Soy foods are widely popular in Asian countries; however, they are finding their way into the global palette for various reasons, not limited to their high protein content and alternative to meat. Originally derived from the leguminous soybean plants, soy foods come in multiple forms: tofu, edamame, soybean oil, soy sauce, soy protein, soya chunks, soy milk, and many more.
No matter where you are, soybean constitutes a vital part of your nutrition. Here’s how:
According to a ScienceDirect article, soy protein has low cholesterol and contributes fewer calories than animal protein. Therefore, soy protein scores higher in weight management and heart health than animal protein counterparts. It is a 100% digestible vegetarian protein source that has all nine essential amino acids.
By 2025 about half of the world’s population will become obese, and soy protein can be the answer to counter obesity at a global level. This is particularly true for developed countries like the USA, Canada, and Australia, as they are in the top 20 obese countries by percentage of the obese population, according to worldobesity.org data.
Already soy foods have entered the food culture of the USA, and many US soy articles are promoting soy foods. The leanest protein source holds the key to countering global obesity.
Protein is one of the essential macronutrients required for the holistic growth and development of the human body. According to research, nearly one billion people are protein deficient. Central African countries have more than 50% of their population protein-deficient, and over 30% population in south Asian countries like India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines are protein deficient. As a result, these nations see the highest cases of malnutrition.
Global soy use can help alleviate the malnutrition issue in developing countries, especially when most of these countries’ per capita income is less than $2000 per annum.
Soya chunks and tofu are one of the cheapest sources of proteins costing approximately 50 cents for 30-40gms of protein. More affordable than meat (it costs over a dollar for 20 grams of digestible protein), soy foods can alleviate the protein deficit with less burden on household income.
According to a Harvard article, whole soy foods like soybeans and tofu positively impact women’s health. Soy foods have a substance called phytoestrogen that is similar in composition to the female hormone estrogen. This helps reduce pain during periods, alleviate hot flashes during menopause, and reduce bone thinning, preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Traditionally, Asian women have been better off dealing with postmenopausal symptoms and credit attributes to soybean being an essential part of their diet. Globally, women are half of the world’s population, and adding soy foods to the daily diet can significantly improve the nutrition of women and the globe in general.
According to WWF, globally, 80% of soy production goes towards food for livestock. Hence indirectly, soy supports meat and dairy production and the overall global protein supply. As a result, soybean forms an integral part of the worldwide food chain and plays an essential role in global nutrition. However, excessive soy cultivation can cause large-scale deforestation and climate issues. Therefore, nations should resolve to cultivate soy sustainably.
Soy foods are rich in antioxidants called isoflavones, stimulating insulin receptors, thus controlling blood sugar levels and keeping diabetes at bay. That alone can help improve the lives of over half a billion people who have diabetes across the world.
In addition, soybeans enhance blood circulation, which is essential for a healthy heart. The high omega-3 fatty acids content in soy foods and low-cholesterol levels can help prevent cardiovascular diseases from occurring. According to WHO, cardiovascular diseases take nearly 18 million lives yearly.
The antioxidants in soybeans also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and studies show that soy foods can bring down the risk of breast cancer by a third. Asian women consuming soy foods showed a lower occurrence of breast cancer than their western counterparts.
Several other studies show that soy foods can improve mental health and have anti-depression properties for older adults. Whole soy foods are also great for digestive health due to their high fiber content and complex carbohydrates.
Therefore, soy foods can contribute to the overall lifestyle of the world.
A government report states that over 65% of the world may have a lactose malabsorption problem. These population cohorts often face trouble fulfilling their daily protein intake because most traditional protein sources are either meat or dairy-based. Soy foods solve this problem globally. Tofu and soy chunks can give a meaty texture and high spice absorption for protein lovers looking for meat alternatives.
Besides, soy milk can act as a digestible dairy alternative for lactose intolerants.
About 16% of the world’s population comprises toddlers, kids, and adolescents or people below the age of 18 years. This cohort is the world’s future, and it is essential to ensure that kids today get a balanced nutritional diet. Adding soy foods can be a step towards that goal. According to a study, soy foods contain isoflavones that can act as a hormonal balance for the extra estrogen that enters a kid’s body by consuming cow’s milk.
Also, soy foods are suitable for improving kidney health in kids and balancing the additional stress that kidneys undergo when the body consumes a lot of animal protein.
Furthermore, the 100% digestible protein in soy foods ensures early growth and development of the child.
Soy foods can revolutionize nutrition globally by solving the world’s protein crisis, increasing food affordability, introducing healthy lifestyles, empowering women’s and kids’ health, and providing alternate food options for vegetarians. However, global climate risks are associated with soy food production, which needs a sustainability push and careful consideration by nations worldwide.
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