Soy is one of the most protein-rich plant foods Nature can offer. While it provides a variety of health benefits, it has also gained a poor reputation for its rumored adverse effects on your hormones. However, that is far from the truth!
Soy is a native plant that originates from Eastern Asia. Since it was first cultivated in China, it has been consumed by Asian countries for centuries. In fact, according to Japan, the high consumption of soy has been linked to the country’s low rate of prostate and breast cancer as well as longer life spans.
Research shows that consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day will help reduce the risk of developing heart disease as well as cholesterol, hot flashes, and a reduced risk of certain cancers. Whether fermented or unfermented, soy is one of the healthiest plant foods that provide a large variety of nutrients including iron, fiber, omega-3s, calcium, and phytochemicals, along with essential minerals and vitamins.
Myths vs. Facts about Soy
MYTH: All soy products are made from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
FACT: The primary purpose of genetic engineering is to introduce new characteristics to crops. Some brands of soybeans have been modified for herbicide tolerance, which allows farmers to use a controlled amount of herbicides to kill weeds without damaging the crops. According to the USDA data, over 93% of soybeans grown in America were genetically engineered. However, many soy manufacturers are made organic and do not include GMO. It was stated that GMO-free soy products include soy milk tempeh, tofu, edamame, nutrition bars, and other meat alternatives.
MYTH: Soy will increase risk of developing breast cancer
FACT: Soy products are the richest source of isoflavones you could ever find in the human diet. As isoflavones are phytoestrogens, they can exert estrogen-like effects on the body. While there is some concern regarding the impact soy foods may have on the many biological systems, three studies revealed that consuming soy products allow lower the risk of breast cancer and cancer recurrence.
While the isoflavones contained in soy may act like estrogen, they may also have anti-estrogen properties that can block out potent natural estrogens. This may stop the formation of building estrogens in fat tissue and make it less able to bind the receptor. Isoflavones also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may work in other ways to help reduce the growth of cancer.
MYTH: Soy phytoestrogens disrupt thyroid function
FACT: Websites against soy claim that soy is anti-thyroid agents that can lead to hypothyroidism. In 2011, a randomized study found that six out of sixty women with subclinical hypothyroidism converted to clinical hypothyroidism just eight weeks after consuming 16 mg of phytoestrogen a day. The study was to copy the typical western diet. As a result, women in the lower dose group showed no changes in thyroid function.
MYTH: Soy causes feminization in men
FACT: While studies revealed that high doses of phytoestrogens had been shown to reduce the ability to produce offspring in rats, the same effect has yet to be found in male humans. Essentially no given evidence from nearly nine individual studies shows if isoflavone exposure would affect estrogen levels in men.
This means that there is no actual basis in scientific fact that “man boobs” is true. This urban legend was likely to be started by the confusion of phytoestrogen and estrogen.
MYTH: Soy-based infant formulas will stunt growth and reproductive development
FACT: Soy-based infant formulas contain high amounts of soy isoflavones. This has led to the concern that estrogen-like soy isoflavones may affect the child’s growth and development or even influence the immune function. However, according to a study in Pediatrics, a comparison between breastfed and formula-fed infants showed little differences. While breast-fed babies scored high on tests of cognitive development, formula-fed babies also showed normal development and growth.
With thorough knowledge and understanding of the effects of soy on the body, the majority of studies show that the average recommended amount of soy intake is safe even beneficial for most individuals. However, just like any other food, having too much isn’t good for the body.
Do you include soy protein into your daily diet? What are your favorite recipes? Comment below and let us know!