Consuming adequate dietary protein, especially if you’re active, can be a challenging task. Dietary protein plays an essential role in supporting adrenal function, maintaining your lean muscle mass, aiding in weight management, protecting and repairing connective tissue and cartilage, stabilizing blood sugar levels and moderating your appetite.
A good quality soy protein isolate is an outstanding source of protein. It contains no lactose, bad fats or cholesterol, and offers an attractive alternative or complement to animal- source proteins.
The general impression is that these foods are beneficial to women. While this statement is true, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Soy protein in fact, has tremendous health benefits for men as well.
Specific components in soy protein that have generated interest are the phytochemicals called isoflavones, specifically; genistein, daidzein and glycitein. Isoflavones are incredibly gentle and very intelligent.
How can a plant substance be intelligent? Isoflavones are adaptogens, which means that they adapt to each individual’s physical needs and restore balance. This is important when it comes to certain health challenges, regardless of your gender.
Eating non-genetically engineered soy protein provides the body with isoflavones, which send chemical messages directing cells to behave in specific ways. If the body’s estrogen levels are too high or too low, the message is to bring the levels into balance. In women this may reduce premenstrual or menopausal symptoms. In men, it may reduce benign prostate enlargement or block environmental estrogens from reducing androgen and testosterone levels.
Keeping the body’s hormone levels in check reduces the risk of estrogen- related cancers, such as breast cancer in women. It has also been linked to reducing prostate cancer in men. Isoflavones can also reduce new blood vessel growth. This is a powerful deterrent to cancers that need excessive blood flow to support growth. Isoflavone rich soy protein, when fed to rats, reduced incidents of mammary tumors. However, soy with the isoflavones removed no longer suppressed tumor growth.
Recent studies have shown that isoflavones reduce cholesterol levels and inhibit hardening of the arteries. Consumption of soy protein products significantly reduced serum levels of triglycerides and harmful cholesterol–low density lipoproteins. One of the isoflavones, genistein, has been shown to reduce the damage to cells that line our blood vessels.
Isoflavones are also powerful antioxidants. Like the flavonoids in many colorful fruits and vegetables, these plant chemicals are extremely effective in neutralizing free radicals in the body. When choosing a soy protein, it is important to select a water-processed soy protein isolate. This form of protein retains all the naturally occurring isoflavones that are present in soy. Some of the more sophisticated soy supplements on the market are fortified with herbal co-factors to further balance and support hormone production. Herbs such as tribulus, dandelion and saw palmetto are of particular benefit to men.
Several recent studies have shown the positive effects of soy protein on reducing the risk of bone loss and even increasing bone density. Acidic proteins (usually animal source) are strongly linked to osteoporosis, as calcium is leached from the system in an effort to buffer the protein’s acidic nature. Soy is more alkaline in nature and as a result less calcium was found in the test subjects urine.
Soy protein also supports kidney function, reduces high blood pressure levels, helps maintain a healthy colon and may even slow the advancement of male pattern baldness. Soy protein is naturally rich in the amino acid glutamine. Glutamine boosts protein synthesis, helps to buffer lactic acid levels when exercising, reduces central nervous system fatigue and strengthens and bolsters our immune systems.
Soy protein can be easily and painlessly incorporated into your diet. One or two servings daily of a good quality, water extracted, non-genetically engineered soy protein supplement blended into a protein shake or smoothie would be an ideal way of incorporating the health promoting properties of soy into your diet. Mornings are a great time for a soy protein shake as we rarely consume quality protein in the morning. It also starts your day off with added energy and mental clarity.
So, is soy protein the new panacea? Well no, not quite, but it can play a large role in preventing and reducing chronic disease while contributing to an improvement in your overall health, vitality and longevity.