With soy products, which is better -fermented or unfermented

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    There are a wide variety of soy foods available in the supermarket today. Unfermented soy products like tofu, soy milks and soy protein powders contain isoflavones (one of the active ingredients in soy beans) that are naturally stuck to a sugar molecule. Enzymes and bacteria in the bowel need to remove this sugar molecule during the digestion process, before the isoflavones can be absorbed into the body. Fermented soy products (such as miso and tempeh) have no sugar molecule attached. The isoflavones are in a form the body can absorb immediately because the fermentation process has removed the sugar molecule.

    Many people are familiar with unfermented soy products, using soy milk on breakfast cereal or tofu in a stir-fry. However, you may be less familiar with the use of fermented soy products with the exception of soy sauce. You may like to try miso, a fermented soybean paste, made by mixing cooked soy beans with another grain like rice and other flavourings. It is wonderful added to soups, sauces and marinades in place of regular stock. You only need to use ┬╝ cup miso in a litre of water. Tempeh is another fermented soy product that can be thinly sliced and grilled, barbecued or panfried. It can also be added to stir-fries or burgers. Most fermented soy products can be purchased at your local Asian supermarket.

    Some researchers suggest that fermented foods may deliver greater health benefits since they already have their isoflavones in the form that can be more quickly absorbed by the body. However, it is clear from studies in Asian populations and thousands of clinical trials conducted in many countries that unfermented soy products can still offer significant health benefits. The best advice is to consume a mix of fermented and unfermented soy products in your diet.

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