The Benefits of Soy for Diabetes

By

Amy Rushlow

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Soynuts

When planning healthy meals, don’t overlook soy. This versatile little bean is a heart-healthy source of lean protein that’s packed with nutrients. If you have diabetes, it may be especially beneficial.

Does Soy Affect Your Glucose Levels?

Soy intake is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It isn’t clear whether soy can help control diabetes if you already have the condition. A recent analysis in  The  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed 24 studies on soy and diabetes. It found that whole soy foods were slightly more effective at lowering fasting blood glucose, a measure of diabetes control, than isolated soy products. (Isolated soy products are proteins separated from the rest of the soybean, then used as ingredients to make a variety of foods.) However, the overall amount of soy in the diet did not affect fasting glucose or insulin levels.

This kale salad will put more fiber in your diet and put you on track to feeling great.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Feb 16, 2015

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Enjoy Soy for a Healthier Heart

Still, soy can be incredibly valuable if you have diabetes for another reason: It can improve your heart health. Two out of three people with diabetes will die from a heart attack or stroke. But soy has been shown to improve several heart disease risk factors. One analysis of eight studies found that soy intake was associated with improvements in:

  • HDL, or “good,” cholesterol

  • LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol

  • Total cholesterol

  • Triglycerides

Soy is a healthy, low-fat source of protein. It’s high in B vitamins, fiber, potassium, and essential amino acids. Soy is the only plant protein that has the same protein quality as eggs or meat. Plus, soybeans have no cholesterol.

Soy Foods to Try

When choosing a soy product, check the nutrition label for carbohydrates, so you can include the food in your meal plan in the proper amount. The number of carbohydrates in soy products varies. Common sources of soy include:

  • Edamame (fresh soybeans)

  • Soy milk (unflavored or light soy milk is best)

  • Soy nuts

  • Tempeh (a cake made from fermented soy beans)

  • Textured soy protein (a meat substitute made from soy flour)

  • Tofu

How to Incorporate Soy into Your Diet

Soy products are extremely versatile. Try these meal and snack ideas.

  • Add edamame or cubed tofu to salad, stir-fry, or pasta.

  • Blend silken tofu into a smoothie.

  • Eat edamame as a snack with a pinch of salt

  • Grill tempeh and use it like hamburger. Crumble it into casseroles. You could also grill soy veggie burgers or sausages.

  • Purée edamame into a dip.

  • Put soy nuts into plastic bags for a grab-and-go snack.

  • Sauté tofu in low-sodium soy sauce.

  • Stir-fry tofu in a small amount of oil with veggies. Broccoli, carrots, onions, red bell peppers, and baby corn are good options.

  • Swap tofu for ricotta cheese in lasagna.

  • Use extra-firm tofu in casseroles, soups, chili, and tacos.

Key Takeaways

  • Researchers continue to explore the effects of soy on blood glucose levels for people with diabetes.

  • Soy, a healthy, low-fat source of protein, has been shown to improve heart health.

  • From edamame to tofu, there are a variety of soy products and ways to enjoy soy as part of your diet.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Dec 20, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Effects of Soy Intake on Glycemic Control: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Liu , Z., et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2011; 93(5):1092-101.
  2. Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Soy Products Consumption in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Yang, B., et al. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011;20(4):593-602. (http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/20/4/593.pdf.)
  3. Diabetes Overview. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, National Institutes of Health, 2013. (http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/#managed.)
  4. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Soybeans, mature seeds, raw. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved November 21, 2013. (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list.)
  5. Meal Ideas for Different Vegetarian Diets. American Diabetes Association, 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/meal-planning-for-vegetarians/meal-idea...)
  6. Heart Disease. American Diabetes Association, 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/heart-disease/)
  7. What Is Better – Soymilk or Skim Milk? American Diabetes Association, 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/ask-the-expert/ask-the-dietitian/arc...)
  8. A Guide to Choosing Protein Wisely. American Diabetes Association, 2013. (http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2012-03/your-complete-guide-to.html)
  9. What Is Edamame? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013. (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442453006.)
  10. What Works Best in a Stir-Fry, Soft or Firm Tofu? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013. (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442453398.)
  11. Soy Good? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013. (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442470771.)
  12. Tofu for Everyone. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013. (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442474964.)
  13. National Soyfoods Month. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2013. (http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442475651&terms=soy.)
  14. Soy Protein Isolate. Soyfoods Association of North America. (http://www.soyfoods.org/soy-products/soy-fact-sheets/soy-protein-isolate-fact-sheet.)

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