However, there's still a lot we don't fully understand and at the University of Illinois the discoveries keep coming. Now, there's growing excitement about a lesser known compound in soy that may offer even more important health benefits.
The peptide called Lunasin, which is found in the milky liquid that's normally discarded at soy processing plants, has a lot to offer, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Illinois are discovering its powerful potential, including anti-inflammatory effects.
Lunasin may be one of the reasons soy is known to help lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure.
"What is very interesting is this peptide Lunasin decreases inflammation. That is very well established," Elvira de Mejia, PhD, researcher said.
Soy is naturally rich in protein and essential amino acids. It's promoted as a healthier alternative to other foods.
On top of its benefits to heart health, soy contains a variety of phyto-chemicals that may help protect against certain cancers. The newest finding from U of I suggests consuming Lunasin may help fight advanced colon cancer. Animal research shows it's able to get inside a colon cancer cell and kill it off.
The question now is whether it will do the same for humans.
In the meantime, if you eat soy foods such as tofu, edamame and soy milk you may already be experiencing the benefits of Lunasin.
On the flip side, there have been several negative claims about soy. A recent small study found soy did not prevent the return of prostate cancer.
Other reports question whether too much soy can be bad for your health. Scientists say more research is needed.