Is Soy Healthy? Tips and Tricks for Conscious Soy Consumption
This week, I will break down the controversy regarding soy consumption. If you’re like me, you love sinking your teeth into a yellow curried tofu and veggie dish. This seems like such a healthy choice...but is it?
There really is no simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
Soy plants contain abundant amounts of isoflavones. Isoflavones belong to a class of compounds generally known as phytoestrogens (plant compounds that have estrogen-like structures). Overall, the data suggests a beneficial effect of isoflavones on your health. These outcomes include: cardiovascular and metabolic protection, anti cancer properties, osteoporosis protection, and reduction menopausal symptoms (1). When we look at the health outcomes in populations consuming soy, there is generally less incidence of those diseases (2).
But it’s not that simple...
Soy is one of the most heavily sprayed, genetically modified crops in the United States. About 95% of soy in the US is herbicide-tolerant, meaning it can survive exposure to glyphosate, glufosinate, and dicamba, allowing farmers to spray their soy for controlling weeds while retaining crop (3). These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors and are terrible for our environment. For this reason, choose organic, non-GMO soy products only. Most restaurants are NOT organic, non-GMO because this is not cost effective.
If you’ve ever had cancer, I recommend you consult with your physician whether or not soy is appropriate for you. Given that soy’s isoflavone is a phytoestrogen, and hormones drive some cancers, it is best to consult. This is especially true if you are being treated for cancers, as these plant chemicals can interact with cancer medications (4).
Soy is one top foods that people have sensitivities to. I regularly recommend the elimination diet to assess your sensitivity to soy and other foods. Symptoms of soy sensitivity most commonly involve digestive complaints.
Here are my top tips for healthy soy consumption:
Choose only organic, non-GMO soy products to avoid chemical exposure. Chances are, the restaurant with your favorite tofu dish isn’t buying organic and non-GMO. You’re better off cooking it at home!
Stick to traditional soy foods: natto, tempeh, tofu, and miso. Avoid ‘second generation’ soy products like soy proteins, soy protein supplements, meatless burgers, infant formulas, etc. These ‘second generation’ soy products involve chemical extractions and other processing.
Eat a moderate amount of soy. I recommend limiting your intake to one serving a day. In Japan, they consume an average of about 8.7grams per day. This is about ¼ cup of tempeh, miso, or natto, or a little less than ½ cup of tofu.
Start young!There is considerable data suggesting that for soy to reduce the risk of breast cancer, consumption must occur during childhood and/or adolescence (5).
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