Soya is a good source of protein without the high level of saturated fat.
Soya usually bears the tag of being a ‘healthy’ alternative to animal based products but how healthy is it really?
The recent horse meat scandal in Britain has increased sales in soya based meals. People are now more conscious of what they consume and are beginning to see it as a healthy alternative to processed meat.
A South Asian study earlier in April 2013 also praised the benefits of soya for prolonging the lives of lung cancer survivors. So can it really work wonders in your diet?
What is Soya Bean?
Soya bean is an edible species of legume that is native to East Asia. In the 1600’s the Dutch East India Company brought the soya bean from Southern China to Northern India. India is now the fifth main producer of soya behind the U.S., Argentina, Brazil and China.
Soya bean can be used in its traditional non-fermented style, which includes soya milk and tofu. Alternatively, it can be fermented to make soy sauce and fermented bean.
Soya is considered to be a source of complete protein as it contains all the essential amino acids that the human body cannot internally produce. Vegetarians, vegans and people who try to minimise their animal food based intake will find that it is a good source of protein without the high level of saturated fat.
Health Benefits of Soya
Findings of a study carried out in Shanghai were released earlier this month which concluded that women who appeared to eat more soya based foods before their lung cancer was diagnosed, lived longer than those who consumed less. These findings are especially significant for women as lung cancer is the biggest cause of death among women worldwide.
Other benefits of soya include:
- Soya can reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and menopause hot flashes, uterus and breast cancer in women.
- It is debated whether soya really contributes towards supporting verbal memory. A study of 719 elderly Indonesians found that tofu was associated with a worse sense of memory but tempeh was linked with better memory. Ironically tofu and tempeh are both made from soya.
- Soya bean oil contains a high level of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.
- A report from the University of Kentucky in 1998 announced that soya can reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.
- Soya can contribute towards minimising the risk of diabetes and reduce inflammation.
Soya Bean oil is also one of the healthiest cooking oils around:
“One of the things that makes soya bean oils so versatile is that it just has a very neutral flavor so it doesn’t mask the flavours of other kinds of ingredients that you might be trying the highlight or showcase,” says Michelle Babb, a registered dietitian.
“It’s a great oil for doing stir frying where you have lots of ingredients that you want to showcase. Not only is soya bean oil one of the healthiest oils, but it is also inexpensive so it allows you to eat healthily on a budget.”
Is Soya entirely safe – Facts and Myths revealed
We are encouraged to believe that soya is a healthy alternative to animal based products via television commercials but is this entirely true?
Fresh soya milk does contain less fats and carbohydrates than cow’s milk but this is not the milk that we pick up from our supermarket shelf. Commercial soya milk products are made from a mix of soya bean powder, water, oil and sugar and not from whole soya beans.
This means that the fat and carbohydrate content of supermarket soya milk is very similar to full fat cow’s milk. But the twist is they do not share the same types of fats and carbohydrates.
‘Good fat’ sunflower oil is typically added to soya milk, which is rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Cow’s milk is full of butterfat which has a high level of saturated fat so soya milk wins in terms of healthiness.
Cow’s milk has the carbohydrate lactose and because we are hearing about more people saying that they are lactose-intolerant, soya milk is a good alternative as it has no lactose.
- Allergy to soya is quite common so in some cases it may do more harm than good.
How to incorporate Soya into a South Asian diet
How about sampling and discovering the benefits of soya first hand by trying this simple tasty and healthy soya masala rice recipe:
Soya Masala Rice
16 oz. basmati rice
8 oz. soya chunks
2 medium onions
3 medium tomatoes
2 to 3 green chillies
1 tbs. whole garam masala
1 tsp. ginger and garlic paste
1 bunch coriander leaves
1 tej patta
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder and chilli powder
1-2 tsp. salt
2 tbls. ghee
500 ml of water
Prep: 10 mins | Cook: 10 mins | Extra time: 5 mins, preserving
- First wash the soya chunks, basmati rice and soak in different bowls for five minutes.
- Make the paste by mixing the onions and tomatoes chopped, coriander, chillies, ginger and garlic paste and whole garam masala.
- In a pressure cooker add ghee. When it has melted, add the tej patta. Let it stand for about three minutes and then add the masala paste.
- Fry the paste until it leaves oil and then mix in the turmeric and chilli powder.
- Add in the soya chunks and basmati rice, and fry for about one minute. Then add the water and salt.
- Close the lid and let the cooker whistle for about 2-3 times. Remove the lid and serve hot with ghee and raita (yoghurt with chopped cucumbers and onions).
Soya in its natural form cooked is a staple that you should have in your diet due to its excellent source of complete protein. It can be added and enjoyed in many different recipes and it offers an animal-free meal that can be beneficial for the human body.
However, manufactured soya based products like yoghurt and milk have had their nutritional content diluted and we should not expect them to give us the health kick that recent studies have shown.
Overall, soya is definitely a good alternative form of protein that the body needs to healthily survive. If you don’t want to eat meat, it might just be the thing for you. Go ahead and give it a try!