Modern-day soy fermentation unleashes the bean’s beneficial qualities.
by Lisa James
If you’ve ever enjoyed a steaming cup of miso soup or a tasty tempeh stir-fry, then you’ve had fermented soy. For centuries, Asian cultures have been fermenting soybeans with healthful microbes (traditionally processed soy sauce and a whole-bean product called natto are two other examples) to enhance their flavor and nutrient value.
Today, ancient fermentation knowledge meets the modern need for nutrition on the go in the form of fermented soy protein powder. Besides serving as a convenient shake, fermented soy provides health benefits that can be especially helpful for women as they grow older.
As with other shake powders, fermented soy supplies healthy amounts of protein. This nutrient helps give bones, skin and muscles their form—which in turn gives the body its overall shape. That explains why protein shakes have long been gym-bag staples.
One advantage of fermentation, though, is that fermented foods start to break down even before they enter the digestive tract. That makes nutrients, including protein, more readily digestible and easier to assimilate into the body. In the case of soy, fermentation also reduces compounds that tend to tie up the bean’s nutrients. As a result, soy’s mineral content— including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc— become more bioavailable.
The fermentation process itself produces a wide range of substances, including vitamins and enzymes, that support well-being. Among those healthful substances are the probiotic microbes used in fermentation.
Fermented soy has been linked to better intestinal health, including increases in growth of the body’s own probiotic bacteria. It has also been linked to strengthened immunity and reductions in skin problems.
In addition, fermented soy is cultured in organic soy milk. Besides being free of chemical residues, organically grown crops have been found in studies to provide more nutrition than crops grown conventionally.
The nutrients found in soy include a class of phytonutrients called isoflavones. The subject of intense research interest, these substances—including daidzein, genistein and glycitein—have long been used to help take the edge off of menopausal issues such as hot flashes and to offset the loss of bone density that can occur with age.
However, studies have found that isoflavone benefits may go well beyond menopause relief and skeletal health. For example, an analysis of 17 clinical trials, published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, found that isoflavones were able to improve how well the cells lining arterial walls functioned, a key factor in cardiovascular health.
Spanish scientists, writing in Food Chemistry, discovered that isoflavones reduce inflammation associated with obesity. And in one of the latest isoflavone studies, these compounds have been linked to “optimal sleep duration and quality” (Nutrition Journal 12/29/15).
Fermented soy powder supplies all three crucial isoflavones, and the fermentation process makes these substances more effective within the body. What’s more, the powder’s protein content helps fight the loss of muscle mass that can accompany aging.
If you’re looking for a quick, easy protein source that also provides the benefits of isoflavones, fermented soy powder is a useful option.