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The Health Benefits of Soy

Can tofu help prevent breast cancer? Increasingly, it looks that way. Soy foods - soybeans, tofu, miso, tempeh, soy milk, soy protein and textured vegetable protein (TVP), but not soy sauce - offer all the healing benefits of the other beans. In addition, they contain unusually large concentrations of chemicals - isoflavones and phytosterols - with cancer-preventive value. These chemicals may help account for the low rate of breast cancer among Asian women, who eat soy foods as staples.

Breast cancer. Soy isoflavones and phytosterols first came to American scientific attention at a National Cancer Institute conference in 1990. isoflavones, also known as phytoestrogens show the most powerful anti-cancer effects. They are structurally similar to the female sex hormone, and they bind to the same receptor sites on breast cells. But unlike hormonal estrogen, isoflavones and phytosterols do not spur the growth of breast tumors. When the soy chemicals bind to estrogen receptors, they prevent hormonal estrogen from doing so, which in turn prevents tumor growth. Soy foods' marked influence in estrogen metabolism was demonstrated on six women in their twenties with regular menstrual cycles add two ounces of TVP to their usual diets. Within a month, their menstrual cycles were two to five days longer. Longer menstrual cycles mean less lifetime exposure to estrogen and, many scientists believe, less risk of breast cancer. It was also then substituted the same amount of miso, a fermented Asian soy food, for the TVP and found an even greater effect.

Hot flashes. In Japanese, there is no word for "hot flashes," the uncomfortable feeling of heat that plagues many women during menopause. Hot flashes develop as production of hormonal estrogen declines. It is suggested that the estrogen-like chemicals in soy replace declining hormonal estrogen and prevent hot flashes. Japanese who eat a traditional Japanese diet consume about 24 pounds of soy a year. Americans consume about 3 pounds annually, mostly because soy protein is added to many processed foods. Eat as much soy as you can, as long as your soy foods are low in fat.

High cholesterol. As beans replace meat in the diet, cholesterol levels decline. Research showed that, compared with other beans, soy foods are effective cholesterol cutters. In a study, volunteers whose average cholesterol levels were very high (353 mg/dl) and who were already on low-fat diets. Some continued eating as they had been, while the others' diets were modified to include generous amounts of soy. After four weeks, the ones whose diets were unchanged showed no change in cholesterol levels, but among the soy eaters, average cholesterol levels plummeted 27 percent, to 257 mg/dl.

Prostate and colon cancer. Tofu and its soy cousins may also help prevent prostate and colon cancer. A study showed that those who ate the most tofu had the lowest rate of prostate cancer. It was also discovered that as soy food consumption rises, colon cancer risk falls. Scientists theorize that in addition to soy's direct anticancer effects, people tend to use it to replace the meat in the diet. Meat's high fat content has been linked to both prostate and colon cancer.

Raymond Lee Geok Seng is one of the foremost experts in the health and fitness industry and is a writer specializing in body health, muscle development and dieting. He has spent countless of time and efforts conducting research and share his insightful and powerful secrets to benefit men and women all over the world. He is currently the author of the latest edition of "Neck Exercises and Workouts." Visit http://www.bodyfixes.com for more information.

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