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Soy Glossary
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Glossary of terms for soy, soybeans and soy foods

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Allergenicity The state of hypersensitivity of the body's immune system in response to exposure to specific substances (allergens), such as pollen, bee stings, poison ivy, drugs or certain foods. The incidence of true food allergy is about 1 to 2 percent in adults. Only a very small percentage (0.5%) of the population is allergic to soy. Back to top

Amino Acids Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which is essential for human growth and maintenance. Of the 20 amino acids humans require, our bodies produce 11, and the remaining nine must come from the foods we eat. Soy protein provides all nine missing amino acids, making it a complete protein. The soybean is the only vegetable offering a complete protein profile. Back to top

Anticarcinogen A substance or agent that counteracts the effect of a carcinogen or a cancer-producing substance. Ongoing research is investigating the Anticarcinogenic role of the isoflavones found in soy foods. Isoflavones are found in significant amounts only in soybeans and soy foods. A 1990 National Cancer Institute workshop identified five different chemical classes of Anticarcinogens in soybeans - phytosterols, phytates,saponins, protease inhibitors, and isoflavones. Back to top

Antiestrogen A substance or agent that can prevent the full expression of estrogen. In soy, weak estrogen-like isoflavones can take the place of estrogen and connect with receptors in estrogen-sensitive tissues, like breast tissue. By competing with estrogen for the limited number of estrogen receptors, the isoflavones prevent estrogen from binding to the receptors and, hence, may block proliferation of hormone-dependent cancers by interfering with the growth of estrogen-dependent tumors. The isoflavones, therefore, act as Antiestrogens. Back to top

Antioxidant A synthetic or natural substance or agent that neutralizes free radicals and prevents cell damage that may lead to cancer. The isoflavones found in soy, such as genistein, are good antioxidants. Back to top

Chemopreventive The ability of a natural or laboratory-made substance to help prevent cancer. Researchers continue to study the chemopreventive effects of soy isoflavones.Back to top

Daidzein One of the two primary soy isoflavones. Daidzein is the second most plentiful isoflavone in soy (after genistein). Back to top

Epidemiological Study A research study that investigates the factors determining and influencing the frequency and distribution of disease, injury and other health-related events and their causes in a defined human population. Back to top

Emulsifier An agent that binds two substances together that does not normally mix. For example, an emulsifier is used to mix oil and water to form salad dressing. Lecithin is a natural emulsifier derived from soy. Back to top

Essential Fatty Acids Fatty acids necessary for human health that can only be obtained from dietary sources. The human body does not produce this type of fatty acid. Soybean oil contains two essential fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic.Back to top

Estradiol The most potent of the naturally occurring estrogens that is administered in its natural or semisynthetic form especially to treat menopausal symptoms. Soybean isoflavones have between 1/1,000 and 1/100,000 the activity of estradiol. Back to top

Estrogen The female sex hormone essential for the reproductive process and for the development of the uterus, breasts, and other physical changes associated with puberty. Researchers are studying the estrogen-like effect of soy isoflavones in the reduction of cancer cell proliferation in hormone-dependent and non-hormone-dependent cancers. Back to top

Estrogen Receptor A cellular protein that binds hormones, found on nearly all cell types, but particularly in estrogen-sensitive tissues like those in the uterus and the breast. The weak estrogenic qualities of soy isoflavones may function as Antiestrogens because they can compete with endogenous estrogen for binding to estrogen receptors. In doing so, they block the more potent endogenous estrogens from exerting their effect. Since high blood levels of estrogen are an established risk factor for breast cancer, weak estrogens have been postulated as being protective against this form of cancer. Back to top

Extrusion A process for texturizing soy flours or other proteins using high pressures and temperatures.Back to top

Free Radical A molecule that is unstable because it is missing an electron (a negatively charged subatomic particle), which makes it highly reactive and able to damage other molecules and, therefore, cells in the body. Back to top

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) An organism altered in its genetic makeup either through natural evolution or artificial means. Back to top

Genistein One of the two primary soy isoflavones. Genistein is being studied for its ability to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. HDL cholesterol - See Lipoprotein. Back to top

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) The substitution of naturally declining hormones with synthetic or artificial hormones in women during menopause. Back to top

Hydrogenation The process whereby hydrogen is added to an unsaturated oil to increase the stability of the oil. Most oils are partially hydrogenated, providing an increase in stability while maintaining a healthy oil profile. Back to top

Identity Preservation (IP) A process by which a crop is grown, handled, delivered, and processed under controlled conditions to assure the customer that the crop has maintained its unique identity from farm gate to end use. Back to top

