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Soya - Natural remedy of the month

 May 2009


soya beansWhen I was a child, the word soya hadn’t come into the vocabulary. Then slowly, through the years, we heard that women in Asia didn’t suffer from the same level of problems from the menopause that western women did. Then we heard that Romanian and Chinese athletes were supplementing their diet with soya – and doing rather well.

Suddenly soya was big on the agenda. Popularity of soya sauce grew with the increase of Chinese restaurants across the country, and then new products such as soya powder and soya milk followed, making it easier for soya to become part of our regular diet.

But what is soya? Soya is a species of legume native to East Asia. It is an annual plant classed as an oilseed rather than a pulse and has been known as a food and health benefit for around 5,000 years.

The English word soy, which is still used in America, is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of their term for Soy Sauce - Sho-yu. The word soya comes from the Dutch version of the same word and is now the common word used in Britain.

Today soybeans are an important source of vegetable oil and protein across the world. Most importantly, soya contains significant amounts of all the essential amino acids for humans, so is a good source of protein. It is its alpha-linolenic acid, omega-6 fatty acid, and the isoflavones genistein and daidzein.that have excited the medical world.

The phytoestrogens or isoflavones in soya have been found to mimic the effects of the female sex hormone oestrogen and these effects may help to prevent a range of conditions including the unpleasant symptoms of the menopause. While there is still a lot of controversy and areas of research still being undertaken, many believe that it is the phytoestrogens or isoflavones in soya that accounts for the lack of menopausal symptoms in Asian women.

Other benefits from soya are said to include lower cholesterol; a decreased risk of breast and prostate cancer, lower risk of high blood pressure and osteoporosis and a boost against iron deficiency.

However, it may not all be good news. There has been some concern that soya can slow down the thyroid, causing the entire body to function at inadequate rates, although the reports seem to indicate that this can only happen if you consume huge quantities. Other recent reports claim that pregnant women who eat a diet high in soya beans may increase the risk of long-term developmental damage in their children.

More information is coming in all the time, but many people across the world believe that soya has added real benefit to their health. Perhaps just as important, soya beans can taste really nice when used in recipes, and what would a Chinese meal be without that wonderfully tasty soya sauce!

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