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Soybeans have been around for a very long time but they sure have been one of the most underrated foods of all. You must have been searching everywhere for healthy options for this and that and everything in between, and it turns out that the answer lies really close to our homes - of course, the grocery store, where else do you get to buy soya products? This miracle crop is packed with incredible benefits for both the interior and exterior of our bodies.
Soya is something that's easy to cultivate and therefore, is widely cultivated, making it easily available in stores near you. It's used for various purposes - not just as a staple food item. What's better? It can be consumed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.
It's doubtful if the majority of us have been putting it to the best use possible. On the contrary, there are those of us who consume it on a regular basis without knowing much about its nutritional value. Apart from being an excellent source of protein, this legume is rich in nutrients, vitamins (vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B9, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K), minerals (iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, copper and selenium), dietary fibre and antioxidants. Phew, so much in one crop?!
Well, don't be surprised, there's more to come that'll leave you gasping and praising this little bean. And yes, if you're thinking you'll miss out on these benefits just because soya doesn't taste good to you, you can rejoice because it can be consumed in more ways than one!
Let's dive right into the 20 health benefits of soya:
1. Is really good for the skin and nails
2. Relieves insomnia
3. Keeps depression at bay
4. Improves intelligence and helps with Alzheimer's
5. Improves vision
6. Helps with migraines
7. Prevents hearing loss
8. Is anti-inflammatory
9. Good for the hair
10. Regulates digestion and weight
11. Strengthens bones and teeth
12. Heals post-menopausal issues
13. Beneficial for pregnant women and foetal development
14. It improves lipid profile
15. Lowers blood pressure and regulates blood vessels
16. Is heart-healthy
17. Reduces cancer risk
18. Boosts immune system and energy
19. Prevents and controls diabetes
20. Improves strength, metabolism and circulation
1. Helps The Skin And Nails
Let's face it. Healthy skin is something that everybody wishes for and it is also what's really hard to maintain. But then, there's always the good old soya that comes to the rescue. Soybean is a natural moisturiser and will keep skin hydrated while also removing any excess oil.
Okay, but what about the most common skin problems like pigmentation, acne scarring and wrinkles? Soybeans are rich in vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant and clears the skin in multiple ways - reduces acne scarring, removes dead skin cells, reduces pigmentation and blemishes and protects the skin from sunburn. That's not all.
Soybean also contains phytoestrogens which help to produce more estrogen in the body. It is when the estrogen level of our body reduces that skin loses elasticity and wrinkles start to form. Soya in that regard is great to tighten skin and render it a radiant look.
You just have to crush soybeans to make a paste with water, apply it and leave it on for about 20 minutes and then wash it off. When it comes to the nails, Soya is a good option to strengthen them, add more shine and keep fungal infections away.
2. Relieves Insomnia
Talk about flawless skin and the first step towards it is getting proper sleep. But what to do if one has difficulty falling asleep? Sometimes all you need to do is to keep those "light-radiating screens" away when sleep knocks on the door of your eyes. But if it is insomnia, it's a different thing. Soya contains magnesium which is known to relieve insomnia and other sleep disorders and increases the quality of sleep.
3. Keeps Depression At Bay
It's a given that proper sleep will help you manage disorders like depression. But there's an added benefit of consuming soybean apart from helping to regulate sleep. Soya contains folate which stimulates the production of serotonin - the chemical which improves mood and helps keep depression at bay.
4. Improves Intelligence And Helps With Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's is a disease that we won't wish upon our worst enemies. Consuming soya has been linked to helping with the disease. Soybean consists of lecithin (an important nutrient for the brain function), vitamin K (antioxidant which reduces cell damage) and phytosterols which improves nerve function, keeping the brain healthy.
5. Improves Vision
More often than not, the vision starts to fade because of processes like macular degeneration and cataract which develop as a result of the entry of foreign bodies like bacteria into the fragile areas of the eyes. Soya contains omega-3 fatty acids which act as antioxidants and protect the cell membranes from the entry of such harmful foreign particles, thereby, reducing the loss of vision.
6. Helps With Migraines
A lot of us are prone to this one hell of a condition called migraines. It makes us feel that we'd rather take a bullet to the head than go through the inconvenience and discomfort again. But there's good news for you - magnesium reduces the risk of these excruciating headaches too. Significantly increase your intake of soya and you'll be good to go in a short time.