Isoflavones One of the five chemical classes of Anticarcinogens found in soy. Isoflavones are chemically similar in structure to estrogen and, in fact, are weak estrogens (about 1/1,000 to 1/100,000 the potency of endogenous estrogen). The two primary isoflavones in soybeans are daidzein and genistein. Soybeans and soy foods have attracted much attention because they are unique as the only nutritionally significant dietary sources of isoflavones. Isoflavones may directly inhibit bone resorption and prevent the onset of osteoporosis, and the weak estrogenic effects of isoflavones have been postulated as being protective against various forms of cancer. Back to top

LDL Cholesterol See LipoproteinBack to top

Lecithin A naturally occurring emulsifier, lecithin is extracted from crude soybean oil through the refining process. Soybeans are a significant source of lecithin. Lecithin plays a vital role in human cell function and is believed to aid in liver function, cardiovascular health, physical and athletic performance, and fetal development, and may increase brain capacity and improve memory. Lecithin is a natural element of HDL cholesterol and is used in the food manufacturing process in products high in fats and oils such as chocolate, cake and biscuit mixes, margarine, mayonnaise, and salad dressings. Back to top

Linoleic Acid One of the two polyunsaturated fatty acids found in soybean oil. Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids can lower blood lipid levels and thus lower cholesterol. Approximately 50 percent of soybean oil is this essential fatty acid. Back to top

Linolenic Acid An omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid found in many seed-derived oils such as soybean oil and fish oil. Back to top

Lipoprotein The combination of protein, fat, and cholesterol found in the blood. Depending on their size and weight, lipoproteins are classified as low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) or high-density lipoproteins (HDLs). LDLs transport cholesterol to body tissue, which can damage arteries. A high level of LDL cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. HDLs bring cholesterol back to the liver where it is broken down and eliminated from the body. HDL cholesterol differs from LDL cholesterol in that it is not a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In fact, a high level of HDL cholesterol actually helps reverse your risk for cardiovascular disease. An extensive body of research demonstrates that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day can lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Back to top

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids A type of unsaturated fatty acid in which the chain of carbon atoms is missing one pair of hydrogen atoms. Monounsaturated fat is found mostly in vegetable oils such as soybean, olive, canola, and peanut. Because it aids stability, oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids are good for frying applications Soybean oil contains approximately 24 percent monounsaturated fatty acids. When substituted for saturated fat, mono-unsaturated fat helps lower LDL cholesterol levels while leaving HDL cholesterol levels unchanged. Back to top

Oleic Acid A monounsaturated fatty acid. An oil high in oleic acid is stable and resists rancidity. Oleic acid also contributes to increased shelf life.Back to top

Omega-3 Fatty Acids A type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that has been recognized as having health benefits, including helping to regulate blood pressure and blood lipid levels. Omega-3 fatty acids also may help to lower the risk of heart disease, help prevent cancer, and may be essential for brain development in infants. They are found primarily in fish oils but are also found in a few plant sources like soybeans. Back to top

Organic Farming Organic farming is a production system, which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming systems rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects and other pests. Back to top

Osteoporosis A condition of excessive skeletal fragility resulting in bones that break easily. A combination of genetic, dietary, hormonal, age-related, and lifestyle factors all contribute to this condition. The isoflavones found in soy protein may play an important role in protecting bones by increasing bone mineral content and bone density. This suggests that eating soy foods could help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Back to top

Phytate One of the five chemical classes of Anticarcinogens found in soy. Phytate's antinutrient effects may help prevent cancer. Back to top

Phytochemicals The active health-protecting compounds found in plants, including soy. Many of these non-nutritive substances have potent biological activity and may help to lower risk for many chronic diseases. Soybeans contain a variety of phytochemicals and are the only food source with nutritionally significant amounts of one type of phytochemical called isoflavones. Currently, the terms "phytochemical" and "phytonutrient" are being used interchangeably to describe those plant compounds that are thought to have health-protecting qualities. Back to top

Phytoestrogens Weak, estrogen-like substances found in plants, especially soy. Because of their high phytoestrogen content, there is increasing interest in the role that soy foods can play in women's health. Phytoestrogens are associated with a lowered risk of many diseases, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast cancer. Back to top

Phytosterols One of the five chemical classes of Anticarcinogens found in soy. Phytosterols are also believed to reduce cholesterol levels by inhibiting cholesterol absorption thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Back to top

Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids A type of unsaturated fatty acid in which the chain of carbon atoms is missing two or more pairs of hydrogen atoms. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in nuts and vegetable oils such as soybean, safflower and sunflower, and in fatty fish oils. When used instead of saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats tend to lower LDL cholesterol levels. Soybean oil contains approximately 61 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids. Back to top

Protease Inhibitors One of the five chemical classes of Anticarcinogens found in soy. Protease inhibitors also protect against the damaging effects of radiation and free radicals, which can attack DNA. Protein A large molecule made up of units called amino acids. Dietary protein is essential for building, repairing, and maintaining body tissues. Soybeans are exceptionally high in quality protein: 35 to 38 percent of the calories in soybeans come from protein. The soybean is the only vegetable offering a complete protein profile. An extensive body of research demonstrates that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.Back to top

