Years ago I did a lot of my shopping at the health food store because it was the only place I could find what I needed.
One day I observed another young woman filling her basket with what seemed like an overload of soy in one form or another: soy cheese, soy milk, soy burgers, TVP (texturized vegetable protein) and then realized I was doing the same thing.
At that time soy was all the rage.
Today all I hear is how bad soy is for our health.
So, is soy healthy and something we should be eating or harmful and something we should be avoiding?
The Health Benefits of Soy
Most of us get our information from the media. We hear something over and over and we start believing whatever the current mantra seems to be.
And yet, the research on soy is very enlightening.
For example, soybeans contain isoflavones which by definition are phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). The cool thing about the isoflavones in soy is they are weaker and less stimulating than the estrogen our own body produces. They also fight for the same receptor sites, thereby reducing the effects of the body’s stronger, more stimulating estrogen.
Too much estrogen has been linked to an increase in estrogen sensitive cancers, e.g., breast, uterine, ovarian, cervical and prostate. Studies show the isoflavones from soy can suppress breast and prostate cancer.
Soy has also been credited with decreasing the risk of heart disease, however, studies are conflicting.
Some studies show soy lowers cholesterol, while others show little or no effect. Something to consider; replacing high-fat, high cholesterol sources of protein with soy protein would help reduce cholesterol levels.
The research on the immune system is also not conclusive.
Some research shows soy consumption inhibits the function of the immune system while others show soy increases its’ function.
Soy has been shown to protect against osteoporosis and symptoms associated with menopause. The consumption of soy can offer protection against cancer of the thyroid while causing thyroid dysfunction (underactive thyroid) and goiter.
What Form of Soy?
An important consideration is the form your soy comes in.
For example, you should eat:
- the whole soybean, also known as edamame
Avoid or limit:
- faux meats containing soy, e.g., chicken, beef and soy dogs
- soy protein powders
- soy snack bars
- other processed soy products containing ISP
The soy found in these products is isolated soy protein (ISP).
It is scientifically proven isolated soy protein increases the levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) in our bodies. IGF-1 promotes tumor growth and cell growth, including cancer cells.
Two interesting considerations:
The introduction of soy to the marketplace provoked the dairy industry to put out negative information against its’ consumption. The same industry (dairy) now sells its’ own soy products.
Many studies on soy are based on research from Asia where consumption levels are quite small. These cultures reap the benefits without the harm of excess.