Can Soymilk Help You Prevent Heart Disease?

Soymilk is very popular in some Asian countries. It is usually served hot and sweetened or as a soup flavored with soy sauce and vegetables. In Western countries soymilk is often sold in aseptic cartons which can be stored at room temperature for several days. Soymilk can be used as an alternative to cow’s milk, in baked goods and cream-type sauces, or over breakfast cereal.

Soymilk is rich in soy protein. Numerous studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between the level of blood cholesterol and soy protein. Soy protein can reduce blood cholesterol level in a way different from most of the other cholesterol-lowering diets. In traditional diets that lower cholesterol levels, there are strict limits on the intake of fat and cholesterol so that both levels drop. However, soy protein can reduce cholesterol levels without limiting the amount of fat intake in the diet, it can be added to your diet without dramatically changing your dietary habits. What’s more, soy protein can lower blood cholesterol level to a greater extent than most of the other dietary methods.

Soy protein is high-quality protein that has almost the same nutritional values as animal protein such as eggs and milk. Some studies even point out that soy protein can fully meet the body’s needs of various essential amino acids. The amount of soy protein needed to achieve immediate effects of cholesterol lowering depends on each individual case. It is generally believed that for as little as 25 g of soy protein per day one can lower his or her cholesterol, however, some people need more soy protein to achieve the same results. 

Soy protein not only has direct effects on lowering blood cholesterol levels, it also helps to prevent the deposition of fat in the inner layer of the arteries, thus reduces the development of atherosclerosis. Besides, soyfoods contain a type of phytoestrogens called isoflavone genistein that can inhibit the formation of blood clots and the growth of cells that contribute to the artery-narrowing deposits. In general, soyfoods can effectively reduce the risks of heart diseases from elevated cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis in a broad manner.

In the U.S. according to the FDA, foods that contain more than 6.25 grams of soy protein can be labeled as "cardiovascular health products". So, if the daily consumption of 25 grams or more soy protein is enough for the benefits of our health, how much soy foods per day should we consume? The answer is one glass of soymilk per day is enough. Soymilk contains about the same proportion of protein and fat as cow’s milk with even higher calcium and iron concentration. It is usually a perfect substitute to cow’s milk in some Asian countries. In addition, compared with meat and milk, soymilk has almost zero cholesterol. 

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