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. This is critical to women’s health as heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. And there are other benefits to eating soyfoods for women, such as lowering the chance of osteoporosis and certain forms of cancer.
Furthermore, human research indicates that breast cancer patients can safely consume soyfoods. Observational studies in the Asia-Pacific region even show soy food intake is associated with a reduction in breast cancer risk. However, several lines of evidence support the hypothesis that consumption must occur early in life for soy to reduce risk.
Men and Soy
Men may also receive benefits from eating soyfoods. One of the top benefits may be that soyfoods lower the risk of prostate cancer, which is the second most common cancer among men. Consuming soyfoods regularly may also lower the risk of heart disease.
Research has shown that soy is safe for men to consume and provides high-quality protein and good fat, while modestly lowering blood cholesterol levels. In addition, soy is a good choice for those wanting to increase muscle mass.
Soy and Children’s Health
Learning healthy eating habits can start early in life and may impact future chronic diseases. Just like with adults, soyfoods can play a beneficial role in the diets of infants, children and adolescents. In younger children, fortified soymilk is the only plant-milk dairy alternative approved by health professionals for children ages one to five.
An allergy to soy protein is relatively uncommon. The largest survey conducted found approximately only three out of 1,000 adults (0.3%) are allergic to soy protein. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates less than one percent of all children have a soy allergy. Of those, by age 10, an estimated 70% will outgrow it.
To get these potential benefits, it’s easy to incorporate soyfoods into your diet with traditional products such as tofu, edamame and tempeh. Other sources of soyfoods include whole soybeans, miso, soymilk, and soy nut butter, showing U.S. Soy’s versatility when it comes to high-quality protein.