Super Food Soy


Soy has been termed as the wonder bean presenting as the best vegetarian protein source. But, often soy is surrounded by several controversies creating more confusion and doubts among consumers regarding the safe use of this legume native to East Asia.

Soyabean is an excellent source of high quality protein containing all the essential amino acids in readily digestible form. In non-vegetarians, Soy products can be used as meat replacers to bring down fat content since it has textural qualities similar to that of meat. Soyabean contains important compounds called isoflavones – genistein and daidzein which are phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). These are good sources of antioxidants and protective against several diseases.

Soy products A large variety of soy products such as tofu, tempeh, miso, soy flour, soy chunks, soy granules, etc are available.

Soy milk- Dry soybeans are soaked in water and grinded with water. It contains the same amount of proteins as cow’s milk but relatively lesser carbohydrates and fats. It contains zero cholesterol since it is a plant source. Soy milk contains sucrose and not lactose hence it can be safely consumed by those suffering from lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

Tofu-Soy milk is coagulated to form a soft white curd called tofu (soy paneer). It is low in calories, low in fat and contains large amounts of iron. It can be used easily as a low-calorie substitute to full fat paneer (cottage cheese).

Soy flourSoy flour is made from ground, dehulled soy beans. The process of roasting and grinding causes release of the inhibiting factors present in raw soyabean. It can be mixed into wheat flour in 1:5 proportions to improve nutritive value of chapatti.

Soyabean oil– Soybeans are cracked and heated, then rolled into flakes and extracted in the presence of a solvent. The oil so obtained is cholesterol free and low in saturated fats. It contains good quality of fat (omega 3 fatty acids) and ideal ratio of fatty acids which are less harmful for the heart.

Soy nuggets and granules– Soy is processed to make soy nuggets and granules. These are creamish in colour and easy to digest as compared to beans and flour. These just have to be soaked in warm water before use in curries, cutlets, parathas, stir fries, pulao and various other Indian traditional recipes.

Food Protein CHO Fat Vit B3 Folic Ca Fe

1/2 cup, cooked

14.3 8.5 7.7 1.35 47 88 4.42
Tempeh 1/2 cup 15.7 14.1 6.4 3.8 43 77 1.9
Soynuts 1/4 cup 15 14.5 10.0 0.6 91 59 1.65
Tofu 1/2 cup 10 2.3 5.9 0.2 19 130*
Soy flour,

defatted 1/4 cup

12.8 8.4 0.3 0.65 76 60 2.3

plain 1 cup

6.6 4.3 4.6 1.4 4 93 1.38


The trouble makers in Soyabean

–          It contains trypsin inhibiting factors. Trypsin enzyme is required for protein digestion and hence if its action is inhibited it may precipitate deficiency of some amino acids and gastric problems.

–          Soybean contains phytates which inhibit absorption of dietary minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc

–          It contains hemagglutinin which is a clot promoting substance and may lead to clotting of red cells in blood.

The processing of soyabean such as roasting, germination, and fermentation leads to release of its trypsin inhibiting factors and phytates to a large extent. However, it may be advisable to avoid using unprocessed soy foods in elderly/old age with compromised digestion capacity.

Myth: Soy foods cannot be consumed by individuals suffering from hypothyroidism

Facts: Soy has been categorized as a goitrogen indicating that it increases the risk of developing goiter which is basically an iodine deficiency disease. Animal studies have shown that in iodine deficient individuals, soy foods may inhibit its absorption further. It is advised that sufficient iodine intake should also be ensured in adult hypothyroidic patients consuming Soy foods on regular basis.

Myth: Soybeans help reduce heart disease risk

Fact: It is still unclear whether increased soy consumption helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lignans are the fiber component of soybeans which help to bind cholesterol and throw it out of the body. Soybeans have shown to bring about small reduction in bad (LDL) cholesterol but the direct association with decrease in heart disease risk has not been proven.

Myth: Menopausal women may not benefit from soy

Fact: Small percentages of women have shown minor reductions in hot flashes using soya during menopause. Soybeans have weak estrogen-like properties. Estrogen is responsible for development of sexual characteristics in females. A decrease in this hormone levels occurs after cessation of regular menstrual cycle hence supplementation with soy and its products, especially soy milk is very important in postmenopausal women.

Myth: Men should not consume soy foods

Fact: Only very large quantities of upto 40-70mg/day of soy isoflavones through diet or supplements may reduce semen quality. Hence, caution should be exercised in administering excess soybeans to males.

Myth: Soy foods help reduce risk of cancers

Fact: It is true to some extent that due to its anti-oxidant properties, soy isoflavones may be beneficial in suppressing tumour (cancerous cells) growth. There is only weak clinical evidence of the role of genistein in reducing the risk of breast and prostrate cancer

Myth: High protein foods including soybean should be avoided in kidney patients

Fact: In chronic kidney disease there is often strict protein restriction recommended. But the required quantity of protein has to be met using high quality protein sources. The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) proposed that Soy proteins form highly digestible good quality protein source that has shown to reduce loss of protein in urine (proteinuira) and excess filtration of solutes from the kidney thereby decreasing risk of complications.

While the facts about health claims related to soyabean need to be straightened out further, it is harmless to consume the soy products, which have been sufficiently processed, in moderate amounts to accrue maximum benefits of its good quality protein, fiber, fat and anti-oxidative effects.

Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

4 thoughts on “Super Food Soy”

  1. The problem with soy is that it’s estrogen dominant. Wouldn’t recommend it for men.
    More importantly it is a mono-crop. Meaning that it doesn’t promote sustainable living and farming.
    I feel like it’s just a trend-food that in the long perspective isn’t benefitial to our health nor the environment.


    1. Hi Siim

      I do know that soy could be harmful for men but that’s only when consumed in large quantities.

      I am also aware that in the US, soy and corn are the predominant crop being grown because they are used from start to finish and most importantly the are used as fodder for cattle/ poultry and pigs. IT is sad that this is ruining the public health system there

      However, soy is an important source of essential amino acids for vegetarians who have very limited complete protein sources in the diet. Besides, it is rich in isoflavones which has protective effects in many inflammatory conditions.

      Please let us know if you agree with our rationale!



      On Sat, Oct 31, 2015 at 1:09 PM, Health, Technology, Data and everything else wrote:



  2. we in india are mostly vegetarians.add to this, that all protein sources are beyond the reach of common in a country of 1200 million people and production of 12 million tonnes of soyabean, we must do something to increase the income of common man by providing knowledge to process soyabean. .every body should get good food. but there are many problems to impart knowledge and also change food habits.. luckily our soyabean is non genetically modified…. i do my bit by teaching recipes using appropriate processing..padmakar deshpande pune. india. email


    1. Thank you for taking the time to read carefully and respond.

      Where do you teach? Its amazing to know that teachers are keeping themselves updated and consider it a responsibility to impart holistic knowledge


      Pooja On Dec 1, 2015 8:53 AM, “Health, Technology, Data and everything else” wrote:



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