3 Reasons to Fall in Love with Soy For American Heart Month
Nutrition science has regarded soy as a superfood with many health benefits for decades. In fact, "25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease," according to the FDA.
Science continues to uncover more evidence of soy's superfood status. And now researchers have discovered the "nutritional magic" behind soy's heart health benefits: a soy peptide called lunasin.
If you haven't taken a closer look at soy lately, here are a few reasons to fall in love with it all over again during American Heart Month.
1) Soy is a heart-healthy, complete protein.
Soybean protein is the only plant-based protein that provides all the essential amino acids in the amounts needed for human health. Soy is beneficial to overall cardio health because it is high in polyunsaturated (good) fats, low in saturated fat and naturally cholesterol-free. When you substitute animal protein with soy in your diet, you're replacing saturated fats and cholesterol with a much healthier protein for your heart.
In addition, soy has been shown to improve blood vessel elasticity — a measure of how "hardened" your blood vessels are.
2) Fiber + Protein = A Powerful Pair.
Fiber sticks to cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed into the body, where it could have gone on to clog your arteries. Studies have shown that a high fiber diet lowers your risk of heart disease.
Plants are the only food containing fiber, essential to any healthy diet. However, most plants are low in protein. Soy is unique because it combines the benefits of fiber and protein in one healthy source.
3) Soy's lunasin peptide is "nutritional magic" for your heart.
Lunasin is a naturally occurring peptide found in soy that disrupts production of cholesterol in the liver and clears LDL from bloodstream.
"A growing body of research shows that the lunasin peptide is one of the most important bioactive components of soy," said Dr. Alfredo Galvez, who first discovered lunasin while studying soy in 1996. He explains, "Among other benefits, lunasin demonstrates superior support for cardiovascular health and exhibits significant anti-inflammatory properties."
Over 80 percent of cholesterol comes from the liver, so the most effective way to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol is to control the liver's internal production. The lunasin peptide does so in two ways:
a. selectively disrupts a step in the production of an enzyme key to cholesterol synthesis in the liver
b. increases the number of receptors available in liver cells to clear LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream
"The soy peptide, lunasin, can actually work better than statin drugs to improve cholesterol," said Dr. Galvez. "This is because lunasin works at an earlier stage in the body's internal cholesterol production process. Lunasin reduces the production of the cholesterol synthesis enzyme, whereas statins block the enzyme after it has already been produced. Blocking too much of the enzyme can lead to serious side effects."