The Health Benefits of Soy

How to live a longer life with the help of soy.

| July/August 1998

  • Lester Wilson, Ph.D.

  • Earl Mindell, Ph.D.

  • United Soybean Board

  • 1997 Oldways Preservation & Exchange Trust

Grilled Chicken & Kiwi Salad
Caribbean Kiwi Salsa

Mention the word “soy” to Earl Mindell, a passionate advocate of soy foods and their benefits, and you’ll get an earful.

Mindell, a.k.a. “Dr. Soy” and author of Earl Mindell’s Soy Miracle (Simon & Schuster, 1995), has studied soy foods and their health-giving properties for more than thirty years. He laments that most Americans, in his view, eat poorly and are ignorant of soy foods’ potential value. Research indicates that soy foods may provide relief from many illnesses—from heart disease to osteoporosis.

“Wake up, America!” says Mindell, a registered pharmacologist with a doctorate in nutrition from Pacific Western University and author of twenty-eight books. “We have all these health problems, and much of these could be prevented by changing things in our diets.”

Why soy?

According to the Indiana Soybean Board, publisher of the U.S Soyfoods Directory, soybeans cannot be considered “a miracle food.” However, soy-rich foods may reduce the risk of certain diseases, and extensive research is under way to document the real effects of soy on health.

In recent years, scientists have isolated phytochemicals, or compounds found in plants, that may protect against disease. In Soy Miracle, Mindell reviews research that suggests that some of soy’s phytochemicals can lower cholesterol levels. Others, specifically antioxidants, can protect cells from unstable oxygen molecules that may damage normal cells. Some soy compounds may also deactivate cancer-causing substances and boost the immune system.

Mindell started visiting Japan more than twenty-five years ago because he was interested in the long life span of the Japanese people. “It was pretty obvious back then—they eat fish, rice, and soy,” he says. In his book, he says that the Japanese diet also tends to be lower in fat and higher in fiber than typical Western diets, but that many researchers believe that soy consumption is a primary factor in Japanese health and longevity.

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