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The truth about soy

Posted Nov 18 2010 9:51am

soy and health

Is soy healthy?  According to the numerous companies marketing soy products today, it seems as soy would be a true miracle food. On the other hand, some pretend that soy might have some adverse effects on health.  So what’s the truth?

Soy products, like soymilk, tofu and TVP, come from soybeans, a legume that contains about 35% to 40% of protein. It’s rich in polyunsaturated fats, and is the only legume to be rich in alphalinolenic acid, an Omega-3 fatty acid.  Each gram of soy contains about 3.5mg of isoflavones, a substance that mimics the female hormone estrogen.

Soy and hormones

It’s the estrogen-like activity that is at the center of the debate.  While it can help alleviate menopause symptoms in women, some research suggests that soy products might not be suited for women with estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast or ovarian cancer.  While the studies were not 100% conclusive, it clearly shows that more the soy is refined, greater risk there is.  Some other claimed that the phytoestrogens that soy contains could have some feminizing effects on men. However, a review published in Fertility and Sterility evaluated of more than 150 clinical studies conducted on the effects of soy on men, and shown that soy food has no adverse effects on men’s reproductive system.

Soy and cardiovascular diseases

Besides its estrogen-like activity, soy has been widely studied for its role in cardiovascular diseases. Previous studies shown that soy proteins could help reduce LDL cholesterol.  The amount of soy protein one should eat to benefit from the cholesterol-lowering action had been set to 25g of soy protein per day. This amount of daily soy proteins has been set only because of the lack of tests made with lower amounts.  Today, due to the inconsistency of the results, FDA and AHA (American Health Association) say that the protective effects of soy protein on cardiovascular system are minimal at best.

Should you eat soy or not?

According to experts in the field, eating soy is safe for most of us.  Caution should be taken though for pregnant women, or those with infertility problems. Soy is an interesting food for vegans, but eating soy solely for preventing cardiovascular diseases might not be relevant.  It’s important to note that more soy products are refined, greater are the risks of having adverse effects. And because commonly grown soy is largely genetically modified, always choose organic, minimally processed soy products.

Do you like soy products? What’s your favorite one? Do you see soy as health food or not? What’s your opinion about this?

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