Soy Intake In Diabetes Prevention & Management

As a registered dietitian and former employee of Diabetes Canada, the treatment, management and prevention of Diabetes will always be a topic near and dear to my heart.

Given World Diabetes Day was not too long ago, it only makes sense to explore a nutritional topic in diabetes prevention and management.

I did the same thing to commemorate this day last year as well, and I encourage you take a look at that piece.

Before we go any further I must also note that today’s post was sponsored by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), but all opinions are my own.

So, what’s the theme of today’s article?

Look, we obviously know that there is no such thing as a “superfood,” but when I encountered a pair of recently published meta-analyses suggesting that soy intake is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, I knew I had a topic worthy of exploring.

And while there may be no such thing as a “superfood,” let’s explore the idea that perhaps soy has some qualities that make it a super choice for both diabetes prevention (type 2) and management (T1+T2).

Soy Intake & Diabetes Prevention

A 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis out of the Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice journal found that consumption of soy foods across a number of observational studies was associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Similar results were found in a US-specific cohort published in the European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition in 2016.

When we look at the Diabetes Canada Practice Guidelines, the Mediterranean dietary pattern is listed as the first recommended eating pattern that may support diabetes prevention.

Guess what makes up the base of that diet? Legumes! a group of foods which soybeans are included.

Canadian Diabetes Association Practice Guidelines

When it comes to nutritional intervention in diabetes, there are two major points to consider:

  1. Prevention – Already discussed
  2. Management – Equally as important

Diabetes Canada Practice Guidelines provide recommendations for diabetes management including:

To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, adults with diabetes should consume less than 9% daily energy from saturated fatty acids and replace these fats with poly- and monounsaturated fats from plant sources.

One of the easiest ways to achieve this objective is by occasionally swapping out animal protein options with plant-based alternatives, like soy-based foods.

A 2011 systematic review and meta-analysis looking specifically at soy consumption in those living with type 2 diabetes supports the notion of cardiovascular benefits of soy intake, finding that those who consumed higher levels of soy tended to have lower LDL and triglyceride levels paired with higher HDL levels.

Adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes may aim to consume 30 to 50 g/day of dietary fibre with a third or more (10 to 20 g/day) coming from viscous soluble dietary fibre.

Soy-based foods, like other legumes, tend to be a good source of dietary fibre.

100 grams of soy beans, for example, contain 9 grams of fibre.

Unlike cow’s milk, soy milk contains fibre (1 cup has appx 2 grams fibre).

Unlike animal protein sources, tofu contains fibre (1 cup has appx 2 grams fibre).

Those with type 2 diabetes may consider dietary patterns emphasizing pulses (e.g. beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils) to improve glycemic control.

Although soy is not among the pulse category of legumes that are exceptionally high in soluble fibre, it still represents a valuable component of any dietary portfolio and represents an excellent compliment to these foods.

Final Thoughts

There is no such thing as a diabetes superfood, but soy-based foods check a lot of boxes when it comes to diabetes prevention and management.

Soy is one of a number of healthful foods that can be considered.

Until next time,

Andy De Santis RD MPH