If you are dieting but do not want to compromise your protein needs, consider adding soy protein to your diet. It serves as an excellent substitute for animal proteins. It has no cholesterol and contains saturated fat only in small amounts. It is also a good source of vitamin B12, iron, calcium, zinc and fiber. Soy protein is present in different foods, such as soups, imitation meats, cheeses, nondairy creamers and infant formulas, cereals, pastas and breads. It can be categorized according to how it is produced.
Types of Soy Protein
The most refined form is called soy protein isolate. It is used when manufacturing meat products because it can improve texture and quality. Soy protein isolate has approximately 90 percent protein. Soy protein concentrate, on the other hand, is soybean in which the water-soluble carbohydrates have been removed. About 70 percent of soy protein concentrate is made up of protein. Textured soy protein (TSP) is a form of soy protein concentrate. It is usually used to replace meat or as an additive to meat. Like soy protein concentrate, TSP also has 70 percent protein.
Soy protein contains all the essential amino acids needed for your nutrition, thereby earning the label of "complete" protein. For instance, grains contain only small amounts of lysine, while beans have low amounts of methionine and cysteine, two amino acids that contain sulfur. Soy protein has these amino acids in higher amounts, reaching levels similar to that of animal protein, which makes soy protein essential for dieters, vegetarians and vegans.
Other beans or legumes attribute 20 to 30 percent of their calories to proteins. The value is higher in soybean protein. About 35 to 38 percent of calories in soybeans are attributed to their protein content. Aside from these obvious advantages of soy protein, it is also among the least costly sources of protein in the diet. Therefore, when you are dieting, using soy protein could give you your complete protein requirements without leaving a hole in your pocket.
Aside from being complete, soy protein also contains quality protein. Soy protein has enough essential amino acids to meet the requirements of children aged 2 to 5 years, which is the age group with the highest protein requirement. Additionally, soy protein has high digestibility, reaching a digestibility score of approximately 93 to 97 percent.
Protein with Various Health Benefits
Regular soy protein consumption helps reduce total cholesterol, and helps lower the concentrations of low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides. To gain these benefits, eat at least 25 g of soy protein daily. This amount is about 1¼ cups of tofu, 1 oz. of soy flour or 1 to 2 cups of soy milk.
Obesity, diabetes, cancer and menopausal effects also appear to be reduced by regular soy protein intake. In terms of obesity and diabetes, soy protein consumption can control hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, and can help maintain a healthy weight. A chemical called genistein, which is present in soy, has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-like compounds, are present in soy protein. Regular intake of soy protein could help avoid menopausal effects, which include bone loss and increased cardiovascular risk.