Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

How Soy Can Improve Your Health

A recent nutritional study found that including nutrient-dense plant based foods (like soy protein, whole grains, vegetables, and garlic) can, at least in the short term, reduce your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad stuff) and total cholesterol.

The study involved 120 people who were separated into two groups, and both groups were provided nearly all meals for the duration of the study. For 28 days both groups:

  • Ate a diet low in fat and cholesterol according to American Heart Association dietary guidelines
  • Consumed nearly identical amounts of fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol
  • Maintained their usual amount of exercise; and
  • Their weight remained constant.

The difference between the groups was what types of food they ate: one group ate a lot of reduced-fat pre-prepared foods, like low-fat frozen lasagna and reduced-fat cheeses. The other group’s meals included a lot more vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and fresh garlic. In fact, this second group ate soy protein and fresh garlic every day.

The results are pretty amazing: even though both groups were eating what on the surface would seem to be healthy diets—low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol—the group eating more vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits had a larger drop in total cholesterol and LDL levels than the group eating a more “normal” low-fat diet.

So what does this mean for you?

If you have a cholesterol problem, eating more soy protein and fresh garlic, along with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help reduce your cholesterol even if you don’t make any other changes in your lifestyle.

More on Soy Protein

Speaking of soy protein, a recent clinical trial in China seems to suggest that eating more vegetable protein (such as soy protein) can help reduce blood pressure.

In this study the researchers supplied their subjects with cookies that were fortified with either soy protein (the test group) or the same amount of complex carbohydrates (for the control group). Most of the subjects used the cookies as a meal replacement so that their overall caloric intake and intake of fats, carbohydrates and proteins remained constant throughout the study.

While both groups saw a reduction in their blood pressure, the group taking the soy protein supplement reduced their blood pressure by almost twice as much as the control group.

Pretty impressive results, except that it’s hard to say whether these findings will directly apply to the average American—we eat more protein than the average Chinese person, and people in China tend to eat more vegetable protein than Americans in any case. So to get the same results, would Americans need to eat a whole lot less animal protein and a lot more soy protein to get the same results? We don’t know.

One thing’s for sure, though. Soybeans and other vegetable proteins (like beans) are an important part of a heart-healthy diet.

Dr. Gourmet
October 19, 2005

Last updated: 02/02/06