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HEALTH ARTICLES

Interest In Isoflavones Makes A Quantum Leap

from Jana Mitcham
July 8, 2004

Recently health and nutrition news have been mentioning isoflavones more and more, particularly their possible health properties. These types of good news naturally encourage people to find out what they can about the newly discovered nutrients. Some initial research soon uncovers terms and concepts that can be confusing at first. So here’s some basic information about isoflavones in Q&A format to help you in your quest for knowledge that can impact your health.

What are isoflavones?

To begin to understand isoflavones, we need to go back to the big picture, that is, a general understanding of how the composition of plants impacts our health in positive and beneficial ways. It’s common knowledge that many plants are effective in the maintenance of good health. Scientists have learned that chemical compounds in plants (neither vitamins or minerals)—called phytochemicals—are largely responsible for these beneficial effects. One type of phytochemicals is phytoestrogens, which give off estrogen-like effects when ingested in our body. There are many types of phytoestrogens but scientists have identified one group of phytoestrogens as being particularly beneficial: isoflavones.

What health benefits do isoflavones offer?

Studies strongly suggest that isoflavones contribute to vital immune function, strong heart function, strong bones, and support for female systems at every phase and change in women’s lives. Another group of phytoestrogens found in soy foods, lignans is also believed to have some anti-cancer effects.*

What are good sources of isoflavones?

Isoflavones are found in chick peas and legumes. The legume, soy, has been found to have a very concentrated amount of isoflavones. Three of the more well known isoflavones are found in soy: daidzein, which has been found to enhance bone formation; genistein, which supports healthy breast and prostate tissue; and glycitein.*

Which soy foods have the most isoflavones?

These soy foods provide excellent amounts of isoflavones, ranging from 30 to 50 milligrams per serving.

  • Roasted soy nuts (1 ounce)
  • Soy flour (1/2 cup)
  • Soy grits (1/4 cup)
  • Textured soy protein (1/2 cup, cooked), i.e. SuperSOY™ products
  • Yellow, green vegetable or black soybeans (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Regular soymilk (1 cup)
  • Tempeh (1/2 cup)
  • Tofu (1/2 cup)

Second generation soy products—such as soy hot dogs, soy burgers, soy cheeses, soy yogurts and soy isolate powder—contain lower amounts of isoflavones, mainly due to the considerable amounts of other non-soy ingredients and processing.

Does cooking destroy or decimate the isoflavones in soy foods?

No. Because isoflavones are fairly stable, they are not affected by normal home or institutional cooking methods.

How much isoflavones should be eaten for maximum benefits?

Anne Patterson, R.D., soy nutrition specialist and president of Nutrition Advantage, a food and nutrition consulting company, explains, “Optimal isoflavone intake to prevent or treat specific diseases is not known. At this time, overall health benefits of isoflavones as well as other phytochemicals, are best met by eating a varied diet from all food groups, built upon a foundation of one serving of soy food with plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and other legumes each day.”

How easy is it to find and purchase soy foods rich in isoflavones?

The soy foods listed above as having optimal amounts of isoflavones can be found at most reputable health food stores and markets. Vitacorp International’s SuperSOY™ products (textured soy protein) come in a variety of packaging—such as meat and chicken alternatives in ground and strips form—to provide flexibility and creativity to your soy dishes. For pricing and order information, go to www.vitacorp.com and go to the Product Index.

For more information...

You can find more detailed info on isoflavones on these websites:
Soy Info Online (www.soyinfo.com/isoflav.shtml)
U.S. Soyfoods Directory (www.soyfoods.com/nutrition/isoflavone.html)
National Cancer Institute (Division of Cancer Prevention) (http://www3.cancer.gov/prevention/agents/Soy_Isoflavones.html)
Feminist Women’s Health Center (www.fwhc.org/health/soy.htm)

Article written by Glenn Moriyama, Partner, eContent Concepts, Inc. (eCC), a content development company. Used by permission.

 

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