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The Alternative to Meat - Soy Foods
Soy is a derivative from a soybean, which is most typically found and used in Asia. However soy plants are also a crop grown in the United States. Formerly only considered a minor crop by the Department of Agriculture, soy was classified as in industrial product. More recently, the health benefits of the little soy bean have been widely praised on a national scale. As a result, the U.S. soybean industry has grown exponentially in the number and diversity of products that it manufactures, ranging from clothing to snack food.
Popular soy-based foods include soy milk, soy sauce, miso (soybean paste), tempeh (which is kind of like a soy cake), and tofu. Soy can also be added to foods like breads, cereals, and meat products, and used as a meat substitute in products such as soy burgers and soy hot dogs. Soy is considered to be a good source of protein because it provides amino-acids, which are a type of nutrient found in meat products, and may be a good alternative for those who do not eat meat such as vegetarians and vegans. Many soy-based foods also contain fiber, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.
Soy hand soy products have many healthy benefits such as lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease, however, this applies only to soy proteins and not necessarily all soy foods. Only those that are listed as being 'whole soy' or that specifically contain soy protein offer the health benefits.
While soy products do contain a number of health benefits, soy is not necessarily considered to be a comparable replacement for all foods. For example, soy milk is not naturally fortified with calcium and is therefore not considered to as beneficial to the body as cow's milk. Even with fortification, soy milk may still contain less of the valuable nutrient gained from drinking regular, cow's milk.
Soy can be a good alternative for children who suffer from allergies to foods such as milk, however soy itself can also be an allergen although it appears as an allergen less frequently than other foods and is usually outgrown.
For all the positive claims about the healthy benefits of soy, there are as many claims of its harmful effects, particularly after long-term use. Critics have linked soy and soy products to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system malfunction, thyroid system dysfunction, severe cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility, even cancer, heart disease and other hormonal issues such as the sexual development of infants through impeding testosterone and accelerating the production of estrogen.
It is difficult to discern which claims have the most merit, as most of the tend to contradict each other, so the general rule to each soy products in moderation and to make sure that nutrient important to bodily growth and function are being gleaned from other food sources as well.
Soy contains a number of minerals, include some forms of metal and several chemicals that can be toxic to the body if not put through a rigorous processing regimen. The most healthy soy products are those that have undergone a rigid and lengthy fermentation process to counteract its natural toxins. Soy foods that are considered to be the safest include soy sauce, tempeh and miso.