For several centuries now, people in Japan and China have been aware of the health benefits of drinking soy milk. They appreciate soy milk so much that it has become a staple diet in both these Asian countries. Soy milk is basically a beverage prepared from soy beans. Along with several other foods having their origin in soy beans like tofu, tempeh and soy sauce, even soy milk was first made in Asia. Ever since it has spread across continents and become hugely popular owing to its many health benefits. Numerous vegetarians and vegans drink this form of milk. They prefer it to cow's milk, especially those with lactose intolerance. Many other people drink soy milk as they think that it offers health benefits. Some others drink it simply because they love its flavour.
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The process for making soy milk involves soaking dried soy beans in water for a minimum of three hours and even throughout the night. The resultant mixture is pounded to make slurry, which is boiled for clearness and improved flavour. Subsequently, the solution is cooled and the strained out milk is drunk. Those who produce soy milk on a commercial basis usually add stabilizers or preservatives to the products to ensure that they have a long shelf life. On the other hand, many sell fresh soy milk and you need to store it in a refrigerator in order to ensure that the beverage remains viable.
Most of us are aware that soy beans contain specific natural nutritional properties. They have an elevated concentration of isoflavones, which are considered to possess a number of health benefits. Many producers supplement their products with vitamins like B12 and calcium carbonate with a view to augment their nutritional worth. Soy contains plenty of natural calcium; most of it is present in the bean and is quite difficult to digest. On the other hand, calcium carbonate can be assimilated by the body in the stomach quite easily.
Soy milk has a somewhat bean-like flavour and, hence, a section of consumers in the West do not like it. However, the flavour can be changed through special treatment of soy milk and many producers sell flavoured soy milk, such as soy milk with chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and other flavours. Several grocery stores sell both, plain as well as flavoured soy milk, and usually many restaurants and coffee houses also sell soy milk, especially in areas inhabited by health conscious people and large number of Asians.
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However, it is essential for people consuming soy milk for health purposes to read the product label carefully. A number of soy milk producers add synthetic products and even sweeteners to their products, thereby making those products less beneficial. In fact, people with diabetes should take extra care in reading the label. Instead of assuming that the soy milk they are drinking does not contain sugar they should try to find products that are "unsweetened".
Making soy milk at home is quite easy provided you have a soy milk machine. While soy milk can also be prepared manually, the process involves grinding the soaked beans patiently to make slurry. Moreover, there may be some errors and trials. In fact, you can also use a machine to make different varieties of milks from nuts as well as other beans. This is usually the case if cooks are willing to experiment with various dairy-free options.
In case you are not interested in making soy milk at home, you can always purchase it from grocery and health stores. This product is readily available at many places. However, when you choose to buy commercially made soy milk, the benefits of the product diminish significantly. This is mostly because of the additives used in commercial products. They are a major cause for concern as it has been found that some are associated with development of cancer. In fact, commercial soy milk is available in several flavours such as sweetened, unsweetened, chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and many others.
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Soy milk contains rich amounts of a number of essential vitamins and minerals. In addition, soy milk is also a major source of dietary fiber, protein, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Incidentally, the protein found in soy milk is considered to be beneficial as well as a source for concern. It is important to note that the manner or extent to which consumption of soy milk will benefit one depends entirely on the condition of their personal health.
Compared to a number of milk products available on the market, soy milk is a fairly healthy choice. The nutritional value of soy milk can be compared to skim milk. Like skim milk, this variety of milk is also low in calorie content and, hence, apparently it supports claims about its weight loss properties.
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Moreover, soy milk contains fatty acids that are believed to slow down the process of fat assimilation into our body. Interestingly enough, advocators of soy milk use mostly emphasize on the beverage's ability to enhance the health of our heart. Although their claim is true to some extent, doubts still exist regarding soy milk's capability in improving the health of our health.
Most of us are aware that omega-3 as well as omega-6 fatty acids help to protect the blood vessels by preventing lesions and hemorrhage. At the same time, these vital fatty acids help to prevent the detrimental free radicals from damaging the blood vessels. They also prevent the build-up of free radicals on the blood vessels' lining. Omega 3 and omega-6 fatty acids also improve the suppleness of the cells, thereby making them further hard-wearing, especially to blood pressure.
Aside from this, findings of scientific studies have hinted that consuming soy milk, or for that matter any soy product, on a regular basis may help to reduce the level of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as "bad cholesterol", in the blood stream, while promoting "good cholesterol" high density lipoprotein (HDL). On the other hand, a section of scientists are of the view that soy milk may possibly not have any direct impact on the health of our heart. In fact, soy milk is normally used as a substitute for other substances that are more hazardous options and this seems to make it appear beneficial for our health.
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It has been found that the health benefits of consuming soy milk may especially be useful for people suffering from elevated levels of blood cholesterol and/ or having a history of heart-related ailments.
Isoflavones augment the estrogen levels in women, thereby reducing the pain endured by them owing to the symptoms related to post menopausal condition. Women suffer pain during this phase of life because the estrogen level in their body declines. So when such women consume soy milk, they are able to overcome the problems caused by this vital hormone. In addition, drinking soy milk also reduces chronic risks as isoflavones possess antioxidant properties. In postmenopausal women, such chronic problems mainly occur in their cardiovascular region.
It is worth noting that phytoestrogen has been associated with prevention of osteoporosis. The plant-based estrogen helps to improve the body's ability to absorb calcium, thereby preventing bone mass loss.
Last, but not the least important, soy milk also encloses significant levels of isoflavones, which have been associated with reduced cancer risks. At the same time, isoflavones also slow down cancer growth, especially in patients suffering from prostate cancer.
Osteoporosis is a bone-related problem that is very common among postmenopausal women. Due to diminishing levels of estrogen and calcium deficit in the body, osteoporosis makes the bone brittle and weak. Our body excretes more calcium when we consume animal protein in our diet compared to consuming protein derived from plants, such as soy milk. This bears testimony to the fact that soy milk offers more benefits compared to animal proteins. In addition, the hormone substitute therapy together with isoflavones help in preserving bone mass as well as bone density, thereby reducing the risks of bone fractures.
Soy milk also possesses anti-cancer properties as it helps to inhibit the progression of prostate cancer. Like postmenopausal women, it is recommended that men should also drink more soy milk as prostate cancer is widespread among them. Incidentally, soy milk also helps to prevent breast cancer, as it helps to balance the estrogen levels. It has been found that postmenopausal women are more inclined to develop breast cancer. Consumption of soy milk reduces the chances of developing breast cancer by lowering the serum estrogen.
Isoflavones possess antioxidant properties, which are useful for alleviating chronic diseases. Curd made from soy milk has been found to be hepato-protective in nature, which is useful in lessening oxidative pressure as well as injury. In addition, isoflavones present in curdled soy milk help to lessen damages to the liver. Usually, liver damage is a symptom that is attributed to oxidative stress. Aside from these health benefits of soy milk, this product also results in elevated antioxidant ability as well as reduced menopausal risks in women.
Isoflavones present in soy milk are beneficial for both men and women, as they put off the metabolic obesity. At the same time, isoflavones retard the adipogenesis (also known as lipogenesis) that leads to lesser incidents of adipose tissue enlargement. It also helps to lower the level of low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol in the blood stream, thereby reducing the chances of suffering from heart diseases. Moreover, isoflavones help to reduce the waist limits in obese people.