Eat more soy. That’s firm weight-loss advice from Tosca Reno, author of “The Eat-Clean Diet” and the fab-40 columnist for “Oxygen” fitness magazine. Soy milk is becoming an increasingly popular drink outside of vegetarian and vegan circles. Soy is commonly touted as the only complete plant protein and offers several health benefits. Reno recommends adding it to your meals several times each week to aid weight loss.
Forty percent of the calories in soy milk come from fat, but these are mostly healthy unsaturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients your body needs, but which it cannot produce. Unsaturated fats are linked to weight maintenance as well as lower cholesterol levels and improved cardiovascular health. Saturated and trans fat found in dairy milk are linked to weight gain and an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Because soy does not contain the rich calcium content of milk, buy brands fortified with calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health.
A common side effect of cutting back on calories to lose weight is nutrient loss, especially if you’re doing an ill-advised crash or fad diet. Besides protein, soy is packed with nutrients such as B vitamins, potassium, zinc and other minerals and omega-3 essential fatty acids. It’s also a budget-friendly way to make sure you’re getting all these nutrients.
Good Protein Source
Soy’s protein content can have an impact on weight loss, because your body needs this nutrient to build muscles and maintain lean muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass is particularly problematic as you approach menopause and experience middle age spread, according to the Mayo Clinic. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so when you lose it, your body’s capacity to burn calories diminishes. Combined with a regular strength-training program, soy milk can help you build muscles, boost metabolism and lose weight.
In a study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in 2010, researchers revealed that a soy-rich diet prevented weight gain in post-menopausal female rats. During menopause, estrogen levels are lower and research suggests that this is partly responsible for the extra body weight and belly fat post-menopausal women gain. Soy contains phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen activity in the body and may help prevent overweight and obesity related to menopause.
Soy is generally considered safe when taken as a food, states the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. However, some people may be allergic to soy and it can cause digestive or abdominal discomfort. Also, the link to breast cancer remains unclear. Consult your doctor for more advice before significantly boosting your intake of soy milk.