Soya bean products have long been recognised as a popular meat substitute. But should you be substituting all your meats with soya products? Read on to find out
Soya bean products (e.g. beancurd, tempeh and soya milk) belong to the meat and alternatives food group and this food group provides protein, which is an essential nutrient that serves numerous functions.
Protein generally comes from two sources - plant and animal. Plant sources of protein (e.g. bean and lentils) are generally considered to be incomplete as they lack one essential amino acid.
However, animal protein and protein from soya contains all the essential amino acids needed to make body proteins. This is why soya beans and soya products are called the complete plant protein.
Current scientific evidence has shown that soya consumption has a positive benefit on blood lipids level. Soya intake appears to have a small benefit
on low density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride
levels, both of which may increase the risk of heart disease at high levels.
In the case of cancer, most studies observed that soy intake is linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, but more studies are needed to reach conclusion. Other claims such as reducing of menopausal symptoms and prevention of osteoporosis (or brittle bones) at present are inconclusive.
Given the above findings, do not just forget about eating soya products as they are still good for overall health and should be part of a healthy balanced diet. In general, soya products are:
Good source of protein.
Lower in saturated fat as compared to meat.
Lactose free and hence people who are lactose intolerant can consume it without any undesirable symptoms (e.g. diarrhoea).
Good source of calcium.
A source of isoflavones, which is an antioxidant that may be beneficial for the body.
Related: Healthy Food for Kids and Teens
You should consume 2 - 3 servings of meat and alternatives a day to meet your protein requirements. You can choose to include soya products as part of it. A serving of soya bean and soya products is cup of cooked soya beans, or half a package of soft beancurd (170g). Soya products can be incorporated in your diet in many ways. You can try:
My Healthy Plate
When shopping, choose soya products that have the Healthier Choice Symbol. They are generally lower in sodium, fat and sugar, and higher in calcium. Do remember to use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, boiling and stir-frying or pan-frying with less oil to make a really healthy dish!
Given that nutrients such as iron and zinc are more easily absorbed from meat, poultry and fish, they should not be totally replaced by soya products. You should aim to have a balanced diet, which comprises of a variety of food from different food groups to ensure adequate nutrient intake. Hence, as a general guide, you can choose to substitute meat, poultry or fish with soya products a few times a week as part of a healthy balanced diet.
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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