7. Aids Prevent Hearing Loss
Isn't soya an all-rounder? But how can such a small bean hold so much power as to improve our sense organs? Soya is rich in minerals, like iron and zinc, which help to increase the supply of blood to our ears by softening the RBCs and expanding the capillaries, thereby, preventing or at the very least reducing the loss of hearing in people of all ages.
8. Is Anti-inflammatory
Inflammation within our body is actually beneficial, but oftentimes it is more of a bane than a boon. Take for instance asthma. The omega-3 fatty acids and folate present in soya act as anti-inflammatory agents and heal the inflamed breathing passages, thereby, helping in breathing properly. Soybeans are also great for people who suffer from arthritis or other such inflammatory illnesses.
Word of caution: Even though soya helps with asthma, some asthma patients have reported allergies to soya products.
9. Good For The Hair
Applying soybean juice is a great way to get smoother, softer, shinier hair. But like other natural treatments, you'll have to give it some time to work its magic on your hairs. Although you're sure to start noticing the differences soon enough.
10. Regulates Digestion And Weight
Just when you think it couldn't get any better, here's an even better reason to include more soya in your diet. These days, most of our diets lack fibre which is essential for proper digestion. But soybean has lots of dietary fibre which helps the stool move more smoothly through the digestive system, thereby, preventing constipation and other such conditions. Moreover, it also improves peristaltic movements (motion of smooth muscles of our gut).
'But you said something about weight, didn't you?' Yes, Soybean is best for people who want to lose or gain weight. 'Come on! How can it do two opposite things at the same time?' When it comes to losing weight, whole soya milk extracted from soybeans has fewer calories and more monounsaturated fats than usual milk, which reduce the absorption of fats in the intestine.
Moreover, consuming soya suppresses the appetite and provides the body with healthy proteins and not unhealthy fats which tend to bulk you up. When it comes to weight gain, the rich fibre and protein in soya help gain healthy pounds and make sure the weight is concentrated where it has to be - muscles. Although you'll have to consume a lot of soya in order to gain weight.
11. Strengthens Bones And Teeth
Soya is rich in vitamins K, C and D and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc and copper which are essential for healthy development and maintenance of bones and teeth. While vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, vitamin K stimulates bone re-growth and development.
As we age, our bones are prone to degradation, leading to conditions like osteoporosis (aka brittle bones) which is not the best thing to happen to you after retirement when you have made plans to spend your savings on travelling the world over. Women are especially prone to osteoporosis. Consuming more soybean makes you one step ahead in preventing painful bone diseases.
12. Heals Post-menopausal Issues
Talking about women and old age cannot be complete without this specific topic - the symptoms that occur after menopause. This is the time when the estrogen levels will start bidding goodbye and leave us with multiple issues like obesity, cardiovascular problems, mood swings and depression, insomnia, diabetes, etc. But soybean is here to ease that trauma for you.
It has phytoestrogens which have the potential to replace estrogen. It also has isoflavones which act as antioxidants and bind to the estrogen receptor cells of the body, making it easier for the body to think that it isn't going through a drastic change all of a sudden. This will help ease a lot of menopausal symptoms.
13. Beneficial For Pregnant Women And Foetal Development
Pregnancy is the time when the body requires as many nutrients as possible - nothing can go wrong. Soya contains high levels of vitamin C, E, K and B complex which are very important during pregnancy, especially vitamin K, which improves the production of blood cells and B9 (better known as folic acid) which prevents foetal neural tube defects. Soya is also rich in nutrients like calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, etc. which keep the mother healthy. This is essential in ensuring that the foetus grows without forming defects.
14. Improves Lipid Profile
Don't we all love junk food? At least a little bit of it? But we don't really fancy the cholesterol that comes along with it. It's like excess baggage. In fact, cholesterol leads to a lot of other undesirable conditions in our bodies.
Again, soya to the rescue! Soybean contains plant sterols and fatty acids like omega-3 (alpha-linoleic acid), stearic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, etc. which significantly reduce the storage and absorption of cholesterol, and prompt your blood cholesterol levels to take a nosedive. Basically, soya lowers triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterols) and increases HDL (good ones) in your body when consumed regularly.
