This Article is From Apr 22, 2020

Vegetarian Protein: Is Soy A Healthy Source Of Protein? Nutritionists Explain

Soy protein: Many vegetarians rely entirely on soy-rich foods for their intake of protein. Is that a healthy thing to do? Read here to know what nutritionists have to say.

Vegetarian Protein: Is Soy A Healthy Source Of Protein? Nutritionists Explain

High protein vegetarian meals: It is not a good idea to rely on soy entirely for your protein intake

Highlights

  • You should eat a variety of sources of protein
  • Soy protein can be a great addition to your diet, but moderation is key
  • However, soy can contribute to an increase in oesterogen levels

For vegetarians, choosing the right kind of protein is always a struggle. Food sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs, legumes, milk, milk products and soy. Non-vegetarian food sources tend to contain higher amounts of protein. At the same time, they are also high in fat (especially saturated or bad fats) and lack fibre. According to nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar, you must choose the leanest of cuts with all skin and fat removed, when eating red meat. Speaking of vegetarian protein, lentils, legumes, milk and soy are the primary sources.

In her book Don't Lose Your Mind Lose Your Weight, Diwekar says that some vegetarians almost entirely depend on soy for their protein intake. "Not a very a good idea," she says. Keep reading to know why.

Also read: Sattu Health Benefits: A Protein-Rich Drink Which Is Inexpensive And Great For Digestion

Is soy a healthy source of protein?

According the Mumbai-based celebrity nutritionist, you should eat a variety of sources of protein, because of each source's different kinds of amino acid content. "Vegetarians should always eat food combinations because most vegetarian sources have limited amino acids. The amino acid that your roti lacks is provided by the dal, the one that your rice lacks is provided by kadhi (made with curd), the ones that certain vegetables lack is provided by seeds like jeera (cumin) and til (sesame seeds) that we use in Indian cooking," she explains.

Soy is great, she says. "But because it can increase oestrogen (female hormone) levels, it should not be overdone. If you like soy, eat one product a day but no more," she suggests.

Soy protein can be a great addition to your diet, but like any other food source- moderation is the key, says nutritionist Nmami Agarwal. "Those suffering from thyroid gland-related disorders should reduce its consumption to a bare minimum or avoid till condition stabilises," Agarwal tells DoctorNDTV.

"Soy contains isoflavones that may exert biological effects similar to oestrogen hormone (phytoestrogens) and these isoflavones can also interfere with thyroid gland functioning- however, both the effects are mild and under further evaluation," Agarwal adds.

Diwekar says that amino acid content is important in protein. Adding a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet is the right way to get sufficient protein from your diet.

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Dal rice is a protein-rich meal with a complete amino acid profile
Photo Credit: iStock

Also read: Vegetarians, Here Are 7 Protein-Rich Foods You Must Have For Quick Weight Loss

Health benefits of soy

As far as eaten in moderation, soy foods have multiple health benefits to offer. Agarwal lists the following benefits of soy foods:

1. Soy protein is a complete source of plant-based protein which means it contains all the 9 essential amino acids which your body cannot produce on its own.

2. It comes in many variants like- soybeans, edamame, tofu, miso, tempeh, soy milk, or soy-based protein powders.

3. Soy protein has no cholesterol and negligible amounts of saturated fats, while its still is a high- quality protein source.

4. When compared to animal protein, soy protein is effective for reducing total cholesterol levels.

5. Soy protein is also rich in leucine, an amino acid responsible for muscle growth, improving lean muscle mass, and maintenance of muscle mass.

6. Eating soy is also a great way to boost your fibre intake that helps to promote gastrointestinal health.

7. It is also rich in omega-3 fatty acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium- making it a protein source with added benefits of essential trace elements.

Also read: Try These High Protein Breakfast Options Which Can Help You Lose Weight

(Rujuta Diwekar is a nutritionist based in Mumbai)

(Nmami Agarwal is nutritionist at Nmami Life)

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.