Health Benefits of Soybeans, Tofu, Tempeh, Nutrition Facts, Warnings

Soybeans are classified as oil seeds, not as dry beans. While whole dry soy beans contain about 40% protein, much more than most other beans, pulses and seeds, they do contain about 20% fat by weight.

Most of this fat is unsaturated (‘good fat’), but it nevertheless boosts the calorie content of soybeans (170 Calories per 100 g dry weight), to almost twice that of haricot and kidney beans (about 100 Calories per 100 g dry weight).

Whole soybeans are a fabulous source of vitamins and minerals, including folic acid, iron, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron and calcium.

Most people consume soybeans in one of its produced such as tofu, tempeh, miso, vegetable textured protein, soy milk and many other products. The high protein and avriety of amino acids are beneficial for vegetarians and vegans,

The health benefits of soybean products include protection against cancer, alleviation of menopausal symptoms, and benefits for reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering cholersterol and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Many of the health benefits of soy are derived from its isoflavones, which is a phytochemical and phytoestrogen with antioxidant properties.

But there has been various concerns raised about possible negative effects of isoflavones linked to the risk of causing goitre and hyperthyroidism. Isoflavones are structurally similar to the female sex hormone estrogen and concern has been raised that these chemicals may mimic the properties of estrogen, the natural female hormone.

This article provides detailed nutritional information about soybeans and soy products and reviews the information on their health benefits.

In many ways the health promoting soybean products are a 'mixed bad' of potential pros and cons.

This article provides an overview to guide your decision about soybeans.

Boiled Soybeans
Boiled Soybeans | Source
Tempeh
Tempeh | Source
Tofu on Miso Soup
Tofu on Miso Soup | Source

Comparison of Percentage Contribution of Macronutrients to Total Energy Content

Nutrient
Haricot Bean
Kidney Beans
Soybean
Total Fat
4.6
2.7
48.4
Saturated Fat
-
-
7.0
Monounsaturated Fat
-
-
10.7
Polyunsaturated Fat
-
-
27.5
Carbohydrate
68.7
68.7
11.6
Protein
27.2
28.5
40.1

Comparison of the Nutrient Composition of Soybeans with Other Beans

Nutrient (100 g cooked beans)
Haricot
Kidney
Soy
Moisture (%)
69.6
70.5
62.6
Energy (Cal)
100
100
170
Protein (g)
6.6
7.1
16.6
Fat (g)
0.5
0.3
9
Saturated fatty acids (g)
-
-
1.3
Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)
-
-
2
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)
-
-
5.1
Carbohydrate (g)
16.6
17.1
4.8
Dietary fibre (g)
7.4
5.1
1.6
NSP total (g)
8.3
6.7
2.9
Soluble NSP (g)
3.7
3.2
0.1
Insoluble NSP (g)
4.6
3.5
2
Calcium (mg)
60
19
102
Iron (mg)
2.5
1.7
5.1
Magnesium (mg)
45
33
86
Phosphorus (mg)
120
87
247
Potassium (mg)
320
400
515
Sodium (mg)
15
16
1
Zinc (mg)
1
1
1.2
Copper (mg)
0.14
0.16
0.41
Vitamins
 
 
 
Thiamin (mg)
11
1
16
Riboflavin (mg)
6
7
29
Niacin (mg)
0.7
0.7
0.4
Vitamin A
-
-
1
Vitamin E (mg)
-
-
0.35
Folic acid (micro g)
-
-
54

Nutritional Data for Soybeans and Soybean Products

Source of Energy

The table opposite compares the macronutrients that contribute to the total energy content of soybeans with Haricot and Kidney beans. The major points are:

  • About 50% of the energy of soybeans is derived from fat, but only about 15% of the fat is saturated fat.
  • About 40% of the energy of soybeans is derived from protein compared with about 30% for the other beans
  • For Haricot and Kidney beans about 70% of the energy is derived from carbohydrate.

Nutrient Comparisons for 100 g of Cooked Soybeans, Haricot and Kidney Beans

The table opposite shows the nutrients in cooked beans. The key points are:

  • Soybeans have much higher calorie contents (170 calories vs 100 calories)
  • Soybeans have twice the amount of protein (17 g)\
  • There is a lot more fat in soybeans
  • Soybeans have only 30% of the dietary fiber in the other beans
  • The nutrients that are higher in soybeans are: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, thiamine, riboflavin.
  • The nutrients that are lower in soybeans are sodium and niacin

Comparison of the Nutrients in Soybean Products (100 g)

The table below compares the nutrients on 100 g of soy milk, tempeh, tofu and miso. The key differences are:

  • Tempeh is far richer than the other products, being more dense and having less water. It has twice the level of calories, fat, protein, and four times the level of carbohydrate.
  • All of the nutrients levels are highest in tempeh, again reflecting the lower amount of water and greater food density.
  • Tempeh has three times the amount of saturated fat in tofu, and twice the amount in miso paste.
  • Miso paste has higher level of carbohydrate, but less protein than tempeh.
  • Miso has very high levels of sodium and potassium.

Health Benefits of Soybean and Soybean Products

Various reviews of the health benefits of soybeans and soybean products have been published.

