October 2011 Issue

Lowering Blood Pressure — New Research Says Soy Protein Can Help
By Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 13 No. 10 P. 14

Soy has long been touted as a plant-based protein source that has a plethora of heart health benefits. But did you know that it may play an integral role in lowering both systolic—and diastolic—blood pressure?

In a study published in the August 2 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers examined the link between soy and milk protein intake and blood pressure. The randomized double-blind crossover study included three intervention phases to compare the effects of soy protein, milk protein, and carbohydrate supplementation on blood pressure in 352 adults with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension.1

Participants randomly received 40 g/day of soy protein, milk protein, or carbohydrate supplements for eight weeks. Compared with carbohydrate controls, subjects who took soy protein or milk protein supplements experienced a -2 mm Hg and -2.3 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure, respectively. The authors reported, “These findings suggest that partially replacing carbohydrate with soy or milk protein might be an important component of nutrition intervention strategies for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.”1

In addition to these accolades, soy has a reputation for being satiating and a viable replacement for higher fat meats because it contains less saturated fat.2 Soybeans are celebrated for their high fiber (about 9.3 g/100 g of soybeans) and polyunsaturated fat content. They also have been applauded as a dietary component that may help reduce blood cholesterol levels.3

The fact that soy protein may be instrumental in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol makes this a great discussion point with patients who are borderline hypertensive or have stage 1 disease. You can provide information about the different soy products available in the supermarket and online and strategies for how to incorporate them into a daily diet.

Soy and MyPlate
Telling clients how soy protein-based foods can fit into the MyPlate dietary guidelines is a good place to start. Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, a nutrition consultant who frequently gives grocery store tours to clients, says she’s implemented this consumer-friendly tool with her patients. She says soy easily fits into the MyPlate design and is in four out of five food groups included in the recommendations. She suggests the following food items to clients looking to sample soy foods:

• grains group: soy cereal, soy grits, soy waffles, soy pasta, soy bread, and soy flour;

• vegetable group (beans and peas): green soybeans (edamame), canned soybeans, and soy nuts; and

• protein foods group (beans, peas, and processed soy products): soynut butter, tofu, soy burgers and sausages, veggie burgers, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein.

Products Galore
In addition to telling clients about the selection of soy foods and how they can incorporate them into their diets, you’ll want to mention that products that don’t have the word “soy” on the package but contain soy flour, soy isolates, or soy concentrate are also good choices, so reading labels is key. Following are various products you can share with clients looking to improve their heart health.2

• Breads, baked goods, and pasta. Soy protein is used to make various breads, cookies, crackers, pastas, and other baked goods sold in supermarkets and online. Clients can add a few of the following to meals: Crum Creek Mills Soy Bites Super Sampler mini breadsticks, pancake and muffin mixes, and pastas (www.crumcreek.com); Joseph’s Bakery Soy Protein Pita Bread (www.josephsbakery.com); and Hodgson Mill’s Whole Wheat Couscous with Milled Flax Seed & Soy, Honey Whole Wheat Bread Mix, and Bulgur Wheat with Soy Grits (www.hodgsonmillstore.com).

• Breakfast cereals. Hot and cold cereals contain soy. Suggest Kashi GOLEAN, Kellogg’s Special K Protein Plus, and Hodgson Mill’s MultiGrain Cereal with Flaxseed & Soy.

• Dairy-type products and beverages. Aside from soymilk, soy isolates and concentrates are popular ingredients in many high-protein drinks, dairy substitutes, and meal replacement shakes, such as Ensure Nutrition Shakes and Kellogg’s Special K Protein Shakes. Soy is used as an emulsifier in sour cream products and dips, imitation cheeses, and nondairy frozen desserts. Products such as Tofutti cheeses and yogurts from Stonyfield Farm (www.stonyfield.com) and WholeSoy & Co. (www.wholesoyco.com) are great choices.

• Meat, poultry, and fish. Soy often is found in imitation meat products as well as processed meats. Most of these items are located in your grocer’s freezer section. Look for veggie burgers, sausage, chicken, and hot dogs from Morningstar Farms and Boca.

• Snacks and helpers. Clients searching for a nutrient-dense snack can try roasted soy nuts or edamame. SoyJoy fruit bars (www.soyjoy.com), Revival soy bars (www.revialsoy.com), Glenny’s Soy Crisps & Chips (www.glennys.com), Amy’s Soy Cheeze Pizza (www.amys.com), and Tofutti Pizza Pizzaz (www.tofutti.com) also make great snacks. To help pull a meal together, clients can look for soy as a common ingredient in soups and chili, gravies, and sauces. And they can add Boca Ground Crumbles to vegetarian chili recipes.

— Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RD, is a nutrition writer, blogger, and communications consultant living in New York City.


1. He J, Wofford MR, Reynolds K, et al. Effect of dietary protein supplementation on blood pressure: A randomized, controlled trial. Circulation. 2011;124(5):589-595.

2. United Soybean Board. Soyfoods Guide 2011. Available at: http://www.soyconnection.com/soyfoods/pdf/soyfoods_guide.pdf. Last accessed August 8, 2011.

3. Jenkins DJ, Mirrahimi A, Srichaikul K, et al. Soy protein reduces serum cholesterol by both intrinsic and food displacement mechanisms. J Nutr. 2010;140(12):2302S-2311S.