We look to the East for so much: spiritual
guidance from Buddhism and Taoism; tasty take-out treats; hybrid gas-electric
cars; high-performance consumer electronics.
But when it comes to the greatest dietary import from the East, you
really can't beat the soybean. According to the United Soybean Board
(www.talksoy.com), it's been a staple in the Chinese diet for more than
5,000 years, as well as a key crop in American agriculture. In fact,
our little green friends have been grown in the U.S. since 1829. In the
nineteenth century, they were used as makeshift coffee beans by Civil
War soldiers and as cattle feed by farmers in our nation's heartland.
It took George Washington Carver, peanut researcher extraordinaire,
to plumb the depths of this noble bean. He demonstrated the riches of
protein and oil contained therein, and by the middle of the last century,
the U.S. became a major exporter of soybeans to countries around the
Since then, scientists have uncovered another soy perk: the little green
bean offers numerous health benefits. High in fiber and low in fat, soy
is a very efficient and healthful supplier of protein, without all the
nasty side effects of meat consumption such as, oh, heart attacks. What's
more, some studies suggest that soy consumption actually reduces cholesterol.
A 1999 study found that consumers who replaced some of the burgers, chickens,
and other furry and feathered proteins they usually ate with soy-based
protein saw a decrease in overall and LDL cholesterol (i.e., "bad" cholesterol)
levels. Soy also appears to increase the level of HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind).
The result: The FDA has approved the use of food labels that claim that
soy foods reduce the risk of heart disease.
Soy has been linked to a variety of other health benefits as well, due
to its high levels of isoflavones, or plant estrogen. No one knows for
sure, but some claim that the isoflavones in soy help fight breast and
prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and some symptoms of menopause, including
nd yet, despite all the benefits of this humble bean, Americans have yet
to catch soy fever. Why? We can only assume it's because they haven't been
properly introduced. So, read on to learn more tasty ways to get a little
soy in your life.