According to the American Heart Association, over 9 million children and adolescents between the ages of nine and 19 suffer from obesity and over 142 million adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese.
One of the many complications from a body mass index (BMI) over 25 is diabetes, a condition resulting in the body's inability to use blood sugar for energy. While the health ramifications are all encompassing (diet restrictions, mandatory exercise, insulin shots, etc.), studies have shown that adding soy can provide many benefits to the 20 million-plus that suffer from diabetes.
While recent research concerning soy and blood glucose or insulin control has produced conflicting results, Dr. Mark Messina, associate adjunct professor of nutrition at Loma Linda University, believes soy can play an important role in managing blood sugar levels. "I think the most that can be said at this point is that soyfoods have a low glycemic index," Messina says. "The carbohydrate in soy does not lead to a quick rise in blood sugar levels, and thus, soy is useful for diabetics."
Another concern many diabetics may face is an increased risk for developing renal or kidney problems, caused by diabetic nephropathy. This is a condition where the kidneys eventually fail due to the constant high blood sugar that's constantly being filtered through the kidneys and, eventually, damaging the tissue.
"There is definitely evidence that soy protein, despite being high in quality, places less stress on kidneys than other high quality proteins," Messina says. "Therefore, since people with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing renal problems, some experts recommend replacing some of the animal protein in the diet with soy protein."
Heart disease is also a risk associated with diabetes. Soy protein is extremely heart-healthy. "Very exciting evidence suggests that soy may have important coronary benefits independent or in addition to cholesterol reduction," Messina says. "More specifically, soy lowers bad, LDL, cholesterol by four percent, which, in theory, reduces risk of coronary heart disease by about 10 percent."
Soy does not just benefit those with diabetes. Anyone who wants a stronger heart, functioning kidneys and an overall healthy body should consider soy. Consuming 20 to 25 grams of soy a day is suggested in order to see these benefits and, while that may seem a lot, there's a vast amount of convenient products available to help you stay healthy.
Some simple soy swaps:
- One cup of soy milk in your hear-smart oatmeal will give you just over six grams of soy protein.
- One cup of soy yogurt for your morning snack provides seven grams soy protein per six-ounce cup.
- Replace peanut butter with soy nut butter on your PBJ sandwich at lunch. One serving, two tablespoons, will yield seven grams of soy protein.
- Try a SoyJoy bar for your afternoon snack and you'll add another four grams.
- Total = 24 grams
Source: The Soyfoods Council