Soybeans were originally grown as a cover crop to be turned into the soil as fertilizer. Somewhere along the line someone got the idea to make it into feed for animals and than somewhere further down the line someone decided it was good for people. But soybeans have an enzyme inhibitor that prevents them from being digested properly. Babies fed soy formula cry because of the gas it creates in their tummies. This soy, because it is unable to be broken down in the body, can affect the hormone regulation and many physicians warn that it can contribute to breast cancer. The soy protein isolates in foods such as tofu, soymilk and edamame have potentially anti-nutritive value due to their high phyate and oxalic acid levels.
But, there is a good side of soy too. When the soybean is fermented or sprouted this enzyme inhibitor disappears and thus the soy can be digested allowing nutritive bioavailability without the possible ill effects of the uncultured soybean. It displays characteristics of a selective estrogen receptor (ER) modulator (SERM) rather than an estrogen (Pike et al. 1999). What this means is that the beneficial isoflavone precursors (know to be used in cancer treatment) can be converted to their active forms, genestein and diadzein. However, genistein, with few exceptions, is not a major isoflavone of most soy foods and products consumed in Western countries, unless these have undergone fermentation, as in traditional foods such as tempeh, natto, and to some extent miso (Coward et al. 1993).
Soybeans are rich in nitrogen, polysaccharides, selenium, zinc, vitamin Bs, D2, E and K1, but this are less available unless the bean is sprouted or fermented. In addition to the nutritive value, fermented soy is a great source of protein that is lactose-free and vegan. With bodybuilders, dieters and health conscious individuals looking for a good meal replacement, a fermented soy product with added curcumin as an anti-inflammatory should be considered. Not only will you be getting a nutritious meal substitute, but you will be ingesting the disease fighting benefits of the isoflavones. So next time you go looking for a soy product make sure it is fermented or sprouted.
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- Pike AC, Brzozowski AM, Hubbard RE, Bonn T, Thorsell AG, Engström O, et al. Structure of the ligand-binding domain of oestrogen receptor beta in the presence of a partial agonist and a full antagonist. EMBO J. 1999;18:4608–4618. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
- Coward L, Barnes NC, Setchell KDR, Barnes S. Genistein and daidzein, and their glycosides conjugates: anti-tumor isoflavones in soybean foods from American and Asian diets. J Agric Food Chem. 1993;41:1961–1967.