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Soybean And Diabetes: Know How It Helps Control Glucose Levels

Diabetes is a major global health problem of the 21st century. A study says that the prevalence of diabetes by 2030 will be around 366 million worldwide, largely owing to the lifestyle of people.

Dietary changes are important for the management of diabetes. Out of many healthy foods, soybean, a food rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fibre, protein, saponin, phytosterol, phytic acid, isoflavone, oligosaccharides and minerals, could contribute to benefit diabetics in some ways or decrease the risk of the condition. [1]

Let's discuss this further to know how soybean can help people with diabetes. Take a look.

1. May reduce cholesterol levels

Soybean is a type of legume which is native to Eastern Asia and consumed for thousands of years. High cholesterol is the major risk factor for diabetics as insufficiency or inability of insulin in their body prevents the metabolism of glucose, which then rises and in turn, raises the cholesterol levels. Soybean can help reduce cholesterol levels, manage insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose, mainly due to the presence of complex carbohydrates and fibre in it. [2] The cholesterol-lowering activity of soybean is also due to the presence of lecithin (phosphatidylcholine) in it. [3]

2. Rich in dietary fibre

Fibre is an essential compound in lowering glucose levels and providing satiety. According to USDA, 100 g of soybean contains 9.3 g of fibre. [4] A study has shown that when soybean fibre was fed to control rats, their plasma glucose decreases within 60 minutes of consumption, compared to rats who do not receive the fibre. Also, its glucose-lowering effects are better than brown rice. Therefore, the consumption of soybean can help control glucose levels in diabetes. [5]

3. Low-glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) of soybean is 16, which comes under low GI value. The complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre in soybean are mainly responsible for their low-glycemic index. When soybean is consumed, it tends to increase the glucose levels slowly, thus keeping the levels normal. [6]

4. High amount of isoflavones

According to a study, lower levels of glucose were seen in people who have had high isoflavones (a plant-based phytoestrogen), compared to those who had consumed less. Soybean intake and isoflavone is often linked to reduced risk of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes as the food significantly affects the fasting blood glucose and helps manage it, thus preventing the development of diabetes. [7]

5. Rich in proteins

Protein is an important nutrient for diabetics as it helps provide constant energy and satiety to people with diabetes, along with helping control their weight gain. Though protein is needed by diabetics, they are said to avoid its intake from animal sources like red meat to prevent the risk of complications. Soybean, being a plant-based source of protein and packed with proteins, could help reduce the risk of diabetes or help manage the condition. [8]

6. Helps protect the liver and the kidney

A study has shown that soybean has protective effects on the liver and the kidney, the organs which are at an increased risk of inflammation due to high sugar levels in the body. The soybean fibres not only help manage glucose and reduce cholesterol levels, but also protect the liver and the kidney and improve their functions. [9]

7. Prevents post-meal hyperglycemia

In a study, it was found that when soybean nutrition bars were given to diabetics, their postprandial or post-meal glucose levels were lower compared to diabetics who were given cookies. This shows that soybean does not increase sugar levels in the body upon consumption and therefore, could become a part of a diabetes meal plan. [10]

Best Ways To Consume Soybean

Soybean can be converted into fermented and unfermented foods. Fermented soy products include tempeh, soy sauce and miso while unfermented foods include soymilk, soy flour tofu and soy nuts.

A study has shown that the Asian population has lower incidences of diabetes compared to Western countries as they consume more fermented soybean products, which are also their traditional diet. [11]

The presence of phytoestrogens, peptides, fibre and isoflavones are the main cause of soybean's antidiabetic effect, however, when soybean is fermented, they undergo a change in their isoflavonoids content and structure and small bioactive peptides, that helps improve the secretion of insulin and prevent the progression of diabetes.

Things To Look Out For

  • Soybean is a staple food. Therefore, if you are pairing it with other foods, make sure they are healthy, have a low glycemic index and are considered good for diabetics. For example, if you pair soybean with baked potatoes or white rice or fried foods, the anti-diabetic effect of soybean may not be effective and you may experience an increase in your glucose levels.
  • Soybean is healthy and nutritious for diabetics, however, one must avoid consuming it in excess. This is because, in excess, it may cause certain side effects such as constipation, nausea, bloating and may affect your thyroid hormones, due to the presence of high amounts of fibre, protein and phytoestrogens.

To Conclude

Soybean is an essential part of a diabetes diet. It is always good to consult a medical expert to know in what ways soybean can benefit you and help you manage your glucose levels.

Story first published: Friday, July 9, 2021, 8:30 [IST]