There’s a lot of hoopla surrounding the soy bean, particularly in America. On the “soybean fan spectrum” (no that’s not an official thing), there doesn’t seem to be a happy medium. People either love soybeans or they hate them. They think that soybeans either cause cancer, or that soybeans decrease an individual’s risk of acquiring the disease. So are soybeans healthy, or are they nutritionally deficient? Do soybeans promote wellness or disease? Well, it kind of depends. As always, the smart thing to do is to eat them in moderation, as the research is always changing, and often times not conclusive. However, here is the information I’ve gathered that is consistent from source to source about soybeans and their health effects:
Research does not suggest that soybeans cause cancer, in particular it does not suggest that soybeans cause breast cancer in women. Many associate soybeans with cancer because of the isoflavones, (or plant chemicals), in the beans, which affix upon estrogen receptors in the body. Isoflavones are approximately 1,000 times weaker than human estrogen, which validates the claim that soybeans do not significantly alter estrogen levels to the point of producing breast cancer. Interestingly, in Asian countries where soybeans and their byproducts are staples, the breast cancer levels are decreased in comparison to most of the outside world (Soy).
Another concern about soy is that it can damage a person’s thyroid (Soy). Research indicates that this may very well be true, and, if this is true, the damage occurs over a lengthy period of time (Paturel). In particular, people struggling with their thyroids and are subsequently on thyroid medication should carefully monitor the amount of soy that they’re intaking. This is because soy can disrupt the process in which the human body creates thyroid hormones, thus contributing to metabolism malfunction as well as hypothyroidism. In this area, the research is not conclusive, and does not consistently point to one thing over another (Soy).
Soy itself is not unhealthy, it may even be quite nutritious. Unfortunately, it is the processed varieties of soy that cause health problems. The majority of processed soy products contain substantial amounts of refined flours, sugars, preservatives, and genetically modified organisms. As always, whole foods, and in this case whole soy foods, are the most beneficial to one’s health and wellness. These whole soy foods include but are not limited to tofu and edamame. It’s important to note that processed soy foods more often than not contain “soy protein,” which is not the same as soy. Soy protein has almost no nutritional value whatsoever, and is found in a rainbow of foods, from energy bars to soy “frankfurters.” Beware of soy protein (Soy)!
The last thing to touch upon with soy is soy milk. Truly nutritious brands of soy milk are few are far between. When choosing one brand over another, look at the ingredient label to see whether or not the milk is created from soy protein or whole soy. Also, scan the ingredient label to search for preservatives. You may have noticed that the expiration dates on almost all soy milks are far off from the date of purchase. This is because soy milk often contains superfluous ingredients which increase the amount of time the milk stays fresh. These ingredients are unnecessary for proper health and only contribute to excess calories (Soy).
So what’s the take away for soy? Have no more than two whole soy food servings per day to maximize the health benefits of this food and minimize the inconclusive risks (Soy). In addition, beware of soy protein (Soy). Do you have a favorite whole soy food? Do you have any recipes containing soy that you’d like to share?
If so, please leave a comment!
Until Next Week… Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
“Soy: The Good, the Bad and the Best.” Dr. Oz. Harpo Incorporated, 11 Dec. 2012. Web. 6 Jan. 2015. <http://www.doctoroz.com/article/soy-good-bad-and-best>
Paturel, Amy. “How Healthy is Soy Really?”. Eating Well Jan./Feb. 2011: Meredith Corporation, Web. 6 Jan. 2015. <http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/how_healthy_is_soy_really>