15. Lowers Blood Pressure And Regulates Blood Vessels
The potassium in soya will help in removing excess sodium from the body to reduce blood pressure. The fibre present in soya scrapes away the excess cholesterol off the walls of arteries and blood vessels. In addition to that, the phyto-antioxidants like fatty acids (omega-3 and 6) regulate and protect the blood vessels by boosting their flexibility and fluidity, thereby, helping in reducing blood pressure and keeping away other diseases like inflammation and tumours.
16. Keeps The Heart Healthy
Getting a healthy heart calls for tiresome cardiac exercises. Then why eat soya? Well, it will aid the process and increase the pace of the process! As discussed above, soya reduces cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and improves the function of blood vessels which are already one step towards maintaining a healthy heart.
Additionally, the protein and fatty acids in Soybean regulate smooth muscle function which will reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis, strokes, heart attacks, etc.
17. Reduces Cancer Risk
Cancer is the second most fatal disease that claims millions of lives every year. Nothing seems to work when it comes to predicting cancer. But there are certain ways you can prevent it or at least close all doors from your side. Whenever cellular metabolism happens in our bodies, free radicals are formed as a by-product which have the potential to make healthy cells mutate into cancerous cells.
Antioxidants have the ability to bind to these free-radicals, thereby, preventing them from carrying out the dangerous function. Soybean is naturally rich in powerful antioxidants. They also contain fibre which is known to keep away colorectal cancer by aiding digestion and maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
The phytoestrogen is soya reduces testosterone levels in men - meaning they're less likely to contract prostate cancer. Soya is also known to prevent breast cancer in women. You can never get enough of soya!
18. Boosts Immune System And Energy
The proteins, antioxidants and zinc in soya together improve the function of the immune system and reduce fatigue by removing harmful free radicals and stimulating the cerebral cortex (improves mood).
Improved energy means improved productivity and a healthy immune system means that your body will be safe from common infections and diseases. Altogether, soya is a great fast-and-easy choice for people who lead stressful lives and have less time to look after their bodies.
19. Prevents And Controls Diabetes
Diabetes is on the rise these days, thanks to contemporary lifestyles. Consuming more soybeans is an effective way to prevent and control it. This is because soya has the ability to increase the production of insulin receptors in the body, thereby, increasing the insulin level.
That said, soya has to be supplemented by polyunsaturated fats so as to carry out this function. If you suspect that you're diabetic or are at the border, adding more soya to your food would be great to prevent it from crossing the borderline. As they say, prevention is better than cure!
20. Improves Strength, Metabolism And Circulation
Soya helps the body absorb more fat-soluble vitamins which, in turn, strengthen the organs and tissues of the body. The protein in soya ensures that our muscles get the proper nutrition they require to stay healthy. Increased proteins mean improved metabolism and cell function.
The iron and copper found in soybean are the two most essential nutrients required for the formation of new red blood cells. When there are abundant RBCs, the circulatory system functions more efficiently, taking more oxygen and blood to all organs.
But Wait! Aren't Some People Allergic To Soya?
Yes. Because of compounds that act like estrogen, consuming lots of soybeans or soya milk can sometimes lead to hormonal imbalance, low sperm count, infertility, etc. in men. Soya can also cause goitre in certain cases when its goitrogens mess with the thyroid gland.
People with a history of oxalate kidney stones and estrogen-related breast tumours are advised to consult with their doctor before making any changes in the diet. Soybean is not suitable for kids who are intolerant to cow's milk. But these drawbacks have been found in few cases.
Now for the part where we discussed that some people do not like the taste of soya.
It's said that most good things come with a price. Perhaps this is the price you have to pay for availing the benefits of this amazing bean! But then, you still have options if you don't like it in one form. It is available in different forms - tofu, miso (soup), tempeh (fermented soya), edamame, natto, soya cheese, soya crisps, soya milk, soybeans, soya flour, soya yoghurt and soya nuts.
With these many varieties of soya, you can sure find a recipe online that will appeal to your taste. Come on, digging a little deeper is good when it has to offer so much to your body! In fact, you'll be surprised at how much versatility people have shown in cooking their favourite soya products. Happy Soy-cooking to you!