I wanted to make a slight shift from the personal growth topics that I write about and throw some nutrition into the mix. After all, if you don’t eat right then growing in other aspects of your life could hit many roadblocks.
So today, I will venture in the direction of SOY. It gets quite a bad rap, and perhaps there are some good reasons behind that. But it also provides some nutrients that the majority of folks are not getting enough of.
And I will be honest, after battling with breast cancer myself, I have been scared of the three letter word for many years. But my fear is dissipating, and since my youngest child loves tofu so much, I figured I should continue to research the subject. And since I am in Texas for a bit, things like soy, tofu, and other things that most people would correlate with Asian foods are not hot topics at the doctor’s office.
This post is not meant to be all inclusive…so bear with me as I am trying to provide you with just a little food for thought.
Soy foods have been part of the traditional Asian diet for thousands of years. Today, soy foods and protein powders are commonplace in the diets of people from around the world. They are everywhere you look and unfortunately, just like the wheat that we consume, soy is getting heavily processed and its genetics are being modified.
Soy is rich in isoflavones, which are phytoestrogens (they have estrogen-like effects in your body, and this is what scares many nutrition enthusiasts). Isoflavones can be good for you, but they can also alter the body’s normal hormonal function. The isoflavone content of soy foods and soy protein powders varies widely, making it difficult to know how much you are consuming unless the manufacturer specifically tells you. And still, you just never know.
Due to its popularity and possible health effects (many of which are attributed to its isoflavone content), soy has been the subject of numerous studies, often financed by the soy industry. This again makes it even more difficult to truly understand whether such a nutrient is good or bad for you. Financing by private interests does not automatically disqualify a study, but it should be kept in mind when reading the findings.
Here are some of the most important things that I was able to pull out of the 12 studies that I spent time breaking down:
- Soy does not appear to affect thyroid activity in humans. This is really important because we need a thyroid to survive.
- Soy-protein supplementation benefits LDL-C levels, blood pressure, and endothelial function (the cells that line our blood vessels), but only slightly, so the benefit to your health is uncertain. LDL-C is considered the BAD cholesterol in our blood.
- In men, regular intake of soy protein may reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Soy protein also has the potential to reduce testosterone levels and interfere with fertility, but only when consumed in excess — no such effects have been observed from the daily consumption of 10–70 grams of soy protein or 60–240 mg of isoflavones. But this makes you wonder. Is it safe for most men? I don’t have that answer today. But if we were able to interview and exam thousands of men in Asia we would likely get a good answer.
- In women, soy-protein intake is associated with a reduced risk of breast-cancer incidence and mortality. And because of the prevalence of breast cancer in men is much lower than what is seen in women it is hard to tell if it actually is an attributing factor in male breast cancer patients.
- In premenopausal women, soy protein appears to increase menstrual cycle length and has unknown effects on fertility. In postmenopausal women, soy protein appears to modestly increase estradiol concentrations and bone mineral density. Soy protein also appears to reduce menopausal symptoms. These are good things.
- Finally, for those of you that are currently raising an infant, or planning to in the future, soy infant formulas should be used with caution. Animal studies suggest that soy formulas interfere with sexual development. Actual human studies are scarce, but associations between soy formulas and altered sexual development have been observed in infant girls. Additionally, while soy formulas do not impair the growth of healthy, full-term infants, they can cause growth problems and rickets in premature infants.
I hope you enjoyed this short piece on soy today. As with most things in life, moderation is key. Using a little soy protein every now and then is likely not to affect your health in a harmful way. At least not any more than carrying your cell phone in your pocket, or starring at a computer all day long. Here’s to your health!