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Apr. 11, 2006
Soy--a super protein, not a super food
Once again, soy is in the headlines and at the top of our minds.

A few years ago, the soy wave spread like a game of telephone. By the time health-related soy news reached the masses, it was the end-all-be-all answer to every ill you could think of with its number one benefit being a cholesterol demolisher. Since then, we've watched the soybean be broken down to its simplest form and added to many foods. 

Soy rocketed to super-food status seemingly overnight. Why do we do this with foods—make them super, thinking that a single food is the super-duper answer? I think it has something to do with our quest for one-pill wonders.

Variety is really the super answer. There's no super-pill, nor one super-food that can answer all health concerns. The American Heart Association (AHA) reviewed a collection of the most thorough studies regarding soy and its ability to lower cholesterol, decrease cancer risk, reduce symptoms of menopause, improve bone density, reduce blood pressure and help in weight management.

Low and behold, the study found that soy protein hardly lowers cholesterol. Those wishing to lower their cholesterol need to do more than just eat lots of soy; exercising, cutting out trans fats, cutting down on saturated fats, and eating more vegetables are just as important.

It's too early to tell if soy isoflavones have any effect on cancer whatsoever and it's likely that their effect will vary for each body. The bottom line here is to eat soy protein in the form of whole protein; this will insure you get all of the antioxidants it contains and prevent against getting more soy isoflavones than nature recommends. If your medical doctor tells you otherwise, stick with their advice because they know your situation best.

We've known for a while that soy isn't going to magically get rid of hot flashes experienced during menopause. It may turn down the heat for some women but that's about it. The effect that soy protein has on bone density is still in question. There isn't much evidence that it does a whole lot; the results are so preliminary that it's just too early to tell. Drink your milk, eat your collard greens and look for foods fortified with calcium.

Soy protein has never been noted to have any effects on blood pressure. I'd guess that most people with high blood pressure weren't looking to soy for reduction help because health professionals never had a reason to suggest it. Stick with foods that contain less salt and more potassium—that should do the trick.

Though the protein in soy isn't the magic bullet of weight loss, it can, however, provide balance to a healthy ratio of carbohydrates, fat and protein that supports weight loss. It's a good non-animal source of protein that can add variety to the protein sources in a person's daily menu. Like all foods, it should be eaten in moderation to get the most out of it.

Here at CLIF BAR & CO., we add soy protein to most of our bars because it contains the highest level of essential amino acids in a non-animal protein. We also like it because it provides the great taste and texture to our bars.

Soy there you have it.
Posted by:
Tara, the RD
Food Matters

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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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