Soybeans have become a success story for agriculture in Manitoba. That sea of soy this past summer was a record-breaking 857,000 acres.
Yet familiar as we’ve become with growing it, it’s a relative rarity in our diet. We may drink soy beverages more often, or sprinkle a little soy sauce on our stir-fries, or consume soy in margarines and processed foods. But many of us seldom eat soy in other ways.
That’s too bad considering research keeps telling us how good the soybean is for us. Soybeans contain a high-quality protein free of cholesterol and full of nutrients. Studies have also shown soy can have impressive health benefits. A recent study by University of Guelph researchers showed that soy protein can reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol in adults with Type 2 diabetes trying to manage their disease by controlling their diet, rather than with medication. There’s a very interesting study into soy’s health effects underway right now in Manitoba. It’s being led by Heather Blewett, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada human nutrition research scientist at the Asper Clinical Research Institute in Winnipeg. Working out of the Canadian Centre for Agri-Food Research in Health and Medicine, she’s conducting human clinical trials to learn more about how consuming whole soy may help lower blood cholesterol.
Her 81 recruited volunteers — all persons with a slightly elevated level of cholesterol — have been paying regular visits to the institute where they’ve picked up specially prepared muffins containing either whole soy flour or whole wheat flour (for a control group). They’ve then been eating two per day for six weeks, with their blood cholesterol levels tested at the beginning, and at week three and week six of their participation.
What Blewett is investigating is whether daily consumption of the baked goods’ key ingredient can lower serum LDL (bad) cholesterol and how the effect depends on dose.
If this study shows this cholesterol-lowering effect, that not only further demonstrates soy’s healthy benefits, it will build evidence to support a health claim for soy down the road. Canada currently does not have an approved health claim for soy, but other countries, including the U.S., Japan and Brazil do.
Blewett said these trials will tell us more about how whole soy — not just its component parts — positively impact human health and it’s also a way of introducing new ways to eat soy so we can fit it into our current diets.
She told me she’s asked volunteers if they eat soy regularly and invariably most say no. But they also tell her they’d far rather be eating a food, than taking medicine, to reduce their elevated cholesterol levels.
Results of this study will also help establish guidelines for promoting soy consumption to Canadians.
The Winnipeg research is part of a larger study. Similar trials are underway in Toronto and Guelph with an additional 81 muffin-eating volunteers participating at each of these sites.
The study should be complete by March 2013. It’s funded by the Growing Forward program.
Scalloped Rosemary Potatoes
- 2 tbsp. non-hydrogenated margarine2 tbsp. flour3 baking potatoes (approx. 3 lbs.), peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices2 onions, sliced and divided into 3 equal portions1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, divided into 3 equal portions6 cloves garlic, minced1-1/2 tsp. salt and freshly ground pepper3 c. So Good Original Fortified Soy Beverage
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. This will help prevent that awful mess that you usually have to clean up after the potatoes are cooked. Prepare all your ingredients. This is a layered recipe and you need everything cut, measured and ready to go. When everything is ready begin with a layer of potatoes. Use only one of the thinly sliced potatoes per layer. On top of that, lay out half of the onions. Sprinkle with one tablespoon of flour. Dot one tablespoon of the margarine on top of that. Sprinkle with one-third of the rosemary, three of the minced garlic cloves, one-third of the salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Repeat steps 3-6. Layer with the last of the potato. Sprinkle with the last of the rosemary and salt. Add some freshly ground pepper. Pour So Good Original over the whole thing. Bake for 1 hr. and 20 min. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Facts on soy
• Soy is the only complete plant protein that is equal to animal protein. Soy foods contain all the essential amino acids we need for human growth and health and they are easy for the body to digest.
• Soy foods are cholesterol free and low in saturated fat. They also have many nutritional benefits that contribute to a heart-healthy diet, including their high content of polyunsaturated fats, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals.
• Isoflavones are plant hormones in soy that can mimic human estrogen in various parts of the body. The health benefit includes reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and relieving menstrual symtoms. A recent study at the University of Guelph, investigating the effects of consuming soy protein concluded that regardless of isoflavone content, it had no significant effects on sperm concentration, count, motility or morphology in healthy young men.