Soybean Superfood: You Should Know This About Beans

Soybeans also conquered the menu with vegetarian and vegan food. But what exactly are in legumes and what should you think about when eating soy?



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Whether in its original form or processed into tofu and soy milk: soybeans have become an integral part of vegetarian and vegan cuisine. For years, there were more and more soy-based meat and milk alternatives in supermarkets.

Beans are known for their high protein content. According to the Federal Center for Nutrition, about 40 percent is found in dried beans. Ready-to-eat soy products contain about 11 percent protein.

For a well-balanced diet, legumes are a very good way to replace the all-important animal protein, says Stefan Kabisch, study physician at the medical clinic for Endocrinology and Metabolism in Berlin Charité.

Anyone who eats different plant proteins can eat at least a balanced diet as a vegetarian. Vegetarians will need to supplement with vitamin B12.

Soy does a lot of good

Apart from the protein content, the list of healthy components in soybeans is long: B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium, trace elements such as iron and unsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acids.

However, beans also contain substances that nutritionists consider to be in a more differentiated way. This includes isoflavones, which are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen.

For this reason, they are suspected of having a “hormonal stimulant effect,” says physician Stefan Kabis. This means that they can bind to the same estrogen receptors in the body and drive the same processes as estrogen.

So are soybeans not as healthy as you think? Cabish says healthy people don’t have to worry about normal consumption. Due to their regulatory profile, isoflavones are “highly likely to be harmless, and possibly beneficial.”

This has also been shown by long-term studies from Asia, where soybeans have been on the list for much longer. Incidentally, isoflavones are also found in smaller amounts in other legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans.

legumes
© Helen Camacaro / gettyimages

Effects on the thyroid gland?

However, the effect of soybean on the thyroid gland is suspected. According to doctors Kabich, isoflavones are able to block a specific enzyme in the thyroid gland. This enzyme is responsible for building active hormones from inactive precursors.

According to Cabesh, if this enzyme is inactivated, hypothyroidism can develop. Because this effect is very small and not yet clinically relevant, it does not see any health risks in healthy people who normally consume soy.

Additionally, the amount of isoflavones in soy is reduced by about a fifth when processed into tofu.

Who is less suitable soybean

However, legumes are not suitable for everyone. People with hormonal diseases such as breast cancer and metabolic disorders should have their diet checked by a doctor, says Nicole Schleiger, team leader for healthy eating and nutrition education at the Consumer Center in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Basically, she advises against replacing dairy and meat products with soy-only products. It is important to pay attention to the variety – and sometimes reach for oat or almond milk, ideally enriched with calcium.

In other cases, too, most nutritionists urge caution when it comes to soy. Soy milk is not suitable for infants and young children, Because it contains less calcium than cow’s milk and interactions with other hormones are still unclear. The same applies to pregnant and lactating women.

Plant protein sources: protein without animal protein

Top 5 Plant-Based Protein Sources: Healthy Without Animal Protein
© Wochit; and I slandered

Beware of allergies

On the other hand, allergy sufferers should exercise caution, which also applies to other legumes. According to Consumer Advocate, people who are allergic to birch, for example, can overreact to soy.

According to Dr. Cabesh, a diet containing soy is also unsuitable for gout because it contains purine – a metabolite of uric acid. This also applies to other legumes.

If you still do not want to do without soy, then eat it only in moderation, according to the recommendations of consumer protection groups.

Little research has been done on isoflavones in dietary supplements

By the way, soybean plays a role not only in food. The hormonal effect of isoflavones is also used in nutritional supplements intended to help with menopausal symptoms.

Since the synthetic dosage from 40 to 5000 mg is often several times higher than the natural form (in Western Europe 1-3 mg), according to Dr. Stefan Kabis, the risk of hormonal side effects may also increase.

Especially women who are prone to thyroid disorders In his opinion, you should consult your doctor first before taking it. Stefan Kabis advises against self-medication. In addition, there is still a lack of reliable long-term scientific data.

Also note the environmental aspects of soybeans

Anyone who wants to care not only about their well-being, but also the environment, should pay attention to the organic seal, according to the Consumer Advice Center in North Rhine-Westphalia. This is the only way to control the growing conditions.

It gets even more difficult when it comes to where the small legumes are from. According to consumer advocates, the soybeans used in food mainly come from Europe.

By the way, most soybeans don’t end up on the plate, but are 80 percent processed into animal feed. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), most of it comes from the USA, Brazil or Argentina.

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