Soy is a staple ingredient in many food products. That’s mainly due to its incredible health benefits. The legume provides a decent amount of most nutrients required for normal growth and development. Noteworthy mentions include protein, dietary fiber, and a host of antioxidants.
Research has shown that soybeans may improve the health and vitality of virtually all organs in the body. These include the heart and cardiovascular system.
In this article, we explore the five different ways consuming a soy-based diet may improve your cardiovascular health.
- Soy’s Protein May Prevent Muscle Wastage in Cardiovascular Organs
Protein is the main nutrient that makes soy such a highly-prized delicacy. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicates that protein constitutes up to 36% of raw soybeans. That’s more protein content than you’ll find in any unfortified product, not even beef, poultry, or seafood.
Protein forms the building blocks for all muscles and tissues in the body. These include the heart and other blood vessels like arteries and veins.
Protein deficiency can lead to muscle wastage in the heart and arteries. The net effects are reduced blood circulation efficiency.
Another benefit of soy protein for cardiovascular health is that it provides the energy required by your heart to function properly. That’s because protein is itself metabolized to energy besides being involved in various energy synthesis processes in the body.
Therefore, it’s evident why consuming protein-rich diets like soy may lower the risks of heart disease. Just remember that protein alone won’t maintain your cardiovascular health. The trick is to eat a balanced diet.
- Soy’s Fiber May Lower Cholesterol Levels
Dietary fiber is another important nutrient that soybeans abound in. The nutrient is probably most noted for its positive effects on food digestion.
Fiber falls into two broad categories, namely soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is readily fermented in the gut into short chain fatty acids (SCFA). More SCFAs in the bloodstream may lower the risks of certain metabolic disorders.
Soluble fiber also forms a gel-like substance in the stomach, which slows down digestion. It consequently traps cholesterol and prevents it from getting absorbed in the body. The cholesterol is then excreted alongside stool.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is best known for its stool-bulking effects. That makes it excellent for relieving digestive problems like constipation.
Much of the insoluble fiber in soy also moves through the stomach undigested. Therefore, it can aid its soluble cousin in excreting compounds that are potentially harmful to the cardiovascular system, such as excess cholesterol and glucose.
- Soy’s Isoflavones May Also Lower Cholesterol Levels
Soybeans are high in isoflavones, a group of naturally-occurring isoflavonoids that act as phytoestrogens in mammals.
When consumed, isoflavones interact with estrogen receptors in a manner that produces weaker estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effects. That explains why many nutritionists recommend soy for people with hormonal imbalance.
Research has also established a correlation between high isoflavones in the bloodstream and low levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol.
According to study, isoflavones impact a subtype of estrogen receptor found in the coronary arteries. These interactions can lead to the production of nitrous oxide (NO), a gas known to trigger vasodilation (expansion of constricted blood vessels).
The dilation of blood vessels helps accelerate the removal of bad cholesterol from the bloodstream.
- Soy’s Copper May Reduce the Risks of Cardiac Hypertrophy
Cardiac hypertrophy, also known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), is a medical condition marked by the thickening of the heart muscles.
While thick heart muscles may intuitively sound great for your cardiovascular health, the truth is quite the opposite. Overly thickened muscles can inhibit your heart’s ability to pump blood. Symptoms include shortness of breath, lightheadedness, arrhythmia (irregular heart rate), angina (chest pain), heart murmurs, and fluttering or pounding sensations in the chest.
Cardiac hypertrophy is a silent creeper, which means the disease can go undiagnosed until it becomes full-blown.
Fortunately, consuming soy-based diets might help reduce the risks and severity of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. That’s due to a significant concentration of the mineral copper in these legumes. Multiple findings suggest that copper deficiency may lead to cardiac hypertrophy by affecting mitochondrial function and, by extension, energy production.
Copper plays many other roles in the body besides supporting your heart’s health. These include aiding collagen production, supporting red blood cell production, and maintaining the nerve cells.
- Soy’s Vitamin K1 May Reduce the Risks of Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis, which presents as the build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other harmful substances in the arteries.
It’s one of the leading causes of heart disease. And like most cardiovascular conditions, atherosclerosis presents no warning signs until it’s a bit too late.
Symptoms to watch out for include angina, fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and cold sweats.
Soybeans are rich in vitamin K1 (phytonadione), a mineral noted for its anti-atherosclerosis effects. New pieces of evidence suggest that people who consume diets high in phytonadione are up to 34% less likely to develop atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular disease.
Like other nutrients in soy, vitamin K1 provides a number of other benefits. Most notably, this mineral is involved in blood clotting and bone formation processes.
Soybeans are rich in nutrients that can aid your heart and cardiovascular health in various ways. However, remember that excessive consumption of soy may trigger hormonal problems.
As hinted earlier on, the trick is to ramp up soy intake while still ensuring you’re consuming a balanced diet.