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So(y) Many Reasons To Add This Plant-Based Protein In Your Diet

Written By: Kalwyna Rathod

So(y) Many Reasons To Add This Plant-Based Protein In Your Diet

With the recent upsurge in many lifestyle diseases, combined with the added risk of a pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe, the focus on good health as the true elixir of life has never been stronger. From changing lifestyle practices to heightened awareness about the food that we consume, an increasing number of people are now making concentrated efforts to adopt a healthier lifestyle to meet their requirements. Nutritionist Kripa Jalan, Founder of Burgers To Beasts and supporter of the Right To Protein initiative, says, “With daily nutritional intake playing a key role in one’s quality of health, a conscious effort to select and consume foods that are high in nutritional value is essential. And when speaking of daily nutritional requirements, the inclusion of protein, one of the four key macronutrients, in one’s daily diet is sacrosanct.”

While there is a wide variety of protein-rich foods to choose from, the increasing focus on plant-based proteins has piqued much interest. Jalan says, “Be it economic viability, geographical accessibility, cultural choices or a sustainable effort to adopt a flexitarian or vegan diet, a large segment of the population is turning towards plant-based sources of nutrition. And the first food to pop up in every conversation around plant-based proteins is soybeans and soy-based products.”

Touted to be the next superfood, soybeans, a member of the legume family of vegetables, have slowly but steadily grown to feature in discussions around healthy and balanced protein alternatives that help boost immunity, develop muscle mass, maintain gut health and provide optimum daily energy. So what makes this unassuming plant food a powerhouse of benefits? Jalan explains below.

Almost at par with the protein quantity found in meat, soybeans are packed with this macronutrient. In fact, soybeans are one of the handful of known plant foods to contain all the nine essential amino acids that are absolutely indispensable for the daily functioning of the body. The protein content of soybeans is around 36–56 percent of its dry weight, with one bowl of soybeans providing approximately 28 grams of protein.

Nutrient Dense
Apart from being protein-rich, soy is an excellent source of B vitamins, fibre, potassium, and magnesium, all while containing low amounts of saturated fat. Soy and non-processed soy-based foods have a multitude of health benefits from lowering cholesterol levels and preventing cancer, increasing bone density, protecting the kidneys of those with diabetes, to relieving menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.

Antioxidants in soy are also believed to help battle cancer cells and avert their growth, thereby reducing the risk of cancer, while their high dietary fibre content is associated with the reduction in the risk of colorectal and colon cancers. Soy is also known to strengthen bones and improve bone density, preventing the risk of osteoporosis. A lesser known benefit of soy is that its high magnesium content can help relieve the symptoms of sleep disorders such as insomnia by increasing the quality and duration of sleep.

Despite these perks, soy gets a lot of negative press. Jalan says that it’s important to recognise that several of the dangers may be overstated, given that several of these claims don’t pan out when we look at the evidence closely. “That being said, not all soy is created equal. Soy foods are classified as fermented and unfermented. Many believe that the process of fermentation improves digestibility and absorption in the body. Further, traditional soy foods like miso, tempeh, tofu, and edamame are far more beneficial than modern processed meat alternatives,” adds Jalan.

Today, as people increasingly embrace fitness and overall health and wellbeing with a razor sharp focus on strengthening immunity, soybeans and soy-based products are fast becoming the nutrient and protein-rich ingredient choice for many. Jalan adds, “What makes this plant-based protein even more appealing is its affordability, easy accessibility and wide variety of food products available in the market to suit the discerning India palate.”

Be it a soulful curry using soybean in its most basic legume form, or as a simple yet tasty boiled and spiced edamame appetiser, soy can be incorporated in the daily diet in many ways. Whip up a flavourful stir fry with tofu as the star ingredient or substitute it in place of scrambled eggs, the flexibility of tofu to mimic any form and easily absorb spices and flavours makes it ideal. Tempeh, another popular soy-based product can be roasted or baked and included in salads, rolls, kimchi bowls and more, while protein bars containing soy nuts are the perfect healthy snacking option.

Whatever form one might choose to consume soy in, one fact remains undisputed: Soybeans and traditional soy-products are indeed the next superfood to look out for to add a dose of health and boost of immunity to one’s overall wellbeing.

As featured in: Femina