Rancidity An oil or fat becomes rancid when oxygen is allowed to break it down. Rancidity is characterized by development of easily recognized, sharp, acrid and pungent off-flavors and odors. Oils higher in unsaturated fatty acids are more prone to rancidity than oils high in saturated fat.Back to top

Spooning One of the five chemical classes of Anticarcinogens found in soy. Saponins are a large family of modified carbohydrates found in many vegetables and herbs. So far, researchers have identified 11 different saponins in soybeans alone .In addition to being Anticarcinogens; there is evidence that some of these substances lower circulating levels of certain lipids. Back to top

Saturated Fatty Acids Saturated fats are among the most common fats in our diet. They are found predominantly in animal foods like meat, poultry and full- fat dairy products, and in tropical oils like palm and coconut. Diets high in saturated fats are associated with higher risks of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke. Soybean oil is considered one of the most well balanced vegetable oils, with a low saturated fat content of 15 percent. Back to top

Soy Crumbles This soy and wheat protein substitute can be used in recipes calling for browned ground beef such as chili, spaghetti sauce, and lasagna. Back to top

Soy Protein Health Claim November 1999 FDA-approved health claim stating that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day can lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Health claims are statements characterizing the relationship between any nutrient or substance in a food and a disease or health-related condition. In order for a health claim to be used on a food label, the product must meet specific criteria for that particular health claim and be supported by significant research. Back to top

Soy Sauce Soy sauce (shoyu, tamari and teriyaki) is a dark brown liquid made from fermented soybeans. Specific types of soy sauce are shoyu, tamari, and teriyaki. Shoyu is a blend of soybeans and wheat, tamari is made only from soybeans and is a by-product of making miso, and teriyaki sauce includes other ingredients such as sugar, vinegar, and spices. Back to top

Soybean Oil Soybean oil is the natural oil extracted from whole soybeans. It is the most widely used oil in the United States, and is sold as either pure soybean oil or as a main ingredient in vegetable oil. Processed into margarine and shortenings, soybean oil's 85 percent-unsaturated fat profiles are among the highest of the vegetable oils. Back to top

Soybeans, Whole Whole soybeans are the edible seed of the soybean plant. They are high in protein and contain beneficial phytochemicals, such as isoflavones. Whole soybeans are available in several forms, the most basic of which are canned and dried.Back to top

Soymilk Soymilk is made of soaked, ground, and finely strained soybeans. Plain, unfortified soymilk is an excellent source of high-quality protein and B vitamins. Soymilk is usually sold in non refrigerated, shelf-stable aseptic containers, but can also be found in some regions in the dairy case in quart and half gallon containers or as a powder that must be mixed with water. Back to top

Sterols Compounds naturally found in the fatty tissues of plants and animals. Cholesterol is a sterol found only in animals. Back to top

Tofu Tofu, also known as soybean curd, is a soft cheese-like food made by curdling fresh, hot soymilk. Nigari, calcium sulfate, and vinegar or lemon juice are added to soymilk, excess moisture is squeezed out, and the remaining curds are pressed into soft blocks. When combined with other foods, tofu acts like a sponge and absorbs the flavors of the other ingredients. Firm, soft and silken varieties of tofu are readily available. Back to top

Toxicity The state of being related to or caused by a toxin or other poison. The term is also used to describe something that is capable of causing injury or death, particularly by chemical means. Back to top

Trans Fatty Acids Trans fatty acids are produced during the hydrogenation of vegetable oils, a process that adds hydrogen to unsaturated fatty acids in vegetable oil and changes the fat from a liquid to a soft or solid state. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils can replace naturally solid, saturate-rich fats, such as lard and beef tallow, in margarines and baked foods, as well as commercial frying where vegetable oils cannot be used. Trans fatty acids occur naturally in small amounts in meats and dairy products. Trans fatty acids account for only 2 to 4 percent of the average American's total calories. Regular, non-hydrogenated soybean oil does not contain trans fatty acids.Back to top

Trypsin Inhibitors Proteins in soybeans believed to be responsible for growth inhibition when raw soybeans are fed to animals. Back to top

Unsaturated Fat Unsaturated fats are found in foods from both plant and animal sources unsaturated fatty acids are further divided into monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids.Back to top

Vitamin E Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant vitamin that prevents cell damage that may lead to cancer. By inhibiting the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, vitamin E may reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils like soybean oil. Back to top

Vegetable Oils A naturally occurring fat or oil derived from a plant or vegetable. Soybean oil is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the United States. Vegetable oils are considered more healthful than animal fats because they are lower in saturated fats. Back to top

Glossary compliments of United Soybean Board

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*The statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.