For thousands of years soya is known to help in cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction and prevention of cardio-vascular and other diseases. Women on soya diet are said to have fewer unwanted symptoms when they reach menopause. On the other end of the spectrum critics attribute early onset of puberty in western women and reduced fertility in men to soya. Yet it is an invisible ingredient in nearly everything we eat.
 Cheap Source of Protein
Soya is estimated to be present in 70 per cent of all supermarket products and widely used by most fast food chains. Being a very cheap source of protein and - when crushed - a source of high-quality vegetable oil, a number of processed foods, including sausages, lasagne, beef burgers and chicken nuggets use soya. The oil extracted is said to be the most widely used vegetable oil in the world.
Free from steroids and antibiotics found in animal protein
Being a plant protein soya is free from steroids and antibiotics found in animal protein. It is also free from the parasites that contaminate some of these products.
There can be no fear of diseases one can contact from sources such as Mad Cow Disease, and Foot and Mouth Disease. Soya also contains little or no fat, is virtually cholesterol free and has no lactose
 Only 3 Percent Humans Consume
But in spite of this soya is consumed only by 3 percent of humans. It is primarily used in industry and animal feed. It was first consumed in China, where it was considered one of the 5 holy crops, besides rice, wheat, barley and millet, in the 11th century. It then moved west and to the US in the 18th century and has been adopted in Europe only recently.
Interest in soya grew in the West when it was found that people living in Japan and south-east Asia, where soya is a dietary staple, are less prone to heart disease or prostate, breast, womb and ovarian cancers. And women had fewer unwanted symptoms when they reached menopause. The US Food and Drug Administration and Britain's Food Standards Agency have issued health claims that eating 25g of soya protein a day can help lower cholesterol and thus reduce the risk of heart disease.
Soya bean pods, from which soya is derived, were first cultivated in China. Today, they are mostly cultivated in North and South America in addition to China.
 Health Benefits of Soya
Soya bean is the cheapest source of vegetable protein. It contains many beneficial compounds like lecithin’s, phyto-sterols, fibros, saponins etc which help in cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction and prevention of cardio-vascular diseases, in combating osteoporosis and it is also good for diabetes, Recent research has shown that it contains a compound called ‘Saponin B1′ which has anti-HIV properties.Soya is low in saturated fats and is cholesterol free. Other health benefits include:
• Antioxidants in soya beans protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, believed to cause cancers and premature aging. Studies have shown that regular diet of soya beans reduces chances of breast, colon endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
• Cholesterol-lowering properties in soya beans lower LDL (Low-density lipoprotein) and raise HDL (High-density lipoprotein). This helps prevent coronary heart disease
• Soya beans help increase bone mineral density and decreases calcium loss in aging women. This reduces the incidence of osteoporosis.
• Natural plant hormones known as isoflavones, or phytoestrogens, contained in soya beans have similar functions as estrogens that our bodies produce naturally. During menopause, when the body produces less estrogen, phytoestrogens can be absorbed by the body, and thus mimic estrogen and reduce menopausal symptoms in women.
 Delicacies With Soya
You can prepare a variety of yummy delicacies with soya. Soya milk can be made by soaking, crushing and baking soya beans. When this is mixed with a thickening agent it produces soya curd and when pressed it gives tofu, also called soya cheese.
• Tofu - Also known as soya cheese, this is made from coagulated soya milk. Available as silken tofu or firm tofu.
• Textured vegetable protein- defatted soya flour with a sponge-like texture. With appropriate flavors it can be processed to resemble meat and can be used in vegetarian burgers, sausages, and canned foods.
• Tempeh - fermented soya bean paste which can be used as a meat substitute
• Miso - Used for adding flavor to soups, stews, casseroles, and sauces. Miso is fermented condiment made from soya bean, grain, salt, and water.
• Soya sauces - fermented soya beans with cracked roasted wheat, salt and water.
• Soya milk – Contains high protein and is used as a substitute for dairy milk. It is made by soaking soya beans in water and then strained to remove the fibers. Soya milk is ideal for those who are allergic to cow's milk or follow a vegan diet. It is also a less fattening alternative to cow's milk.
Visit Soya Recipes and Revival Soya recipes
Soya foods are now readily available in all shapes, sizes and prices. You can also get equipment such as soy milk makers, and tofu kits both for home use, as well as commercial.
 Soya Allergy
Soya allergy is common among children generally up to the age of two. Though most outgrow it after that period, a few develop lifelong conditions.
The reported symptoms of soy allergy include: acne, angioedema, rhinitis, anaphylaxis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, bronchospasm, cankers, colitis, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, diffuse small bowel disease, dyspnea, eczema, enterocolitis, fever, hypotension, itching, laryngeal edema, lethargy, pollinosis, urticaria, vomiting, and wheezing.
If you suspect soy allergy stop consumption of anything containing soy for a few days and see the results. After that try one soy product and watch for 48 hours within which period the intolerance reactions can occur.
For soya allergy it is advised that several types of manufactured products made with soya be avoided. Baked biscuits, sweets, drinks, ice creams etc are among such items.
Visit Soy Allergy for causes, symptoms and cures
 The Soya Controversy
While the advocates proclaim soya as a miracle food which provides protection against myriad health problems, critics link soya not only to reduced male fertility, but even say soya protein isolates are dangerous and link soya isoflavones with breast cancer, allergies, thyroid disease, genital defects and brain ageing. UK newspaper Guardian Unlimited in a report highlighted the negatives of soya diet. It has also been claimed that soya damages brain function in men and causes hidden developmental abnormalities in infants.
Some point to the possibility of consuming soya in their meat diet. As 90 percent of soya production is used as animal feed, it is highly likely that the meat comes from an animal reared on a diet based on soya meal.
The controversy about soya will probably continue as long as people eat and enjoy the product. However, what comes out in favor of soya products is the observation that people tend to have greater longevity in countries where soya is widely consumed. One possibility remains – that the soya consumed in Asia may be very different from the soya manufactured and processed in the Western countries.
 Genetically Modified Soya
Research has found that modified soya affected the liver and pancreas of mice. The report said that 36 percent of the younger rats which were fed GM soya were severely underweight, compared to 6 percent of the off-springs of the other groups. It was also found that 55.6 percent of those born to rats that were fed GM diet perished within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 percent of the off-springs of those fed normal soya, and 6.8 percent of the young of those given no soya at all.
As rats and humans have similar morphology and biochemical structures the results very disturbing.
Refer to Genetically modified soy affects posterity: Results of Russian scientists’ studies
- What is Soya?
- Benefits Of The Soya Bean
- Soy: The Great Debate
- Soy allergy