Soy protein is derived from soya beans and is unique in being a complete protein from a vegetable source. It contains all the essential amino acids, making supplementation with soy, a good alternative to dairy and albumin as a source of additional protein.
Soy protein also brings many health benefits in addition to its usefulness as an aid to supporting you in achieving your weight loss goals. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you could gain by adding one of the excellent soy based products to your diet plan.
Soy Is a Complete Protein
You may be aware that the term ‘essential amino acids’ means that these are the ones we have to take in via our diet as our bodies cannot make them for us. Soy, like Whey, Casein and Albumin supplementation provides complete protein including all those essential amino acids. This means that those who do not wish to consume any animal based proteins or those who have allergy problems when consuming whey or egg protein, can get a nutritionally complete protein source by including soy in their diets.
For some people, the fact that it contains no cholesterol and very little fat, make it a first choice supplement.
Health Benefits of Soy Protein Supplementation
Alleviation of Menopausal Symptoms
Many women of pre-menopausal and menopausal age use soy supplementation to alleviate some of the symptoms associated with this time in their lives such as flushing, night sweats and vaginal dryness.
Positive Effect on Bone Density
Post-menopausal women are also using soy for its positive effect on bone density as Osteoporosis (brittle, weak bones), can be a particular problem once levels of oestrogen decline naturally with the menopause. There are widespread concerns about Osteoporosis drugs currently being used. Many reports have appeared in the media about spontaneous femur fractures (thigh bones literally snapping unexpectedly), in patients being treated with these drugs designed to improve bone density. It seems that for some women greater bone density is being achieved at the expense of bone flexibility and bones are becoming more brittle, like a hard, dense piece of blackboard chalk which is nevertheless, easy to snap in half! It is therefore, small wonder that so many women are seeking safer, more natural alternatives to increasing their bone quality as well as density.
There are many studies that point to the efficacy of soy supplementation, in increasing bone density, including one conducted by the University of Illinois, Chicago, USA. Dr. Bahram Arjmandi, research leader reported:
“We found that while bone density increased with the consumption of soy isolate, more importantly, bone quality was improved.”
Lowers Cholesterol and the Risk of Heart Disease
Interestingly, Soy is able to lower LDL cholesterol – the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol without lowering levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. Many studies have been done which prove that around 25 grams of soy protein powder consumed daily, is enough to get the beneficial effect, although many people choose to take more, up to around 50 grams.
In addition, it helps to prevent coronary artery disease caused by narrowing of the arteries. Of course, just taking a soy protein supplement and relying on that to keep your heart healthy and eating just about anything else you like is not going to cut it! To be effective, it must be taken as part of a healthy, balanced diet without too much fat or sugar.
Soy Isoflavones Can Boost Immunity
There have also been quite a few studies on the effects of soy Isoflavones on the immune systems of healthy people. For example, a report on a sixteen week program where 50 post-menopausal women took a supplement of 70 mg per day was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results showed that the women who had taken the Isoflavones from soy had higher levels of immune cells. Soy supplements boost T-cell activity. T-cells are a type of white blood cells, (from the lymphocyte group) that are the ‘first responders’ to invading infection or malignancy.
The Effect of Soy Protein Supplementation on Belly Fat
It certainly seems that soy might be their best choice of protein supplement for women trying to lose weight, especially for older, post-menopausal women. It seems that research results show that in this age group of women, casein protein supplementation produced an increase in abdominal fat, whereas soy protein caused a reduction. The conclusion of this particular study was that daily intake of a soy protein supplement can help to prevent the increase in both abdominal (belly) fat and fat beneath the surface of the skin.
Soy and Reduction in Cancer Risk
The American Cancer Society Website reports that a number of experimental laboratory studies suggest that soy may reduce the risk of some types of cancer but there is no firm evidence as these laboratory studies have not been reflected in any clinical trials with people.
There are some studies that suggest that high levels of soy intake in young women with relatively high estrogen levels might provide a degree of protection from breast cancer. Unfortunately it is not clear whether there is any such benefit for older post-menopausal women, or indeed whether high levels of soy supplementation at this stage could actually be harmful.
However, in studies of men with prostate cancer, the suggestion is that soy supplements may lower levels (or slow down the increase in levels) of PSA or prostate-specific antigen which increases with the growth of prostate cancer. These initially encouraging results will need more research before it can definitely be proven that soy supplementation could help prostate cancer sufferers to live longer.
It’s Not All Good News Though!
If you were beginning to think that soy sounds too good to be true, there are some problems and contraindications.
Not Suitable for People with Thyroid Problems
If you have a thyroid problem, supplementation with soy is definitely not recommended for helping you lose weight (or for any other reason), you might find this article a helpful read in understanding how soy can affect thyroid function
Phytoestrogens May Make It Unsuitable For You
In addition, soy protein is more popular with women than with men because of fears that the phyto-estrogens naturally present in soy have a weak estrogenic effect. However, scientific research does not show that consuming soy protein reduces blood testosterone levels in men.
What to Look For In Soy Protein Powder Supplements
- If you are looking for a protein supplement to help you lose weight, soy is a good choice because it has a positive effect on fat metabolism and helps you to feel full for longer – which is a boost for your willpower when trying to stick to a calorie controlled diet!
- Because this is a plant-based product, look for one made with non-GMO soya beans. These are natural, as nature intended and have not been genetically modified.
- Look for a Soy Protein Isolate product.
Choose an Isolate as this will have around 90% soy protein. If you have never tried a soy supplement before and are unsure which isolate product to choose, try Jarrow Fomula’s Iso Rich Soy which is 100% pure and natural.
- Look for Soy Protein Bars
These provide a great snack, particularly after exercising or to stop you reaching for the cookie jar if hunger strikes. If you have not tried a protein snack bar before, we recommend Clif Builders Bars – these contain about the same number of calories as a chocolate bar at 270, but only around 8 grams of fat. The carb. content varies slightly depending on which flavor you choose, but each bar contains a great 20 gram serving of protein. Perfect for keeping your energy levels up and hunger at bay. These taste really good, not dry or chalky like some protein bars we’ve tried!
Putting it all Together
In conclusion, soy protein is a great vegetarian alternative to whey, casein and albumin supplementation. It is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids our bodies need for growth and repair. For weight loss purposes, soy can help with reduction of abdominal (belly) fat and subcutaneous (under skin) fat. Like all protein supplements, to be most effective, it should be taken as part of a healthy, balanced diet and alongside an exercise program.