Potential Cholesterol-lowering Effects of Soybeans

Substituting soy protein for animal protein generally reduces cholesterol and saturated fat intakes, indirectly lowering blood cholesterol and helping to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Over the last 20 years, a number of human studies have shown a direct effect of soybeans in the diet on lowering cholesterol levels. For example, one study showed that eating 30 - 60 g of soy protein a day decreased LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol by 20% and 10% respectively. In addition, triglycerides were reduced by 10% in another study.

Potential Benefits for Reducing Cancer Effects

Various epidemiological studies have suggested, without definite proof, that diets based on soybeans provide some protection against breast, prostate and colon cancer. Cell culture experiments have also shown that extracts from soybeans suppressed the induction of tumours in various organs.

Bone Strengthening Benefits of Soybeans and Benefits for Menopausal Symptoms

Many researchers have discussed the lower incidence of menopausal problems in Japanese women compared to American, Canadian and Finnish women. There is some evidence that easting more soy products may help alleviate some of the symptoms. Research has also shown that high-soy diet increased bone mineral content and bone density in the lumbar region of the spine.

Many people in Asian populations consume 20 mg to 80 mg of the isoflavone, genistein per day, almost entirely derived from soy, whereas the dietary intake of genistein in the United States is only 1 mg to 3 mg per day. It is relatively easy to increase the intake of isoflavone without totally changing the diet. One half-cup of soy beans, one cup of soy beverage or 120 g of tofu provide 30 mg to 40 mg of genistein,

Concern about Soybean Chemicals having Links to the Female Hormone Estrogen

Isoflavones are often referred to as phytoestrogens (that is ‘plant estrogens’) because their chemical structure is quite similar to estrogen, the female sex hormone. But the differences are very significant. These plant estrogens are much weaker than naturally circulating human estrogens and they have less that 1% of the biological activity of synthetic estrogens. Research studies have demonstrated that the compounds in soybeans do not produce estrogen-like responses in humans, do not cause harm at the levels consumed in foods. Many Asian population have been consuming soy products for centuries.

Concern about the Effect of Soybean Chemicals on the Thyroid

There is some scientific evidence that soybean products may interfere with thyroid function. Thyroid hormones are important for regulation metabolism, brain development, growth, body temperature control and breathing. People with thyroid problems are advised to speak with their doctors before eating lots of soybean products. The general advice is that for other people, soybean products shouldn't have any effect on thyroid function provided people have adequate iodine in their diets.

Various research studies have shown that isoflavones, may disrupt the normal action of thyroid hormones, by inhibited the enzyme thyroid peroxidase, which plays a role in production of the thyroid hormones. However, a 2003 randomized controlled research study conducted by the Harvard Medical School found no difference in thyroid function a group of postmenopausal women subjects, half of which received 90 mg of soy isoflavones in their diet and the other half received a placebo. Eating adequate iodine in the diet can generally reverse or alleviate any effects of soybeans on thyroid function.

Soybean Allergies

Soybeans are one of 5 foods most commonly causing food allergies in children, and one of 8 foods responsible for food allergies in the general population. Soybean allergies can trigger reactions ranging from hives to diarrhea, to serious breathing difficulties. Some people have soy intolerance reactions in their intestines similar to lactose intolerance.

Nutrition Data for Soybean Products (100g)

Product (Serving Size 100 g)
Soymilk
Tempeh
Tofu
Miso
Calories
54
193
76
201
Protein (g)
3.3
18.5
8.1
11.7
Total Fat (g)
1.7
10.8
4.8
6
Total Carbohydrates (g)
6.3
9.4
1.9
26.5
Dietary Fiber (g)
0.6
 
0.3
5.6
Sugar (g)
4
 
 
6.2
Vitamins
 
 
 
 
Vitamin C (mg)
0
0
0.1
0
Thiamin (mg)
0.1
0.1
0.1
0.1
Riboflavin (mg)
0.1
0.4
0.1
0.2
Niacin (mg)
0.5
2.6
0.2
0.9
Pantothenic Acid (mg)
0.4
0.3
0.1
0.3
Vitamin B6 (mg)
0.1
0.2
0
0.2
Folate (mcg)
18
24.1
14.7
16.8
Vitamin B12 (mcg)
0
0.1
0
0
Vitamin A (IU)
2.9
0
85.3
89.5
Vitamin E (mg)
0.1
 
 
0
Vitamin K (mcg)
3
 
 
29.1
Minerals
 
 
 
 
Calcium (mg)
24.9
110.8
350
55.9
Iron (mg)
0.6
2.7
5.4
2.5
Magnesium (mg)
24.9
80.7
30.2
50.3
Phosphorus (mg)
51.9
266.3
97.4
156.6
Potassium (mg)
118.1
412
120.7
212.5
Sodium (mg)
51.1
8.4
6.9
3724.8
Zinc (mg)
0.1
1.1
0.8
2.6
Copper (mg)
0.1
0.6
0.2
0.4
Manganese (mg)
0.2
1.3
0.6
0.9
Selenium (mcg)
4.8
0
8.9
7.3
Fatty Acids
 
 
 
 
Saturated Fat (g)
0.2
2.2
0.7
1.1
Monounsaturated Fat (g)
0.4
3
1.1
1.2
Polyunsaturated Fat (g)
1
3.8
2.7
3.2

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

More by this Author


Comments 1 comment

Shades-of-truth profile image

Shades-of-truth 2 years ago from USA

I really enjoy tempeh, and my body seems to like it, too. Great info, especially the comparison tables.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working