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Could Eating Soy Protect Your Heart Health After Menopause?

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If you’re a woman, researchers at the Wake Forest School of Medicine have news for you — eating a diet rich in soy from a young age could protect you from heart disease after you reach menopause. Heart disease is currently the most common cause of death for women, killing 25 percent of women in the United States. Even if you’re already going through or just went through menopause, it’s not too late to protect your heart with soy — the researchers found that consuming soy protein daily improves blood cholesterol levels and could prevent the progression of atherosclerosis in women whose heart disease is not yet very advanced.

Soy Protects Monkeys from Heart Disease

The Wake Forest researchers compared the heart-health effects of a soy rich diet with those of a meat-protein rich diet in cynomolgus monkeys. Researchers fed one group of female, premenopausal monkeys a diet rich in animal protein, similar to the typical Western diet. They fed a second group of monkeys a diet rich in high-isoflavone soybeans. Having fed the monkeys their respective diets for their entire lives, researchers then induced menopause by removing the animals’ ovaries. They then divided the monkeys into four groups. Two of the groups continued eating the same diets they had always eaten. The other two groups were switched onto whatever diet was the opposite of the one they had previously eaten. Thirty-four months later, the researchers followed up with the monkeys to gauge their heart health. They found that the animals who ate a lifelong diet rich in soy, both before and after menopause, had good blood cholesterol and the lowest levels of arterial plaque due to atherosclerosis. The researchers concluded, therefore, that eating a soy-rich diet from an early age is the best way to prevent high cholesterol and heart disease in menopause. But if you’re nearing the age of menopause, or even if you’re already in the early stages of heart disease, there’s still hope. The monkeys who ate a meat-rich diet prior to menopause demonstrated improvements in blood cholesterol after switching to a diet rich in soy after menopause. Replacing meat protein with soy after menopause also slowed the progression of atherosclerosis in those monkeys who had already had small amounts of arterial plaque prior to menopause. The results of this study show that it’s important to look after your cardiovascular health from an early age. The healthier your heart is before menopause, the healthier it will be after menopause. But it’s never too late to begin taking care of your heart health. Our online pharmacy in Canada can help you afford the medications you need to manage your heart disease; adding soy protein to your diet every day may also protect your heart health and slow the progression of heart disease, regardless of your stage of life.

Other Health Benefits of Eating Soy

Protection from heart disease isn’t the only reason for women to eat soy. Some studies suggest that eating isoflavone-rich soy products can protect against the effects of osteoporosis in women who are peri- or post-menopausal, by slowing calcium loss. Substituting soy for protein from animal sources brings the biggest benefits. Aim for at least 80 mg a day of soy isoflavones from soy food sources to protect your bone health. After menopause, a high daily soy intake of 20 to 60 grams of soy protein can help relieve symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

How Much Soy Should You Eat?

Researchers believe that it’s the isoflavones, or plant estrogens, in soy that gives this food its health benefits, though substituting soy protein for animal protein can also help reduce your intake of saturated fat. Whole soybeans contain the highest levels of isoflavones; processed soy foods, like tofu and soy milk, can have varying levels of these phytonutrients. You should aim for a moderate daily intake of soy protein, starting as early in life as possible. Eat 25 to 30 grams of soy protein each day. A single serving of soy food should provide nine to 14 grams of soy protein, and 20 to 35 mg of isoflavones. When choosing processed foods like veggie burgers, make sure you read the nutrition information on the package — these products may contain multiple sources of protein, including other types of beans and gluten. While there’s nothing wrong with these sources of protein, they may not provide the same health benefits as soy protein. It’s best to eat soy as a whole food, since researchers do not yet know if taking soy isoflavone or soy protein supplements could be harmful. New research from Wake Forest Univeristy School of Medicine suggests that eating a lifelong diet rich in soy could protect women from heart disease after menopause. Even if you’re nearing or have passed menopause, it may not be too late to glean some of the heart-health benefits of a diet rich in soy. Good sources of soy proteins and isoflavones include fortified soy milk, tempeh, tofu and whole soy beans.

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